Honest Advice for Young Leaders About a Dream Job

What is your dream job? Sometimes you know at the beginning of your ministry.

For others, like me, my dream job (Executive Pastor) didn’t exist when I started as a Student Pastor. Sometimes God has incredible surprises in store for us.

We all want to be in the perfect job we love — the place God created us to be.

The road you take to get there makes all the difference.

Perhaps you’ve had a thought similar to what many young leaders have said to me. It goes something like this, “I’ve heard it said that I should focus on doing only the things I’m really good at. That’s the job I want.”

That’s a great goal. The key, however, is that you also need to be willing to do what is required first, perhaps even for a long time.

The road you take is guided in the right direction with questions like these.

  • Have you had enough time and experience to know what you are good at?
  • Do others consistently affirm your greatest gifts and talents?
  • Can you describe the sacrifice you are willing to accept to do your dream job?
  • Are you regularly asked to do the thing you love to do?

My passion is to coach and develop leaders. Anything I can do to help your development go better, deeper, and stronger is part of what I get to do. In that light, let me share a few things that many who have gone before you learned the hard way.

1) The environment you’re in is always more important than your specific role and responsibility.
You can land your dream job and still be unfulfilled or even unhappy if the overall environment you are in is not healthy or, worse, toxic. It’s far better to be in the right place (on the right team) than to have the perfect job. If you are fortunate enough to have both, you are blessed.

2) Meaningful results will always trump workplace freedom.
Freedom in the workplace is often misunderstood. The higher you rise in any organization, the less freedom you have because you have exchanged it for greater responsibility. Those who own their own business know first-hand how little freedom they have. Trust, not unbridled freedom, is the real holy grail in the workplace because that is the key to responsible freedom and empowerment.

3) Doing ministry is not the same as building a ministry.
Time, effort, and experience are not necessarily the same as building something. So focus your leadership effort on building a ministry. Make it bigger, better, and stronger than it was when you started.

4) You can learn from anyone, even a difficult boss.
I’ve been blessed with great bosses, but I’ve been close up and personal in consulting roles where this is not always the case. This can be true even when the overall environment is good.  Yet, I always challenge learning all you can, even when you are in a difficult situation.

It’s not your job to change or fix your boss, learn from them, and serve them well. 

5) When it comes to your career path, avoid listening to too many voices.
Too many voices can soon become noisy confusion in your mind. There is great wisdom in counsel, but choose a small group of highly trusted advisors and lean into their counsel. Then you, your spouse, if married, and God make a decision.

This can help you avoid the road in your leadership journey that will likely hurt you or possibly prevent your dream job.

3 dead-end roads I highly recommend you avoid.
(I know, I’ve gone down two of them personally, thankfully briefly, and they lead to “nowhere good and nothing helpful.”)

  • The road of impatience: Short-cuts never help. Dig in. Stay longer and build. Focus on production over promotion.
  • The road of entitlement: Candidly, I don’t see this one so often. The only reason I mention it is that when it does happen, the “you owe me” idea always goes ugly.
  • The road of discontentment: Gratitude always beats discontentment; someone will always have more than you no matter how hard you work. Enjoy what you have.

7 smart long-term endeavors that will help ensure you get where you want to go:

1) Self-awareness is essential for your long-term leadership success and career satisfaction.

Please don’t be quick to pass over self-awareness as an overused buzzword. Self-awareness is a never-ending process for a growing leader who continues to rise to new and larger responsibilities. Knowing the real you, what you are good at, not good at, and how others perceive you is incredibly important.

2) Resilience and adaptability are required to make the adjustments required for progress.

Life will throw you a few curveballs, and typically ones you never expected. Some are inspiring; some can be discouraging, but all require you to be able to adjust. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a setback, and adaptability embraces the willingness and ability to change.

These not only help you earn your dream job, but they also help you keep it.

3) The ability to make good decisions and deliver solid solutions will advance your potential more than anything except your character.

Anyone can identify a problem — leaders find solutions, and in many ways, the essence of leadership is demonstrated in good decision-making. Of course, that doesn’t always mean you make the perfect decision, but a strong process and track record for good decisions earn the trust that opens doors to your dream job.

And, of course, character is the foundation that carries all of your leadership endeavors to a good end or disaster.

4) Passion, effort, and commitment are the “three great intangibles” that set you out in front.

Consistency of successfully completed projects, measurable metrics, and overall growth are objective and usually easy to see. But sometimes, it comes down to the intangibles that help you get where you’d like to be. Your passion, effort, and level of commitment are those top intangibles that your leaders appreciate.

5) Practice your craft with relentless discipline and diligence.

This article opened with a mention of what you are really good at. You may still be in the process of discovering that. Take the time you need. When you know what you’re good at, don’t skate on your natural talent; work hard, really hard, to get very good at what you are good at.

6) Demonstrate a genuine joy in serving others.

Very few things reveal heart and character, like a sincere desire to serve others in your leadership. Jesus modeled this kind of “others first” serving for us. The true beauty in leadership is when you experience genuine joy in serving others.

This kind of leadership is highly contagious and captures the attention of others when it’s authentic.

7) Express gratitude as a natural overflow of your life.

Gratitude is subjective, but it’s not intangible; it’s easily sensed and seen. Gratitude has a fragrance that draws others in, and to be blunt, ingratitude has an odor that drives people away.

Not only does gratitude make your heart lighter and your life brighter, but it also deepens relationships and often creates opportunities that one day just might be… your dream job.

14 thoughts on “Honest Advice for Young Leaders About a Dream Job”

  1. Good insights for young leaders. Well presented insights for ‘seasoned’ leaders (me 40 plus years) to ponder and to share with young leaders you are invested in their ministries. I plan to use Dan’s article in some conversations.

  2. Dan, you wrote an excellent message. When I think about Moses I am reminded of his time in Midian. No doubt Moses would have never chosen that to be a part of his life and would have never thought of that as a part of God’s plan for him. No doubt Joseph would have ever thought being thrown in a pit by his brothers was God’s plan for him and his family.

  3. Dan, thank you for continually investing in young leaders across the church. I appreciate your leadership and wisdom. I often copy and paste and save articles that I want to file on my computer and come back to. Do you have a way to download a PDF version. I usually copy and paste into a document, but the formatting often gets off. Thanks!

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