Your ‘Dream’ Career and Your ‘Real’ Career – Not The Same Thing

Your dream career goes in a pretty much straight line. You start out with a clear, achievable idea of what you’d like to accomplish, and retire having reached the pinnacle of your industry.


Every job you take pays well, advances your skills, and enhances your experience and prestige.

NEWSFLASH – Real careers don’t look like this


“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
— J.K. Rowling


Real careers can be messy, but when you put in the effort they can also be highly rewarding.


Real careers look like this:

  1. Start with some goals
  2. Re-evaluate when things change
  3. Be open to opportunities
  4. Make the most of each situation


Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones that are unplanned…

  • the temporary role you were only supposed to fill for 6 weeks that turns into an amazing career
  • the job offer from an unexpected source, or
  • the unplanned ‘job-free’ period that pushes you outside your comfort zone and leads you to a career change

Each position you take will build your skills and knowledge – including how to deal with jobs and/or bosses you don’t like. And if you find yourself doing something that doesn’t align with your life goals then you need to make some tough decisions – change your goals or change your plan.


So what does a ‘real’ career look like?

Here’s the career profiles of 3 very different people.

Each faced setbacks and challenges, had to think outside the box, and jumped at opportunities when they arose. Their careers might not look ‘neat’ and ‘pretty’, but they achieved their goals, paid the bills, and achieved some things they can be proud of.

FILE - This Oct. 16, 2012 file photo shows author J.K. Rowling at an appearance to promote her latest book "The Casual Vacancy," at The David H. Koch Theater in New York.  (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP, File)

J.K. Rowling

Fabulous author of the world’s best-selling book series, Joanne has now lost her billionaire status because she’s donated so much to charity.

After school she applied for Oxford University, but wasn’t successful. Instead, she studied classics at a local university, then worked as a secretary for Amnesty International. She was disorganised and ended up moving to Portugal to teach English to local students.

Seven years after uni she felt like a failure – she was an unemployed single mother with a young baby, dependant on welfare. She finished the first draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on a typewriter.

Harry Potter was rejected by the first 12 publishing houses (they probably regret that decision) and when Bloomsbury agreed to publish it he told her to ‘get a day job’ since he thought she had little chance of making money from children’s books.

He was wrong.

She started winning awards, then Scholastic won the rights to publish Philosopher’s Stone in the US (and paid her US$105000 for the privilege), and the rest is history.

Harry Potter is a global brand worth an estimated $15 billion.

Paul Keating (24th Prime Minister of Australia)

Paul grew up in Bankstown, a suburb of Western Sydney, and he left school at 14 years old because his parents couldn’t afford further education (it was normal back then).

  • He got a job as a pay clerk for a local council,
  • Then worked as a research assistant for a trade union
  • He also loved music, and he even managed a rock bank in the early 1960’s

Keating loved politics and was heavily involved with the Labor Party and the trade unions. So he bought a bus, campaigned and was elected to the Federal Parliament at the age of 25.

An aggressive debater (check out the ABC’s Collected Insults of Paul Keating), he became Treasurer in the 1980’s, and was part of the Whitlam government which abolished university fees in 1974. He also oversaw the introduction of HECS.

Keating failed in his first attempt to take the Prime Minister’s role, and even thought about quitting politics, but a few months later he saw another chance and took it.

He was Prime Minister of Australia from 1991 to 1996.

Since leaving politics, he’s worked as a director of various companies, published books, and is also a visiting Professor of Public Policy at UNSW.

Paul Keating

Ron Sylvester – Founder of MHSCareers

Ron left school at 16 to become an electrical apprentice in the Royal Army (UK).

After 9 years in the army as a radar technician, he left the army and used the skills he’d learnt in Saudi Arabia, where he taught them to run and maintain their own radar equipment. In between stints in Saudi, he’d fill in time as a taxi driver, learning about people and their careers.

Back then the army didn’t issue formal qualifications, but he was able to use his skills maintaining electrical equipment to start his own business installing, maintaining and repairing catering equipment. As anyone with a business and a family will tell you, long hours spent working for yourself can be challenging, and after a while Ron chose to formalise his army-taught skills with the equivalent of a TAFE Diploma in Electrical Engineering.

Just as he was finishing this qualification – the Higher National Certificate (HNC) – the British government were looking for people with life experience and an HNC to train as maths teachers. They provided free training and a bursary which allowed him to gain a Bachelor of Education in Mathematics.

A few years later he jumped at the chance to move to Australia when the NSW Government put out a call for qualified maths teachers to teach in rural and regional schools.

He started working in Western Sydney and took the opportunity to retrain as a Careers Advisor when it arose, then started MHSCareers to help his own students.

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