Here’s a fascinating bit of social science data — a survey of 8,000 LinkedIn members worldwide asking them to name their dream jobs.
It differs, as you’d expect, country by country; the top choice, in India, Singapore, Indonesia and Brazil was engineer, while Germans and Hong Kong residents chose scientist.
Canadians and Americans said being a teacher was theirs.
I’m surprised, certainly in the U.S., because public education has recently become such a battleground, over texts, tests, salaries, tenure. The pay is generally low and some parents’ expectations savagely and unrealistically high, if the parents are even involved at all.
The top choices also differed hugely between American men and women.
In order, men chose: professional or Olympic athlete, plane or helicopter pilot, scientist, lawyer or astronaut.
Women chose: teacher, veterinarian, writer/journalist, nurse/doctor/EMT, singer.
I’m not sure what to make of this, except to suggest that guys are hopeless fantasists and girls seem to have some really serious STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) aversion.
Let’s parse these a bit:
Guys, clearly, want: power (physical, mechanical, financial), fame/groupies, a view from high above the earth, literal or metaphorical. Each of their choices relies on individual strength and skill, even when used within a team environment. Each allows them to be a hero, to save lives and/or make history.
Girls, it seems, want: emotional connection, intellectual growth, to help and nurture others. Their choices suggest they want to relate to children or animals or other people in a helping manner — or just be famous, dammit!
The question that most intrigues me is…why? Do men and women want such utterly different lives, incomes and trajectories of influence because of their parents? What they read? See on television? Their friends and neighbors?
I wanted to be a writer since I was very small, partly because my mother was a journalist for magazines and it looked like a hell of a lot of paid fun. (It is, at its best.)
I also wanted to be, for a while, a radio DJ, an actress, a photographer and a foreign correspondent. I did a lot of acting in productions at summer camp and was good at it, but knew the odds of professional success were slim. I started out as a photographer by selling three magazine cover images when I was still in high school and did news photography for a while, but male editors and art directors refused to give me work, arguing that men with families (!) needed it more than I.
So I stuck with journalism/publishing which, in many ways, has been my dream job. It suits me emotionally, intellectually, politically and spiritually — I know, for a fact (thanks to some powerful emails over the years) — that my work has touched people. One woman said a medical story of mine had even saved her life. For me, no paycheck is large enough to compensate for work that fails to connect people to one another. I learn something new almost every single day. I know that providing accurate, timely and useful information is essential to democracy and any form of social justice, and I get to be a part of that.
The money is shitty, but occasionally better. I like working with a tremendous amount of physical and intellectual freedom and autonomy. I loathe routine. I like meeting people from every walk of life, as I have, from Prime Ministers and Queen Elizabeth and Olympic athletes to convicted felons and victims of violence.
I love being paid to have an idea and explore it in depth, sharing the result with millions of readers. It’s a huge thrill knowing that my two books are in libraries all over the world.
And I love being part of an international tribe, men and women of all ages who still get up in the morning dying to get to the next story, whether they’ll tell it through words or images or sounds, or perhaps all three. When a journalist is killed covering a story, we all feel a little ill, because it could have been us or our husband or someone we’ve worked with — or have. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career, which began when I was still an undergrad at University of Toronto, to find editors willing to entrust me with their pages, budgets and assignments. They’ve sent me to a tiny Arctic village, to a Club Med in Mexico (!), to dance at Lincoln Center in New York, to Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, to Edmonton and Winnipeg and Copenhagen.
It’s not been a picnic! Some bosses have been toxic brutes, male and female bullies whose behavior rendered me physically sick with stress. One editor’s criticism of my writing actually left me in tears, (I was very young), but also forever changed my writing for the better.
Here’s a beautiful blog post by friend and fellow writer Cynthia Ramnarace — whose New York home was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy — about the extraordinary kindness her former newsroom colleagues recently showed her, eight years after she moved away. I doubt you’d ever get this in a cut-throat big-city newsroom, but there is a deeply shared set of values most journalists have in common, which I really appreciate still, after 30 years in the biz.
My alternate dream jobs? Choreographer, owner of a small housewares store, interior designer, jet pilot, conference organizer, consultant and public speaker. I think a few of them are still possible!
Are you in your dream job?
If not, why not?
If so, tell us about it!