When Your Dream Job Doesn’t Work Out


By Daniel Ryan Day

A few years ago, my dream job didn’t work out. I was a few weeks away from the release of my first book, Ten Days Without, and had been invited to speak at an event in Michigan. My wife and I were so excited! A lifelong dream—the dream to publish a book—had come true, and I couldn’t wait to engage with an audience around the content I had written.

The Michigan trip would be the first stop in a month-long book tour, and I had already set up a few more speaking gigs in the Southeast. Rebecca and I decided to bring the whole family and use the time in between speaking engagements as a much-needed vacation. In fact, just a few days before the event in Michigan, we stopped in Chicago for our first visit to Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Great Lakes. The tour was off to a killer start! One of my expectations for my dream job was that I would have enough flexibility in my schedule to do more fun things with my family. So far? Check!

A few days later, the time came for my first presentation, and my speech went almost exactly as I expected. Although there were fewer people in the audience than I expected, I hit all of the points I wanted to cover. Emotionally, I was floating. Writing a book and getting to speak about it was a dream, and I had just experienced the thrill of seeing a dream come true. The moment I was finished, I knew I had nailed it! If there hadn’t still been people in the room—or if I had been equipped with a cone of silence—I would have shouted something equivalent to “THAT. WAS. AWESOME!”

A few moments later, after everyone else had left the room, my boss—who was also in town speaking at the event—congratulated me and told me I had done an excellent job. He told me that I communicated each point clearly and that the content was going to really help a lot of people. He told me that he was glad he got to see the talk because he knew I’d be okay.

And then he fired me!

I was completely blindsided, and I was in shock. Talk about an emotional swing! I went from the top of the top, to a very low, low. What was I going to do now?

I walked out of the ballroom and into the greenroom where my wife was playing with the kids. As soon as she saw my face, she knew something was wrong.

“Oh no! What happened? What went wrong?” she asked. She expected me to tell her that my computer crashed in the middle of the presentation, that I had forgotten what to say, or that I had told a joke in the presentation that completely bombed. My response stunned her. “Well, uh, I don’t have a job anymore,” I said solemnly.

The next few weeks did not go as expected. Remember, we were in Michigan—we had driven to Michigan with three small children—and we were fifteen hours away from our home in Colorado. We didn’t know if we should cancel the book tour and drive back to our house, or if we should try to keep going. My family was only 13 hours away, in North Carolina, and it sounded good to both of us to go somewhere where we could have support. So we drove to North Carolina. We figured that being near family would be the best place to begin trying to figure out what was next. As you can probably imagine, it was a long 13 hours. We were hurt; we were angry; and we had no idea what we would do next.

Although most people think that becoming an author means becoming instantly rich, it doesn’t work that way. My day job is what allowed me to pursue my dream job. So when I lost my day job, I ended up losing my dream job too. We didn’t have enough money to go on a book tour. We didn’t have the space in our budget to travel the country and speak for free. So instead of promoting my book, I began promoting my resume.

Right now, I’m the COO of a company that runs a family entertainment center, restaurant and hotel. We employ a hundred or so people—and they all seem to be looking for their dream jobs. The majority of our staff falls into the category of people “in transition.” Many know exactly what their dream jobs are. Many others have absolutely no idea. And it’s not just the young adults—I also work with men and women in their twenties, thirties, and older who are searching for something better—a job that is fulfilling and exciting. From my limited experience I can safely say that most of the people who work with me are looking for a dream job, and many are having a hard time finding it.

Why are we looking for a dream job? There are deeper reasons—like the pursuits of fulfillment and purpose—but one of the most obvious reasons we want a dream job is that our culture says we should be able to find one. Take a moment to search for other books related to dream jobs or discovering God’s call on your life. You will find numerous titles, all of which imply that they’ve discovered the one-size-fits-all formula to discovering both your dream job and the will of God. You will notice that a lot of the covers include a compass or a street sign to imply that they’ve found our direction—they’ve done the work and discovered the path of God for our lives. Yet you and I both know that there’s not a formula to God’s will. We’ve read these books, and they’ve failed to deliver the answers we are looking for. That’s why there’s a broken compass on the front of my new book titled Intentional Christian—the ways of searching for a dream job and God’s call as outlined in the products mentioned above are broken. At least they feel broken to me. After all, if one—just one—of the books I’m referring to had answered all of my questions, I wouldn’t have a shelf full of resources on the same topic. If one of those books had—like a working compass—directed my steps to my dream job, I wouldn’t have put a broken compass on the new book or subtitled Intentional Christian, “What to do when you don’t know what to do!” Many of us don’t know what to do. So if you’re in the same boat—if you’re searching for a dream job and God’s will for your life—here are a few things I would ask you to consider.

1. Separate the search for a dream job and the will of God.

They are not the same thing. Here’s one example, check out 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). Notice that God’s will for our lives is not a calling to a specific job, but is a calling to live a certain way. There are more of these verses, and in Intentional Christian we examine more passages that describe God’s will and calling for your life. Here’s the interesting thing: none of the verses describe a specific job. Instead, all of them could apply to any job.

2. Focus on living out the will of God, first, and trust that God will direct your steps.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (NKJV). We are not called to the pursuit of a dream job, we are called to follow God. It’s okay to plan our way, but ultimately God will be the one who directs us to whatever job—or jobs—we should have. So instead of spending so much energy trying to discover a dream job, focus on living out the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let God direct your steps because then you will end up where He wants you to be.

Daniel Ryan Day is an author, speaker, blogger who spent quite a few years trying to figure out God’s call on his life. His search for answers—accompanied by the pursuit of a master’s degree from Fuller Theological Seminary—led him to discover that God reveals every Christian’s broader calling within the pages of Scripture. Daniel attempts to live out intentional Christianity in North Carolina, as a husband, father, and businessman.