By Bridget Quigg, PayScale.com
Do you have a nagging feeling that a better job awaits you, one that caters to your passions and pays the bills? How can you get working toward your dream job? We spoke with career coach and author Jim Hopkinson (Salary Tutor) who offered practical, step-by-step advice on how to honor what you care about most and earn a living at the same time.
1. Is it realistic for someone to pursue their dream job full-time or should they use a different job to pay the bills and then find happiness outside of work?
I think it’s something that each individual needs to make a decision about on their own by looking at where they are in life, and what is most important to them.
If you are young or just out of college, it’s more practical to pursue your dream job versus someone who might have a family and a mortgage to pay. It also depends on the dream job itself. If you have a full-time job that pays the bills and your passion is surfing, it’s quite a long shot to turn pro, secure that Billabong sponsorship, and circle that trip to French Polynesia on the world tour schedule.
Likewise, many people are very passionate about music, but they’ll need to objectively understand that very few musical acts are going to make it big. It could take years of playing clubs in different cities and thousands of hours of practice to make it to a point where you’re getting paid to be a musician – and that’s assuming you are fortunate enough to connect with other band members that are on the same page as you.
2. Should a person accept lower pay to stay at a job they love?
As someone that advises people how to negotiate their salary, I wouldn’t say that they need to accept lower pay. What’s most important is that they are getting paid a fair market value for what they are worth, and then evaluating the overall package.
There are so many things that are important besides money when you look at a job. Let’s take commuting as an example. According to a report based on Census data from 2009, the average American spends 25.1 minutes a day commuting. Head over to Payscale’s commute time page to see the average commute for your company or city (43 minutes in New York).
What is the true cost of your commute? From a mental standpoint, if you are in daily bumper-to-bumper traffic that makes your blood boil, that’s a lot of added stress. If you’re nestled on a commuter train reading your Kindle and sipping coffee, maybe not as bad.
To estimate a quick dollar amount, find out how much your time is worth. Simply take your annual salary and divide it by two and then lop off three zeros. That number estimates your hourly wage.
For example, if you make $60,000 per year, you make roughly $30 per hour. So, if your commute round-trip everyday is three hours, that comes out to almost $100 a day that you’re giving up in income. If you’re commuting to your dream job, that might be worth it to you. Otherwise, you may have to rethink your choice.
Another question to consider is, do you like your boss? Do you dread going to work every day because your boss is a jerk? Or do they serve as a mentor to further your career?
Are you doing something that you believe in? If you are working for a charity or an internet startup that’s aiming to change the world, that could be worth a lower salary based upon what you’re going to do.
Even if you’re not in your dream job, if you’re in position that is a step toward your dream job, then that is something you should stick with.
And, lastly, the overall point of this discussion is work-life balance. Life is too short to go to a job every single day that you regret. One thing I like to talk about is the pillow test. When you go to bed and you lay your head down on the pillow, are you stressed because you have all of the day’s problems from work weighing on you? When you wake up in the morning and you lift your head off the pillow, are you excited to go to work most days, or are you constantly waiting for the weekend?
3. What advice would you give to people who want to pursue their dream job?
The most practical way to do so is to ease into it. We’re seeing a trend of people pursuing their dream jobs on the side and working up to it being full-time.
What’s great about the time we are living in right now is the technology available to help you make that transition. For example, if you want to be an author, you can spend a little time each evening and on the weekends writing the great American novel. No longer does the route to recognition rest solely on the approval of a major publishing house. You can build an online presence through a blog, market your work through social media, and use tools for independent authors to self-publish for the growing number of ebook readers (the commuter with the Kindle sitting next to you on the train might be your first customer).
Even our surfing and musician friends from earlier have more options. Maybe you won’t be the next big surfer on the tour, but if you come up with a way to solve a customer need – a new wetsuit design, a tour company to the best surfing locations, or an instructional video that teaches newbies – it is relatively easy to set up a website to promote these products.
As a musician, the major labels exert far less influence than they once did. From recording your own album digitally to uploading your shows on YouTube to marketing your band on Facebook and Twitter, building a fan base and taking control of your passion – while keeping more of the profits – is in your hands.
Perhaps there comes a day when your passion project starts to bring in more money than your day job. Or it brings in enough revenue that you say to yourself “Hmmm, if I were able to work on this full time, I could match my current salary and truly love what I do.” Or maybe you find that working the 9 to 5 and setting aside your free time for what you love is the best option. Either way, the choice is yours.