A surprising number of Americans say they have their dream job

Many teachers work second jobs even when classes are over.
Many teachers work second jobs even when classes are over.
Image: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
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A recent poll by SurveyMonkey suggests that either people are happier at work than you’d expect, or they’re tremendously good at deluding themselves.

The survey found that roughly one in five Americans (22%) say they have their dream job.

Just to repeat, these people weren’t asked about a good-enough job, or even a great job with free food, but a dream job—presumably the very pinnacle a person could ever imagine for their career. The moonshot fulfilled.

The intriguing job question was ostensibly posed by Jeff Weiner, CEO of the social media site LinkedIn, as part of a new Influencers campaign at SurveyMonkey. It allows business leaders, athletes, and other prominent people to put a question to a nationally representative sample of respondents. Of course, Weiner’s business model at LinkedIn relies on us not feeling totally content in our current jobs, so his framing of the answer is unsurprising: “Only 22%” of Americans are already in their dream job, his influencer page reports.

But that number actually seems high, considering that telling young adults to “follow your passion” has fallen out of style in favor of more pragmatic thinking, and knowing that today’s new college grads have a harder time getting their careers launched than previous generations. Indeed, working adults age 18-34 were far less likely to report that they’d landed their dream job. Only 12% of those surveyed said they had done so, whereas 46% of working seniors did.

Perhaps the lesson is that you really can fulfill your aspirations with time and persistence. Alternatively, the olds just might be more likely to be content in life and work, as a body of research contends. Maybe dreams are routinely rewritten.

The answers to Weiner’s second question—What are the most desired jobs in America?—may tell us something about what those one-in-five blissful folks are doing to pay the bills.

The most common answer was business owner, so we can assume entrepreneurship is alive and well. The other popular responses were, in descending order, manager, teacher, nurse, director, CEO, “anything to do with travel,” writer, and doctor.