Dream Job Project, logo designed by Alex Knowlton
During times of massive cultural change, one of the casualties is what life of work one can aspire to achieve and create. Career paths, aspirations, and dream jobs once were stable things. Maybe they were bequeathed from mentors to students, from parents to children, only in some imagined golden age. But at least you could, in the span of your own career, set out on a path that would change little.
Growing up, my aspiration to become a writer along the mold of Ernest Hemingway was an off-the-rack aspiration. I had inherited it from my literary culture, where generations of writers before me had pursued the same dream of a life of independent literary abandon. But it was feasible. There were stepping stones. There were rituals of ascent and ambition. There were insignia of status.
It's better for the young that the off-the-rack aspirations are obsolete. Not so much for this mid-career creative, who's finding that the next stepping stone has dissolved. But it can't be good for anyone — not for writers, or for designers, architects, artists, animators, illustrators, filmmakers — that the future arrives more and more quickly, because it's hard to set a path or even to give advice. Yes, you can teach the tools and the techniques, but you can't teach the world in which those tools and techniques will be used (even though it may be unethical to do so.)
How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? I invite you to weigh in below. If you were to design your work and craft your dream job, what would the meaningful parameters be? What are the things you'd have to consider, plan for, and tweak? Put 'em all in the comments. There's no right answer. The more answers, the better. In a later post, I'll summarize and condense.
By "parameters," I mean all the things from the concrete to the abstract that someone should think about and make choices about before they embark on an educational, creative, intellectual, and professional path. Assume that nothing's a given — all of these are things that can be chosen or altered. Some come from the environment. Some will seem more immediately tangible than others. But the task here is to make all of them tangible and visible, and therefore usable.
Some examples of parameters:
— The duration and intensity of one's relationship to an institution (a company, a school, etc.)
— Whether one makes products (definable objects) or services
— The lifespan of what one makes
— Idea source (introspection? research? mashup?)
Make sure to distinguish "parameter" from a specific "setting." "I want to make more than $100,000 a year" is a setting. "Salary" is a parameter. (It's probably also too broad. A more specific parameter is, will your money come from salary or from rents, royalties, and licenses?)
This is a collaborative project, you and me. The ultimate goal is to write a grammar of aspiration. The result is a tool, a dashboard, for helping to navigate the present and design the work of the future. Different combinations of settings will not only produce more normal sorts of aspirations, you'll be able to see the exotic aspirations, or realize the personally meaningful ones.
So let's begin. Please put your thoughts and opinions in the comments, and I'll hang around a bit. Let's see what we come up with.