When You’re Not Working Your Dream Job.

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Hi, I’m Jennifer, and I’m not working at my dream job.

Spending forty plus hours a week at a job that isn’t what I want to be doing for the rest of time–let alone another day–is normal life for me at 27 years old. I spend my precious hours doing job that stresses me out, and gives me anxiety both at work AND outside of work. It’s one of the worst careers I could have chosen for my INFJ personality type, (aside from a job in sales, that is–eek! Talk about frightening thought).

Flour and Floral Foodie Blog Food Blogger Food Photographer Dream Job

Right about now you’re probably thinking one of three things, or maybe even all of the above:

  1. This sounds like an all too depressing and complicated issue–where is she going with this?
  2. I can TOTALLY relate to this situation! This is my life right now!
  3. I’m hungry…lemme grab some food first.

I know it may seem like it but trust me, this blog post isn’t just one big sap story; in fact, its just the opposite! Allow me to explain. (Oh, and I’m hungry too–let’s eat!)

My not-so-dream job:

I’m a chef at a continuing care retirement community. (The minimum age of our residents is only 55+, so get the thought of me pureeing foods out of your head.) In fact, my co-workers and I actually make some pretty dang GOOD (non-pureed) dishes. I’m talkin’ lobster tails, filets, and crab cakes, you name it!

But being a chef comes with a cost. It’s stressful, mentally demanding, requires immediate problem-solving and an assertive thick-skinned personality (which I don’t have, by the way LOL). And let’s not forget the physical toll it takes on my body; the smoky fumes really irritate my eyes by the end of the day, and my legs, feet, and wrists are in constant competition of who can possibly ache the most.

These past four years of my life in the food industry have not been easy. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve scampered off to the bathroom to let out stress-tears. Even just two months ago I had a tear-filled-breakdown-turned-mini-counselling-session in my bosses’ office because of my struggles with feeling like I’m in the wrong career field and how it’s been affecting my day-to-day.

Choices.

I’m not complaining (right now…in this moment, at least…haha!). Trust me, I take 100% responsibility for each and every individual choice I’ve made that has lead me to this career. I have absolutely no one to blame but ME.

And now you’re thinking: OK, if this career is so bad for your personality then why’d you CHOOSE to go to culinary school–(hammering the very first “nail in the coffin”, if you will)?

Great question–I get asked this alot. And the answer is, baking. As you can probably tell from this blog and my Instagram, I LOVE to bake. (Yes, baking is physically and mentally demanding too, but in a totally different way than cooking!) My post culinary school goal was to work at a bakery, spending my time decorating mass amounts of cupcakes with pretty flowers and sprinkling cakes with delicious chocolate curls.

(It’s baby-me at culinary school five years ago!)

But after getting my culinary certificate, push simply came to shove; I got married, moved from Canada to the US and NEEDED A JOB. We needed the income, so I just did what I had to do. Unfortunately, bakery jobs were scarce in my area, so the first job I could land was as a prep cook at hotel/conference centre. And four years later I’m still spending my time on my feet cooking ’till I DROP–thankfully at a higher pay rate.

Do I regret the path I’ve taken? On a really really bad day at work, yes–haha but 99% of the time: no way! I have learned SO much about food and all things culinary in these past years; so many things about cooking and baking just seem like common sense to me. But most importantly, all of my choices have lead me to my passion for food photography!

So here I am. A 27 year old woman who unfortunately spends SO much of her precious time doing things she’d rather not be doing (hehe, that’s putting it lightly). But GOOD NEWS! Working at a job that isn’t my dream job isn’t the end-all-be-all. I’ve actually transformed my situation into a not-so-depressing one for me; this isn’t a dead-end, friends!

What is my dream job, you ask?

When I say “dream job” I’m not talking about my dreamy-dream-up-in-the-clouds-job-that-would-no-way-ever-be-possible. (Which in case you’re wondering, is to get paid to travel and eat at bakeries all around the world. Haha, sigh…)

I’m talking about my actual 100% attainable and realistic dream job: Food Photographer. Yes, I would LOVE to spend my days taking pictures of beautiful food! I want to make a living working with brands and other bloggers to photograph their products and/or recipes; also all the while showcasing my own desserts and recipes on my blog.

Flourless Gluten Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Pastel M&Ms Easter Baking
Measuring Cup by Hearth & Hand // Opalhouse Ceramic Baking Dish

It’s a job that’s SO much more fitting to my INFJ personality type. It’s creative, it’s work-from-home, independent, and technical. Getting paid to bake, style, photograph, and blog? Yes, oh yes please. And major, major bonus: it’s a career path that totally fits in with my husband and I’s goals for me to stay at home with our future kids too, which is something that is super important to us. And no, I’m not pregnant. Yet.

So now that we’ve established what my dream job is, allow me to explain why working at my not-so-dream-job isn’t that depressing after all. And how it’s actually a pretty big blessing for my future, and all of my hopes and dreams.

How my current job is helping me take steps toward my dream job.

Yes, I am taking steps (talking in present tense y’all). Like most jobs, food photography is a career that you absolutely have to put money into in order to make money. For instance, obviously a camera is needed, potentially some training/schooling, lenses, a tripod, sometimes artificial lighting equipment, a computer, props, backdrops, editing software, a website, accounting software, ect. These things all cost money and honestly some of them are pretty expensive. (I could go on and on, but alas this isn’t a Photography 101 blog post–but perhaps maybe one day?!)

The income that I’m making from my not-so-dream-job is financially helping me to pursue my dream job. (My DSLR camera was a Christmas gift so we can skip over that exception), but if I didn’t have my full-time job, I wouldn’t be able to afford all the things I have now that are helping me reach my goals.

Here are some of the major things my current job has allowed for me to purchase:

Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins with Lemon Glaze and Buttery Oat Streusel Food Photography

Balancing a Full-time job with a side hustle.

Yes, my full-time job has and is taking up so much of the time that I could be putting towards food photography. And yes, I am human and sometimes find myself getting sour about the fact that I have to go change into my chef coat instead of getting to spend the afternoon photographing myself drizzling lemon glaze over my freshly baked muffins. But because my job is so financially beneficial for my goals, I hold my head high and get my butt to work.

I have taught myself to be wary of potential burnout. I’m a scary person when I put too much on my plate and I know myself well enough to know when I need to sloooow things down. And believe me, it can be totally exhausting trying to balance a full-time job, marriage, friendships, household chores, dream-job-goals, along with everything else.

Honestly, my number one goal for the day is to get 8 hours of sleep, and 6/7 days a week I achieve that goal. Getting enough rest is RIDICULOUSLY important to me. Every day I try to dedicate at least one to two hours toward my dream-job-goals (baking, photographing/producing new content, editing a new batch of photos, schooling, watching webinars, blogging, ect). But if I have an overly exhausting day or week at work, I will put all my goals aside and just watch my favourite tv shows in bed with my hubs. (Currently it’s been New Girl.) It’s extremely important to remember that unwinding is essential and that my goals will still be there tomorrow.

Food Blogger Food Photography Dream Job Setting Goals
Black Desk by Target

Finding contentment in the journey.

It’s hard spending forty hours a week at a place you don’t want to be (understatement, anyone?). Here are my best tips for learning to be content in this time between your not-so-dream-job and your dream job:

  • Don’t compare your situation with those around you. Don’t buy into the lie that everyone but you is doing exactly what they want to do. Truthfully most of us are doing what we have to do, we work so we can survive and afford the things we couldn’t if we didn’t have a job (vacations, iMac computers–heehee! ect).
  • Remind yourself WHY you work in the first place and say it to yourself everyday. In my case, I say to myself: I work so I can financially support my dream-job-goals/pay bills/pay for my bagel and cream cheese obsession; each day I work I’m one step closer to reaching my goals!
  • Know that it’s not going to be like this forever. Life is always changing and evolving–new opportunities could be just around the corner for you! Life is made up of seasons and this is just one of them.
  • Be where you are–when you’re at your job, mentally BE at your job. Make the most out of it. I’m actually making it a personal goal to learn as much about cooking as I can while I’m there. I kid you not, I learn something new everyday at work, which I think is awesome! It’s a total blessing to be at a job where I’m able to learn and takeaway so many skills from the people around me.

So…that’s where I’m at right now: a chef working for someone else who wants to be food photographer/food blogger working for herself. So what I’d like to know is:

WHAT is your current job/situation right now and WHAT is your dream job? What is a hobby of yours that you completely lose yourself in, something that gets you out of bed everyday? What is something you want to never stop learning in? Let me know in the comments below, send me a message through my contact form, or DM me on Instagram. I love the idea of supporting one another in pursuing our dream-job-goals.

Thanks for reading, friends! It means so much to me!

4 thoughts on “When You’re Not Working Your Dream Job.

  1. I can totally relate to the stress of the food business. Working at Chipotle several years ago was definitely a big stretch for me physically, emotionally, and relationally (being a manager was not the easiest or most natural for my ISFJ personality!). Your description of aching legs, feet, and wrists brought back some vivid memories (hair that constantly smelled like onions and burritos??!)! For difficult as each day was, it was also rewarding in the fact that I was stretched out of my comfort zone and did things I wasn’t previously capable of and in some ways it has probably prepared me for my current (dream) job as a stay at home mom! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at this stage in my life and love being home with my girls, watching them grow and getting to teach them new things.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journey and for provoking thoughts on that for the rest of us!

    1. Hanna!! First of all, thanks so much for this comment! I had no idea you were in the food industry once and a MANAGER at that too! Wow.
      I totally agree–each day has so many challenges, but at the same time it’s pretty rewarding. I’ve never had a job that has stretched me so much out of my comfort zone before!
      Also, I can’t wait to be a stay-at-home/work-at-home Mom–and you make me even more excited for it. 🙂 <3

  2. Nail on the head, Jenny! While a lot of people aren’t working their dream jobs, it’s what they are able to do / decide to do outside of that job that can really help them see their job through a new lens. Love your vulnerability and honesty here, and how you are trying to make the most of your current situation. Keep it up!

    1. Ian!! Thank you, that means alot! 🙂 Even though I have a whole new perspective and motivation about the whole situation, each day at work is still pretty challenging (almost cried yesterday–AGAIN) but I just take it one day at a time. I try to view each day as a new day and learn as much as I can from it.

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