Acting on What You Want (Even Dreams)

by Emily Jasper on July 3, 2012

When I was interviewing for jobs as I finished up  my MBA, one of the main interview questions was, “What is something you want to do in your career?”

Being in business school, my answer should have been something like, “I want to develop an international marketing campaign for a B2C company that is targeting market growth of 10% and increasing customer lifetime value by 20%, all while partnering on a cross-functional team.”

But I rarely answer those kinds of questions literally.

Instead, my answer usually had something to do with the orchestra. Yup, I talked about music and symphonies (and I don’t even play an instrument). After answering the question often enough, my answer made a lot of sense to me:

I want to be the conductor, responsible for making every instrument sing and the whole orchestra come together. It is my job to understand how each musician and instrument contributes to the whole, even if I am not an expert in that particular instrument. I cannot just compose music. Then you send the sheet music out into the world and hope it is played the way you dreamed it would be played. No, I needed to have an active role in the performance, of my own music or of someone else’s.

This answer makes perfect sense to me because it demonstrates the type of responsibilities I want to have. Clearly, I may enjoy planning, but I want to execute. I want the active leadership role, not the passive one. There’s beauty in engineering small elements to make a larger ensemble. And if you didn’t already get it from the musical imagery, I need some  outlet for my creativity.

I could tell a lot of managers interviewing me thought they understood what I meant. Only one really got it though (and now I’m working for him). Looking back, I realize that the only type of person who could really understand my answer was someone who was thinking in the same way: they were the director of a play, the captain of a ship, the curator at a museum. In fact, they didn’t all have to be in charge of something. Be an artist, a writer, a poet,  a minstrel.

Business is amazing, but if we’re supposed to innovate beyond our wildest dreams, shouldn’t we be dreaming?

The reality check here is that coming across too dreamy-eyed may not help you as you job search. It can make you seem unsophisticated or flighty to your boss. Even friends and family may associate you with the negative connotation of dreamy…as opposed to the positive version of aspirational. People could not take you seriously.

Or you could magnify your dreams by carrying them out. No one will call you a silly dreamer if you accomplish those things.

While I may not literally stand in front of the New York Philharmonic one day, I do hope I stand in front of a team who’s work sings to a client. That we deliver something that moves and fulfills the client more than they ever anticipated.

I’m not there yet, but I’m still dreaming of that goal. I know I have to act on it each day in order to reach it though. It doesn’t become a reality if I don’t.

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