As we host our BIG Dream Gatherings on university campuses around the country… we inspire students to think about and clarify their big dreams and goals.
As a result, I get a lot of questions about identifying and attaining dream jobs.
I often surprise students when we start to discuss this topic because I’m quick to say their next job probably won’t be a Dream Job. In fact, I let them know that if they truly want to go after a Dream Job… they’re probably first going to need something I call a “Bridge Job.”
This advice is based on the hundreds of interviews I have done with people who have achieved their own Dream Jobs. Real people who are doing work they love… work that matters… work that is fulfilling to them. (NOTE: They’ve all achieved this in the current work world.)
The next question tends to be,:
“What’s the difference between a Dream Job and a Bridge Job?”
A Dream Job allows you to do work you love and/or it allows you to do something outside work that you love. A Dream Job feels like home. It feels like a place you want to stay. It’s where you’re challenged… but you love the challenge most days. It’s work that’s the right fit for this season of your life.
Yup. That’s a Dream Job.
A Bridge Job is just that… a bridge.
Think about a bridge. It’s not a place you want to stay for a long time. It’s built to get you somewhere.
A Bridge Job is like that. You may not love the work but it’s a role that enables you to meet people, earn income, to be available and/or to learn things. It’s okay that you don’t want to stay there the rest of your life. Don’t! But while you’re there… do solid work and maximize the opportunity.
Time and time again… Bridge Jobs were essential to the people I spoke with.
Now, as I discuss Bridge Jobs with students, I am quick to reinforce the key to finding and maximizing a Bridge Job is to focus on what I call the “M.E.A.L. Plan.™”
M.E.A.L. Plan TM
MEET - Who can you meet?
EARN - What can you earn?
AVAILABLE - What can you be available to do/try/experience?
LEARN - What can you learn?
Let’s break each category down and give real-world examples for each.
Award-winning reporter, journalist and author, Antonio Neves graduated from college and moved to New York with almost no money or connections. (He had $600 to his name when he stepped off the train.) He didn’t have enough experience to nail down a Dream Job. Plus, due to the high cost of living in NYC, he knew he needed to score a job… quick.
Antonio wanted to be in entertainment and news. He wasn’t exactly sure what his Dream Job was when he started this process, but he was committed to figuring it out as he went. He got strategic.
He went after a Bridge Job that would allow him to MEET the right kinds of people.
The solution wasn’t glamorous. In fact, it was more than a bit humbling. But this former D-1 athlete and holder of a Master’s Degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism took a data-entry-level temp job. The key was that it was at VIACOM, which is the parent company to networks like Comedy Central, CMT, BET, Paramount Pictures, and Nickelodeon, to name a few.
He did a good job. He worked hard.
And… on his breaks… he would reach out and meet new people.
He’d connect and invite peeps to coffee or lunch and get to know them. He’d express authentic
interest in what they did and ask questions about how they got there. Over the course of a short time, he started to have friends throughout the building. Eventually, one of those new friends asked Antonio to fill in as an extra on a show for Nickelodeon. So during his lunch hour, he slipped up to a sound studio and participated in the recording. That led to another invite, and another. Before he knew it, Antonio had secured a reoccurring role.
His relationships within the building continued to grow. Plus, he started to connect with other leaders his new network of friends introduced him to. He kept demonstrating hard work and authentic interest in others. Those conversations led Antonio to opportunities to be a correspondent and producer with other top networks including NBC, PBS, BET, and E! News.
He’s now in his dream career in LA, and it all started with a Bridge Job focusing on who he could MEET. (To listen to my interview with Antonio, click the picture below).
Often a Bridge Job will allow you to EARN needed funds so you can have a roof over your head and food in your fridge. You might not LOVE the work, but you can give a tip of the hat in gratitude to a job that allows you to make ends meet while still pursuing a path towards work that satisfies.
Diego Corzo is a great example of this. When Diego graduated from Florida State University, he had his degree but he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his career. He wound up taking a job with GM that moved him to Austin, Texas. He wasn’t crazy about the work (he was coding and building websites), but it provided a solid income. He worked hard and delivered excellence while on the job. But in his off time, he decided to experiment and try new things.
He read books like Rich Dad/Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. This led him to pursue a new interest in real estate. His first investment was purchasing a house of his own that had extra rooms he could rent out. Within a few months, he was covering his mortgage payment thanks to three people who were renting his extra bedrooms.
Diego continued to be curious about other facets of real estate so he found a local realtor he could shadow. In fact, he offered to be this agent’s driver and personal assistant at nights and on weekends. In return for driving the agent around to his appointments, the successful realtor agreed to answer Diego’s many questions and teach him about the business. The more he learned, the more Diego found he loved this type of work.
Now, one of the things Diego learned was that it takes time to build a real estate career. So as he continued to work hard for GM during the day, he also began to build his own real estate business on the side. Over the course of the following two years he worked hard at both but was eventually able to move into real estate full time and has been setting sales records ever since.
[To listen to this interview with Diego, click the picture below].
Some of the people I’d interviewed had chosen Bridge Jobs because of what it made them AVAILABLE to do, try, or experience.
For example, Lise Cartwright is now a full-time writer and a bestselling author of over 23 books. She lives in New Zealand, but celebrates the fact that she could run her business from anywhere in the world. In fact, that flexibility is one of the aspects of writing that makes it her current Dream Job.
She didn’t always have that flexibility.
When she began to get serious about setting a new course for her life, Lise started to get intentional about her work. Her job wasn’t satisfying and the more she looked down the road, she didn’t like where things seemed to be heading. She had an idea of what her dream involved. She’d always loved writing. She was pretty darn good at it too. But she didn’t feel like she had enough experience to make a living from it yet.
She needed a Bridge Job.
So she decided to make a change and take an administrative position. It was far from a Dream Job, but it was the type of work that allowed her to have a very predictable schedule. Plus, it was work that wouldn’t follow her home. Once the day was done, she could leave her desk and not think about it again until the next day at 9 am.
This choice made her more AVAILABLE to start experimenting with writing.
First, she started to offer her services as a freelancer. At the same time, she began to write her first book. She’d leave her Bridge Job at 5 pm, come home, take a break, have some dinner and then start writing.
She’d work from 6:30 to 8 pm most nights. It was just 90 minutes. But it started to add up. She helped clients and she prepped to launch her first book. Over time, more clients came and she wrote more books too.
Eventually, the income from her freelance work and her books made it possible for Lise to leave that Bridge Job and launch into her writing career… full time. A big part of what made that possible was the availability that came from her Bridge Job.
[To listen to this interview with Lise, click the picture below.]
A number of the people I interviewed told me a tough realization hit them as they started to get clear on their next Dream Job.
They began to acknowledge there were things they still needed to learn… especially when it came to making a shift and doing more of the work they were passionate about.
That was Sara Haines’ case. Sara had graduated with a degree in political science but she wanted to pursue a career in the world of news and entertainment. Although she was excited about the possibilities, Sara knew she had a lot to learn. So she moved to the NYC area, lived on her brother’s couch in Central Jersey, and took a two-and-a-half-hour train ride into the city… daily.
She wanted to be in the heart of it.
She’d figured out a way to live simply… so the EARN category wasn’t top of mind. Nope. For Sara, her Bridge Job needed to be about what she could LEARN.
Through a lot of hard work she was able to score a coveted position in the NBC Page Program. It was a less-than-glamorous intern-level position with long hours and low pay. She spent her days seating audience members for various shows, ordering catering, and making sure that the right people got to the right spots at the right times. But she also took every opportunity she could to LEARN.
She spent time with anyone and everyone in order to learn the various aspects of creating a show. She talked with producers, directors, camera operators, and even branding team members. She got to know them and learned about what they did on a day-to-day basis. Plus, she also took acting and improv classes at night to develop her skills and prepare for being in front of the camera some day.
She worked hard. Day in and day out.
That led to a Production Coordinator position on the Today Show. Although it was closer to her dream… it was still far from a Dream Job.
Then it happened.
This was right at a time when NBC was asking its most notable talent to try to create online content. Sara saw an opportunity to apply all that she’d been learning… and take a step closer to her dream. She was tasked with asking a few questions of a musician who had just performed a concert on the Plaza at Rockefeller Center. Traditionally, a coordinator would do this off-camera, but Sara was hit with an idea. She quickly asked for permission to do the interview on camera with the star. The producer agreed and Sara nailed the interview. In fact, the other producers who saw it loved it and they told Sara she needed to brand it. So she called her friends in the graphics department (people she’d connected with, learned from, and helped in the past) and asked them to create a logo for the segment. They called it “Backstage Pass” and quickly sent her a design.
The interview was loaded on NBC’s site and it was an instant hit.
That led to other opportunities which grew into Sara becoming a correspondent on the 4th fourth hour of the Today Show. Next came a regular spot on ABC’s Good Morning America. And now she’s living the newest chapter of her dream career as a daily cast member on ABC’s The View.
In our last interview, Sara expressed how grateful she was for that first Bridge Job… and how she still applies all that she learned there… daily.
[You can listen to my two interviews with Sara, click the pictures below)
So those are the four elements of the M.E.A.L. Plan.
As we explore the concept of a Bridge Job and the M.E.A.L. Plan, I do want to mention that even though it may not be a position they’re in long term, I also remind people this isn’t permission to slack… to slide… or to check out. Almost everyone I interviewed had some Bridge Jobs in their journey to their current Dream Job, but they each spoke about working hard and bringing their best.
So… I always encourage students (and I bet you do too) to:
Do great work.
Treat people well.
Why? Because you can hold your head high, sleep well at night and develop relationships that will pay off down the road.
I love how NASCAR’s Jon Housholder put it in an interview I did with him. We were talking about the importance of bringing your best work… even when you’re in a Bridge Job… and he said,
“You’ll never regret excellence.”
That’s true. I’m betting you agree.
So… as I encourage students to pursue their Dream Jobs, I urge them to consider taking a Bridge Job or two. As they do, I also encourage them to do so with excellence in mind and a big smile on their face. Because as they do, they’ll be on their way towards creating a career they’ll love and finding work that matters.
These concepts come from Mitch Matthews’ upcoming book called, “Dream Job: Redefined – The New Rules for Creating a Career That Matters and Doing Work You Love” due out in January, 2018!
Mitch Matthews – is the founder of the BIG Dream Gathering. These fun, engaging and inspiring events are held at top colleges and universities around the country. They help students, faculty and members of the community to get clear on their dreams, begin to build a plan and network to make those dreams a reality… all in real time.
Mitch is also the creator of the top rated podcast: “Dream. Think. Do.”: which was recently ranked #1 by the Huffington Post for giving your career a boost!
Mitch proudly lives a “highly-caffeinated” lifestyle with his wife and two sons in Des Moines, Iowa.