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How to Be More Realistic About Career Expectations

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A common complaint you hear about those entering the workforce straight out of high school or university is that today’s youth don’t understand that you can’t become a CEO straight out of the gate. Many fail miserably during job interviews because they say they want to own their own restaurant in five years’ time or have the bosses’ job next year. But for those in their 20s, it can be difficult to keep their dreams in check and to decide what’s possible and what’s just a daydream that could actually never happen. Check out this how-to guide about how to be more realistic about what you can expect for your career so you have a better chance at success.

1. Separate the Dream From the Daydream

We need dreams. They inspire us, motivate us, and propel us to move forward with our lives and our work. Without them, we’d have no goals and nothing that makes us want to get out of bed in the morning. No one ever started a company or achieved something big without dreaming about it first. But you run into trouble when you can’t tell what’s an attainable dream and what’s an unrealistic daydream.

Here’s how to tell the difference: think about whether what you want to achieve has been done by many before you or if it’s pretty rare. That’s not to say that you can’t be the exception to the rule and prove everyone wrong. But in most cases, if someone achieves a rare kind of success, it might not happen to you as well. So if you want to be a fashion designer, for example, it might be too big to think about being at the top of the industry in Paris or New York (for now, anyway). So start with an online fashion boutique. You’ll achieve what you want because it’s a dream, not a daydream.

2. You can Always Expand Later

You never want to be destined to fail but that’s likely to happen if you reach for the stars instead of starting small and wanting to expand later on. This is a great way to work because you can exceed your own expectations and do better than you ever thought you could. And there’s always the future. Never count out what you could do in a few years’ time. You don’t need it all right now, you can achieve a little today and a little more tomorrow, and a lot more in five years.

3. Reframe the Struggle

This may seem like strange advice. Who loves to suffer? But think about it. No one who has reached any level of career success ever started without some form of struggle. You will have weeks that you work literally every moment of the day. You will have times when you wonder how you will pay your rent this month. That’s all part of getting where you want to be. The saying it’s all about the journey, not the destination is popular for a very good reason. So don’t consider the fact that you’re young and struggling to get where you want to be right now as a bad thing. It’s not. It just means that you’re on the right path and you’ll get there eventually, when the time is right.

4. Appreciate Advice

If you reach the top of your field too quickly, it’ll be too late to get the proper advice that could have helped you on your way up. One advantage of your youth and inexperience is that you’re like a blank canvas ready to soak up all of the tips and advice that are available to you. This can backfire, of course, because not everyone has your best interests at heart and some people may be trying to get you to fail. So seek out the best mentors, read all the blogs and self-help books you can get your hands on, and train yourself to prepare for success and the life you want.

Realizing that advice can be a positive force in your career path will go a long way toward allowing you to be more realistic about what you can achieve. You will understand that we all need help sometimes. You will also avoid making some pretty big mistakes because when you finally land that dream position or get whatever it is that you want, you will be more than ready, and can start seamlessly.

5. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Many people crash and burn when they reach a certain level of achievement way too quickly. Think about all those actors and singers who were one-movie or one-hit wonders. You saw them everywhere, on the cover of every magazine and on the television news every night, and then boom, they were gone, never to be heard from ever again. If you reach for a steady level of success, your career will only build and build some more. If you get a huge job right out of college and fail, that won’t do anything except ruin your self-esteem, not to mention your reputation within the industry.

We often think that celebrities come out of nowhere and call them an overnight success. But there’s actually no such thing as an overnight success. Every single one of those people had been working their entire lives and trying as hard as they possibly could.

6. Understand That Success Isn't all Fun and Games

That manager whose job you’ve been coveting? The neighbor who owns her own freelance business? Guess what – they may be successful, but they’re not always having a party every single day. With success comes responsibility and more than a little insecurity. You’re going to worry about financial security and wonder if it’s going to last and what you would do if it all went away tomorrow. So be glad that that you’re not quite at that stage of your career yet, because it comes with a lot of headaches. Enjoy the ride you’re on and the step you’re at.

7. Figure out Work-Life Balance Now

What sounds better – building your career in your 20s along with making true friendships, finding love, and learning what interests and hobbies should take up your free time, or becoming married to your career while you’re still so young? Of course, it’s the former, so don’t feel bad or ashamed that you’re working an entry level job instead of rocking the CEO title right now. You have the time to figure out the best work/life balance for you, so you can prevent future health issues that could result from working yourself to death and being way too stressed. It’s easier to teach yourself how to rest and relax when you don’t have the responsibility of juggling a family, taking care of a household, etc. You can feel good that you’re making an investment towards not only your career but also your mental, emotional and physical health.

See Also: How to Stand Out at the Office

Feeling down that you haven’t yet achieved what you’re dreaming of? Think that you need to have the top job at your company even though you’ve only been there for a month? With this how-to guide, you’ll never have unrealistic career expectations ever again, and you’ll realize that the key to being healthy, happy and having the career of your dreams is understanding that the best things are always worth waiting for.

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