All of us have dreams of the career we would love, but not so many manage to translate the dream into reality. Often this is because of circumstances outside our control. So what do you do if your dream job is not possible?

The first step is to work out exactly why you wanted a particular career. And keep on asking why until you get to the essence of what you want. Let’s look at an example. Say you wanted to become a doctor, but didn’t get the grades, despite several attempts. You couldn’t afford to train in another country, which some people are able to do with lower exam marks.

List all the reasons that you wanted to study medicine, for example, to help people with a specific illness or to do research into an incurable condition. Often people choose medicine because of an illness experienced by a close family member. Or you might have spent a lot of time in hospital as a child and developed an interest in the job then. Or you might have been excited by the potential of new developments in a specific branch of medicine.. It could be that you also want the prestige of being part of a respected profession, or the money that you could earn as a consultant or in private practice further down the line.

Once you,’ve made your list, take each reason and ask why again. So why do you want to do something about a specific illness that’s in the family? Perhaps because you felt helpless and want to feel more powerful, or because you felt so much compassion for another person’s suffering.

You might want respect because it makes you feel more confident, money because you aspire to a certain lifestyle and so on.

What activities attracted you to the career and what skills did you want to use in your dream job? Add these to the list. Some you will already have developed, others you might need to learn.

Eventually, as you keep on asking why, you’ll reach a feeling – we’ve already uncoverd a couple – confidence and power.

As you continue this exercise looking at your own dream, you’ll come up with a list of feelings –and these add up to make you feel better.  You mightwant to feel proud of achieving a goal, of making a difference in someone’s life. You might realize you’d feel really satisfied at solving a big problem or happy because you get a thrill from some aspect of a job.

The next step is to find what else could give you the same achievements and feelings. See each positive feeling and the reason for each achievement as a goal. And the achievements themselves might be possible in other jobs.

For example, if you wanted to improve the lives of children currently confined to wheelchairs, this is not only possible through advances in medicine. It could be possible by new developments in prosthetics or technology, through psychology, research, sports or education and also as a result of fundraising. So this would open up another range of potential careers.

And the most obvious place to look would be in careers related to medicine, so areas like nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. If these don’t appeal, consider complementary medicine, where you would be responsible for the actual treatment and possibly able to help in ways that allopathic medicine can’t.

If money and prestige are also important factors, consider other fields where these are available.  Once you have them, you could use your influence and cash to set up or fund existing projects to achieve the goal of improving children’s lives.


If you can’t think of ideas for alternative careers, search for organizations involved in the field or activity which interests you.. So in this case it would be helping disabled children or children with a specific condition. I used the first and this comes up with many websites with information to help you an alternative – examples on the first site I found are supporting families in crisis and helping young people into employment.

It might not be realistic to find everything you want in one job – this is also true for many who do get to follow their dreams. So think about ways of achieving some of your goals outside work – by volunteering, setting up a small side gig or following your passion as a hobby.

If we look at a second example – you wanted to be a pro tennis player but didn’t get the lessons at an early age. Again, ask why until you come up with a list of reasons and feelings. You love playing tennis is probably the top reason and you can continue to do this as a hobby or if you are good enough, you could become a coach. You might also think about coaching disadvantaged children, not necessarily those wanting a career as a player, but as a way to get them active and involved in sport and with other children.

Try searching careers in tennis to find opportunities. You can achieve pride in helping another athlete to succeed, such as in the role of physiotherapist or fitness trainer. In fact one site I looked at listed 18 different off-court careers.

You could also consider writing a blog about tennis – write articles about all aspects of the game and start interviewing people you know and as your blog becomes known, progress to more famous names. You can make money by advertising, selling merchandise as an affiliate or creating your own digital products.

It could be that you love challenges – there are thousands of ways in which you can challenge yourself. Look at other activities you enjoy – they don’t have to be potential career areas, but you never know what could happen if you set yourself a difficult goal.

I once came across an example of people who wanted to start a business or freelance career. A couple of women in the group claimed to have no talents or abilities that could be used in buisness. The only thing they were interested in was watching TV soaps.

They certainly didn’t give the impression of being potential entrepreneurs, but they were encouraged to go with what interested them and were successful at writing and selling written updates on popular soaps.

So don’t dismiss any of your ideas, no matter how unlikely!

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