This is why your 'dream job' isn't your dream anymore.

In my mid-20s, I landed my 'dream job' in a creative field. It was the type of job I had wanted since graduation and, at the time, I hoped to use my skills to follow my creative passion.

I should have noticed the first red flag when, during my interview, the CEO asked me when I planned to have babies. I brushed it off with a laugh and accepted the junior role, but it quickly went downhill as I witnessed workplace bullying and frequent displays of anger and belittlement by management that left me and others on the team nervous wrecks. 

The intense 40-hour weeks frequently extended into weekends, yet it never seemed to be enough for the slew of demanding clients.

My dream job was not enjoyable or meaningful, and caused me intense anxiety. Thankfully, I found something else (that I loved) before leaving less than 12 months after signing the contract.

Realising that a dream job has turned into a nightmare is a common phenomenon, and according to research by 80,000 Hours that reviewed more than 60 studies, there are many factors to consider if you want a fulfilling role.

Writing for the 80,000 Hours career guide, Benjamin Todd says finding a dream career is not – as some people think  – about finding an easy job with zero stress, nor is it as simple as "finding your passion".

In fact, he says that the concept of passion at work can be misleading.

"Following your passion can lead you astray," Todd writes.

"Steve Jobs was passionate about Zen Buddhism before entering technology. Maya Angelou worked as a calypso dancer before she became a celebrated poet and civil rights activist.


"Rather, you can develop passion by doing work that you find enjoyable and meaningful. The key is to get good at something that helps other people."

Watch: Tony Armstrong on the highs and lows of his career. Post continues below.

Video via ABC.

While Todd goes on to say that enjoying engaging work and having some passion for it is a good thing, it is not the only factor to consider when looking for a dream career.

Research shows there are six ingredients that come together in the workplace to boost overall life happiness. And if you're so-called "dream job" doesn't meet these criteria? Well, it may not be the dream after all.

The six ingredients for a job you love.

According to 80,000 Hours and Todd's report, these are the six things to look for when in a 'dream role' – and no, income is not one of them.

1. Work that is engaging.

There is some confusion as to the origins of the quote, 'If you enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life', but it turns out there is some truth to this.

"Engaging work is work that draws you in, holds your attention, and gives you a sense of flow," Todd writes, before defining the four factors that researchers have identified in order for the work to be considered engaging. 


- The freedom to decide how to perform your work.

- Clear tasks, with a clearly defined start and end.

- Variety in the types of tasks.

- Feedback, so you know how well you’re doing.

2. Work that helps others.

To achieve extreme job satisfaction, the research shows it is very helpful if your work has meaning to both you and the broader community.

"People who volunteer are less depressed and healthier," Todd writes.

"A meta-analysis of 23 randomised studies showed that performing acts of kindness makes the giver happier. And a global survey found that people who donate to charity are as satisfied with their lives as those who earn twice as much."

3. Work you are good at.

"Being good at your work gives you a sense of achievement," Todd writes – but that doesn't mean you have to be perfect at your job straight away.

An interest and a willingness to get good at something is enough for this third key ingredient.

4. Supportive colleagues.

How great is it when you find your 'work wife'? But according to the research, it's not simply about finding friendships, but more about feeling supported.

"You don’t need to become friends with everyone, or even like all of your colleagues," Todd writes.

"Research shows that perhaps the most important factor is whether you can get help from your colleagues when you run into problems."


5. Work that doesn't have major negatives.

"Major negatives", according to the research, include factors like a long commute, insecurity, unfair pay and very long hours. Todd says that while many people tend to overlook these things, they are worth examining as they can ultimately outweigh all the positives.

External issues, such as stress caused by the global pandemic, should be considered but are hard to control.

The 2023 State of the Future of Work report from the University of Melbourne recently interviewed 1,400 workers from around the country to hear about their experiences of employment since the pandemic. The report found that not only is burnout on the rise, but a third of workers want to quit, and around half of "prime age" workers (aged 18-54) feel exhausted.

6. Work that fits with the rest of your life.

A fulfilling life doesn't always have to come from fulfilling paid work, so if you can't find a dream job, consider how you can be fulfilled in other areas – but ensure your job makes room or fits around this (not the other way around).

Above all, the research shows that finding something meaningful that not only helps others but helps you feel good about your work life is key to a dream career. 

Happy job hunting!

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Senior Lifestyle Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Getty.