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Some people know what they want when they go to college. They can tell you with descriptive words and impressive examples.
I’m not one of those people.
Instead, I dabbled in things I didn’t want to do well before landing on what I did want to do.
There is serious siren of possibility that I have more than one dream job that I haven’t stumbled across it yet.
Someday, I may drift and start dabbling around in more career fields. That day is not today because it took a while to go from dream job to day job.
A few tactics shifted the balance in a may-the-odds-be-ever-in-your-favor sort of way and yet, no humans were harmed in the process.
Before going from play to payday, I practiced.
I’m a park ranger.
Before I knew what a park ranger did, a close friend and mentor suggested the career field.
We were sitting at a state park fee window. I was a volunteer and chatted away with customers while collecting fees. During a lull, my mentor suggested I ponder the life of a park ranger.
Not the ranger with a tactical belt like Batman, but an educator like Smokey Bear with less fur.
At the time, I was on the law enforcement path. Still, I pondered his suggestion. I deeply respected my mentor’s opinion and I couldn’t help but wonder if he saw something I hadn’t. I had already changed course from pharmacist to natural resources law enforcement. Did I want to shift again?
Off-kilter in a world that seemed to tumble with constant career shifts, I decided to do something about it.
I called the closest federal park I could find and started asking questions. By the end of the call, I was given a job. Since I had no summer plans, it was an easy yes.
For the next few months, I was a seasonal guide for the National Park Service.
By the end of the season, I had made my decision. I would shift my plans, yet again, and start down the long road of becoming a park ranger.
Experience pays when turning a dream job into a day job.
As #10 of the top 10 coveted job dream jobs, it takes experience to turn a dream job into a day job.
I shifted my degree from natural resources law enforcement to education and interpretation which set me back a semester.
I started building experience at the bottom by volunteering at a local state park. Then, I started working at smaller federal parks. At each site, I bolstered my resume with interpretive talks, walks, and slide show presentations.
I started pursuing certifications and taking informal free courses from fancy establishments like National Geographic. Despite my desire, I couldn’t consistently stay in the ranger field because a husband changed more than my last name, it altered my zip code too.
It’s an ideal career with minimum flexibility.
Still worth it.
Despite setbacks, I was insistent and persistent.
As much as I valued a resume that reflected a robust stream of park service positions, the reality is more like a stream dotted with stepping stones.
I’ve had to work in the private sector for years without a whiff of ranger duties.
Sometimes, the local park wasn’t hiring.
Sometimes, I worked nowhere near a park and any job was better than no job.
Other times, I worked at a park and my season ended, I wanted something more than 90 days of employment.
My resume reflected variety. It didn’t change my dream.
Instead, I had to bolster my grit.
If I couldn’t work at my dream job, I dabbled in related fields as an educator at:
Anything vaguely familiar because “two steps forward and one step back is still one step closer to your goal than never trying.” Wise words of wisdom from Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist.
Being employed at different facilities turned out to be more fun than anticipated. I learned different skill sets like leading story time, singing in public, handling animals, and developing STEAM-based programs. Each site provided new insight into a future destination.
Instead of waiting for perfection, I showed up for what was available.
When I finally applied for my dream job, it didn’t look like a dream job.
Instead, it guaranteed six months of employment. I rumbled with furloughs for two years before the position transitioned to year-round employment.
Then, as the ranger position transitioned my supervisor started the process for a promotion into my dream job on steroids.
Now the dream job is going to local libraries to provide grizzly programs or venturing offsite to a Hutterite colony to share cultural history or dispensing 1800s medical practices with interactive demonstrations.
When a dream job goes from possibility to reality it feels like something so fun it’s illegal.
All the heartaches and breaks were worth turning a dream job into a day job.
For some, their dream job to day job may have been a brief and uneventful trip like another commute to work.
For this girl, my experience was more like hanging onto the railing of a ship during a typhoon after going through the buffet line.
Through all the crests and crashes, I can say as I look back on the buffet line of experiences, that it was worth it.