Employer Branding

Why Some Adults Want the Jobs They Dreamed of as Children

Looking back at our childhoods, most of us will be able to remember the dreams we had of what our lives would look like when we were older.

But new research by Perkbox Insights has found that the majority of adults never really get over those dreams. Whilst 96% of adults were not successful in making their childhood dream jobs a reality, a whopping 64% of adults still wish that they were working in their childhood dream jobs now.

The study revealed the most popular childhood dream jobs to be Vet, in which 1 in 10 dreamt of becoming, and Teacher with 9% dreaming of pursuing this career. This was followed by Pilot (6%), Actor (6%) and Police Officer / Detective (5%).

With only 4% making their childhood dream job become a reality, it begs the question of if childhood dreams can play any part in shaping the future or if dreams and reality are actually lightyears apart? The study found that the dream of being a lawyer or teacher were the dreams most likely to come true – with 14% of those who dreamt of becoming a lawyer now working in the Law, Law Enforcement or Security sector, whilst the same amount who dreamt of becoming a Teacher now work in Education. Other dreams, such as becoming an Actor or Athlete were much less likely to come true, which the most common sectors for these dreams to turn into being Hospitality/Events Management and Accountancy respectively.

But how important is following these childhood dreams? It turns out that it could have an impact on future happiness. The survey found that 92% of people who ended up in their childhood dream job are happy in their job as an adult, leaving only 8% unhappy. Alternatively, 84% of those who did not end up in their childhood dream is happy in their job, leaving twice the amount as those who did pursue their childhood dream unhappy (16%). Does wistful thinking of dreams gone by leave us feeling like the grass is greener elsewhere?

When looking into why these dreams didn’t become a reality, the result revealed some sad truths. 43% felt that they didn’t have the talent, opportunity or resources to pursue their childhood dream job, which breaks down to a disproportionate 28% of women, compared to just 15% of men. Begging the question – is this a lack of confidence or is there a feeling of lack of opportunities for young women

The amount of training required for certain careers is often off-putting too, with almost 1 in 10 (9%) stating this was a reason they didn’t pursue their dream job – including the most popular dream jobs of Vet and Pilot. A further 8% didn’t pursue their dream because the career isn’t always well paid.

One specific dream role struck up some questions. With Teacher being the second most popular childhood dream job, it seems curious as to how there is a national teacher shortage in the UK – where do all these budding educators go?

The main reason given as to why people didn’t pursue their dream of becoming a teacher was due to not being interested as they got older (40%), but this was followed by a substantial 15% who thought that this career wasn’t well paid enough. With the average salary for a qualified teacher in the UK being £23,720 – £35,008, compared to the national average salary of £35,423 – it shows that this dream job may not be offering enough to lure those entering the job market.

Despite the majority of adults wishing that they were doing their childhood dream job now, 32% of people got into their current role because they are interested or passionate about the industry, and a huge 99% of these people are happy in their jobs – so it isn’t all bad.

Other routes into a job which lead to workplace happiness include those who got into their job as it suits their talents (25%), which has led to 95% of these people being happy at work. Whilst 15% work in their role as it matches their studies and 94% of these people are happy.

But not all routes lead to equal levels of happiness.

Of the 9% of Brits who pursued their career because it’s well paid, 18% are unhappy in their jobs – almost 20x higher than those who followed their interests or passions. Could this be proof that money can’t always buy happiness?

Lastly (and sadly), the reason to pursue a job least likely to lead to happiness are those who got into their job because it’s local (10%), with over 1 in 5 (21%) people who got into their job this way unhappy at work – showing that settling close to home may not be the answer.

About the author: Perkbox is a platform that provides a unique employee experience, enriching the personal and working life of employees. It offers a suite of products including a platform with access to best in class Perks, Perkbox Medical, Perkbox Recognition, and Perkbox Insights. It serves companies of all sizes from SMEs to large companies such as Whole Foods, Nando’s, Caffe Nero and Levi Strauss & Co. Headquartered in London, with offices in Sheffield and Paris, Perkbox has raised over £11.0 million in funding from the leading European venture capital firm Draper Esprit.

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