Facing Your Career Crossroads: Where Dreams and Reality Meet

By Parker, Linda Bates | Diversity Employers, September-October 1993 | Go to article overview

Facing Your Career Crossroads: Where Dreams and Reality Meet


Parker, Linda Bates, Diversity Employers


Whenever I meet young people, my professional background as a career counselor drives me to inquire about their plans for the future. I am always impressed by their dreams, but I am also struck by how much distance there often is between their dreams and reality.

From the most successful to the most downtrodden, everyone has, or at one time in their life, had dreams. But some people are more likely to fulfill their dreams than others. An adage that I heard growing up--The road to hell is paved with good intentions--points to the fact that it requires more than intending or dreaming to become successful. Tevin Campbell in his hit song, "Tomorrow," reminds us that nothing comes from dreaming, but dreams, ... and the world just keeps going 'round and 'round."

Getting beyond dreams is essential when planning your career

I speak to a lot of students during freshman orientation. When I ask them about their major and their career aspirations, I hear so many impressive titles: I want to be a Systems Analyst; a Surgeon; a Marine Biologist; a Psychiatric Social Worker, "I want to work with Virtual Reality." One student wrote his career objective: I want to be an architeck!

By sophomore year, some of these students are already confronting the virtual reality" that they do not have the necessary academic foundation or drive to pursue the field that they have dreamed about. "Wannabe's" are in great abundance on college campuses. They are distinguishable by their false claims and their tendency to try to catch on to success by riding on someone else's coattails. They are operating under the illusion that to just dream about or to "wannabe" successful in a career is all that is required. The truth is, turning career dreams into reality begins with a dream, but ends with a deadline date for accomplishment.

If you dream about being a surgeon, you must get very, very concrete with your career plans. You must decide whether it will be to your advantage to be in a pre-med program or simply to take a strong liberal arts program with an emphasis in science. You must find out what the undergraduate academic requirements are; you must carefully map out your course of study. You may wish to do an internship in a hospital or clinic to learn more about your field. You will want to join a pre-med club or society to associate with peers who have similar dreams and aspirations. You will need to understand that your four years of undergraduate study are only the beginning of your academic program. And you must set a date to complete undergraduate work, so that you can proceed with the next steps to fulfilling your dream--in this case, applying to and gaining admission to medical school. These are only a few of the steps needed to realize the dream of becoming a surgeon. For nothing comes from dreaming, but dreams.

But Martin Luther King had dreams. So did Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and many other shining examples of African-American leadership and accomplishment. Dreaming or envisioning is a very effective first step in achieving your goals or in getting what you want out of life. Successful athletes will tell you that they dream and actually envision themselves winning at whatever game they are playing. For example, Michael Jordan, in his motivational sport's video "Michael Jordan's Playground," confides: "You must trust that your hard work and practice have paid off. When I go for a dunk, I can see myself dunking the ball. I take it right to them. If they cut me off, I improvise. If I see an opening, I don't hesitate. I just attack the basket, because when I take off, I feel that no one can stop me." And Michael is right. That kind of vision, that kind of focus, that kin of drive is unbeatable in a career or in life.

So it is important to have dreams and to fantasize about how you will feel when you realize them. My daughter wanted a convertible Miata, but she had an existing car note, and some major bills and could not initially see her way clear to getting that car. …

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