Watch CBSN Live

Erase the term "dream job" from your vocabulary

(MoneyWatch) By now you've probably seen the article about a new study that shows that once you've been out of work for more than six months, your chances of getting hired drop dramatically. The Atlantic summed it up like this:

Long-term unemployment is a terrifying trap. Once you've been out of work for six months, there's little you can do to find work. Employers put you at the back of the jobs line, regardless of how strong the rest of your resume is. After all, they usually don't even look at it.
Let's be clear. Ghayad's field study shows employers discriminate against the long-term unemployed. All of the fake resumes he sent out were basically identical. But firms ignored the ones from people who'd been out of work for six months or longer -- even when they had better credentials. Employers look at how long you've been unemployed as a better proxy for skills than anything else on your resume. In other words, more jobs-training probably won't help the long-term unemployed all that much. Even a stronger economy will only help them years in the future, rather than many years in the future.

Regardless of whether you were laid off due to no fault of your own or were terminated because you're a jerk, once you've been out of work six months you are in deep job hunting trouble. So, why on earth are people out there searching, diligently, for their dream jobs and turning down (or not applying to) anything that doesn't fit that criteria?

Doubtful? A quick search through my email gives me more than 50 people who have written me asking about their "dream jobs." Let's talk about dream jobs. Very few exist and many jobs that people think are "dream jobs" turn into "nightmare jobs" once you're on board.

Looking for that dream job can not only keep you from taking a perfectly good job, when (and realistically, if) you do manage to land what you think is a dream job, your expectations are so high that nothing can live up to what you've dreamed about.

In dream jobs, coworkers are still whiny.

In dream jobs, deadlines still come up.

In dream jobs, great bosses still quit and new, jerky ones, are hired.

In dream jobs, pay can be lousy.

In dream jobs, what you thought you would love to do professionally, can destroy your original love towards an activity.

The problem with looking for that dream job instead of a job where your talents can be used to benefit a company is that dreams and reality don't always line up. Management Consultant Alison Green explains:

"Do what you love" is privileged advice that ignores the fact that the majority of the world's population works to get food and housing, not for emotional or spiritual fulfillment. And even among the most socioeconomically privileged piece of the population -- the segment that this advice is usually targeted to -- it causes an awful lot of angst and even shame over not loving your career when people are telling you that you should.

Yes, look for a good job. Yes, research companies to make sure you'd be a good fit. Yes, negotiate salary and benefits when you're offered a job. But, the reality is, in this job market you cannot afford (even if you have a savings account) to not take the first reasonable job that comes along. Once that six month mark has passed, your dreams may have to change to doing whatever it takes to put food on the table.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to

View CBS News In