As a kid, did you dream about playing professional sports, becoming a rock star, saving lives or boldly going where no one has gone before? The truth is that nearly 8 in 10 adults did not realize their childhood aspirations for one reason or another. However, you can still draw upon those feelings of excitement and inspiration to carve your own road. Here are three ways to leverage your childhood dreams to create a fulfilling career:
1) Choose a related pathway.
Matt Domonkos wanted to be an astronaut. “That seemed like the coolest thing you could possibly do when I was growing up and it just really captured my imagination,” he explained. Back in the day, the typical path for an astronaut was to either become a pilot or an engineer. Interested in math and science, Domonkos veered towards engineering as bad eyesight and less hiring opportunities at the end of the Cold War took him off the pilot track. But his career path continued to support Domonkos’ love of space exploration. He became a mechanical engineer and worked for NASA in Cleveland, Ohio and then the Air Force Research Laboratory doing physics in related technical areas. Today Domonkos is finding new frontiers to explore working in private industry and enjoying his hobby of astrophotography, which uses upper-tier digital photography to capture amazing images of astronomical objects and the night sky.
“Look at the landscape and pick something where there are other options that you enjoy,” advised Domonkos, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “That way if you’re reaching for the stars and don’t quite make it, there is another chance to do something really enjoyable and productive.”
Working in hospitality was Michael Goldberg’s original career path. He worked for Marriott for five years after graduating college, loving the fast pace, hectic moments and taking care of guests. After pausing to obtain his MBA, Goldberg assumed he would land his dream career of owning a chain of exclusive resort hotels across the globe.
Then the reality of obtaining funding set in. It was especially challenging in those nascent days of the internet to find information on how to locate and win over investors to fund his first property. With those roadblocks, Goldberg started planning a career shift that still retained what he loved about hospitality.
“I knew my specialty was helping people with issues and connecting people with others,” explained Goldberg. “Human Resources was the best fit as I had the opportunity to study HR Law in my MBA program. With my background and knowledge of my superpowers, a career in HR and Recruiting would be the best fit. In the end I was able to help people with HR-related issues, connect with others from all over the world, and make a difference in organizations through delivering excellent customer service.”
For the last 25 years, Goldberg has built a name for himself in the field of Talent Acquisition. His Dallas, Texas-based business helps start-up organizations who are in hyper growth mode build out their talent functions including processes, workflows, technologies, tools, and programs. He also helps with business turnarounds for medium-sized organizations and audits talent functions, looking at everything from employment branding and processes to recruiting.
2) Retain the essence of what you loved.
Excited about solving problems, educating others or sharing creative ideas? You can still find the essence of those qualities in another outlet. Just ask Kris March, who dreamed about being a lawyer. “That wasn’t in the cards for me as a first-generation high school graduate,” the Midland, Michigan resident explained. “However, I worked my way through business school and became a successful marketer. It turns out both share a critical skill – story telling and persuasion!”
Dominic Mason loved biochemistry, genetics, and the outdoors. At age 22, armed with a Master’s Degree in Genetics, the UK native’s plan was to teach at a U.S. university and then move to Canada, teaching genetics at Calgary University half of the year and then spending six months in the wilderness tracking and studying elk, bear and wolf. Unfortunately, funding fell apart.
“I was absolutely bereft,” recalls Mason. “I remember arriving back at a UK airport in February in the rain with four years of planning gone. Poof. I got a break when a mate reviewing music said I could review video games for their magazine. I was there when they fitted a new Macintosh publishing suite and needed an in-house IT guy.”
That unplanned detour opened a completely new pathway for Mason, who lives in the greater London area. Today, he runs his own digital strategy consulting business. “It’s not in Canada, not in genetics, and I don’t look for big beasts,” he said. “But I do look for big problems and then help my clients get value for their digital strategy spend. I have had my own business since I was 14, so in some ways I deviated from the original, original dream with a plan to get away to Canada and am now back where I started, paddling my own canoe.
3) Be willing to pivot.
Being flexible and agile in your career is more important than ever before with record-high unemployment levels. When Melissa Minihan graduated college in the early 2000’s, Information Technology was the hot career path with the rise of technology companies changing the world. With a degree in Decision and Information Sciences, becoming a Chief Information Officer was her ultimate goal. Working in ecommerce, which leveraged her technology and consulting background, created a pivot into marketing.
“I learned about consumer behavior while in ecommerce through User Experience (UX) and that led to a jump into marketing,” said Minihan. “I then got to do the more traditional parts of marketing like product development and media planning.”
After a great career leading numerous marketing organizations, Minihan was ready to take on a P&L role. Today she serves as a General Manager/ Vice President of Apparel – Americas at The LYCRA Company in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I am not sure it was ever my original dream, but I look at my career as a journey that has led me to doing what I love,” she said. “The journey is your story and each experience helps you form new skills, new opportunities and reinvention, which is critical in our world today. Changing and keeping an open and inquisitive mind is everything.”
A willingness to shift means you can also see your interests come full circle. “I wanted to be an inventor and then a psychiatrist for years,” recalls Nicole Donnelly. She ended up with a BIS in German, History, and Photography. An ex-pro snowboarder and customer experience design expert in Seattle, Washington, Donnelly found ways to integrate her childhood dreams back into her world. “I ‘invented’ a product for my daughter when she was a baby and turned it into a multi-million-dollar global brand. And I started mentoring and coaching CEO’s and wrote an EQ book, so we are back to psych.”
How have you leveraged a childhood dream to build a fulfilling career?