Is your dream job selling encyclopedias? Congratulations!

September 20th 2018 in Uncategorized

Recently I had someone asking me questions about the career coaching I do.

He didn’t quite understand what career coaches do and how what ‘dream jobs’ were. So I explained that my work is about making a better world by helping others who want to craft career paths in a way that leads them towards being the person that they want to be and the life they want to experience and that, to me, was the best definition of a ‘dream job’ that I could think of. It’s not just a job, but a holistic view of life. It’s about wanting to do what you’re doing

He didn’t seem to believe that a person should necessarily love the work they do and that work is just a way to make money. He went on to say that we don’t need to make it anything more than something we do every day to get by. ‘Dreams’ where for children and the deluded; cold hard facts dictated the way things are.

I pressed back a little. Facts are always the deciders of our fate, but we can adapt to them to go around the obstacles they present. Shakespeare said, “Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes them so”. I said that your perspective and what you give attention to can help us cope with a cold, uncaring world because they give us to courage to do more than we ever thought we could.

Still unconvinced, he posed this question: “Yes, but what would you tell a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman who loves their job and doesn’t want to give it up. In this day and age, he’ll starve in an alley unless he makes a living.”

I come across arguments like this against doing what you love frequently in my most of my clients. To be perfectly honest, I’ve struggled with this myself- it’s a very human response. If you were born the Midwest of the U.S.A. like me you’d know it’s almost a religious doctrine there – ‘do your job and keep your mouth shut’. This is some deep, deep mental wiring that goes back to our ancestors on the savannah, but it’s not a fact of life.

“I would tell this guy two things.” I countered. “First, I would tell him that it was good he found something he loves to do and that was a gift and he was very fortunate because so few ever achieve that. Second, I would tell him that his profession is gone and it was time to move on.”

“Ah Ha! See..” he said.

“Wait, not done yet.” I retorted holding up a finger. “So, given those two facts, he needed to find what was essential to what he loved and then determine how to bring that into his next line of work. What we’re talented at and are passionate about is feedback from life that tells us where we can be most helpful and provide the most value. That sort of self-knowledge gives us a massive advantage in the marketplace because we’re coming from a place of strength, not mediocrity.”

“The salesperson might find they love to sell. They might find they have a mission in life to make information accessible. They might find they love walking the streets door to door and meeting new people each day. There are themes in what we do that are there if we move above the concrete level of thinking and change our perception. I’d help him find a path that builds on whatever that essential passion is. That’s what a coach does- helps the dreamers find the value in the dream. Dreams are valuable and if you’re got one you’ve won the vocational lottery.”

I’m not 100% sure I ‘won’ him over with the argument, but I at least changed his mind a little bit and helped him see things he’d not seen before.


Note: Discussing this post with someone who works at a library, I discovered that there’s still a thriving business selling encyclopedias. They don’t sell direct to families or by pounding the pavement, but they do still quite well.

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