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Pursue the Dream Job

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A music career does sound more appealing than construction work. Go figure.
"Can you imagine what it's like cutting the same head for five years? I didn't want to be a barber anyway. I wanted to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia. The giant redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty scots pine! The smell of fresh-cut timber! The crash of mighty trees! With my best girlie by my side. We'd sing! Sing! Sing!"
Homicidal Barber, Monty Python's Flying Circus

Your character has a perfectly normal job. The job can be solid if slightly boring. The job can be really stultifying. The job can be extremely well-paying and respectable. The character can even be extremely successful and keen on their job, to the point of workaholism. However, your character knows at heart that it doesn't feel self-fulfilling.

Ultimately, they decide to give it all up and pursue their dream job, usually with a creative streak like music, art, writing, or they want to become professional athletes. Sometimes their wish is more mundane, for instance, they might want to open their own business. Alternatively, they want to embrace a simpler life or to follow the irresistible call of the wild. If your character chooses to farm, then it's Call to Agriculture.

Usually, the character needs an impulse to push them towards the path of chasing their dreams. It could be an epiphany after a change in life, e.g. divorce, accident, unemployment. Or an authority figure of sorts – sage, old (maybe dying) relative or a generally unsociable expert in the character's chosen field - needs to impart words of wisdom. Pursuing the dream job is a typical sub-plot in a romance/comedy/romantic comedy, in which case it is usually the new lover who inspires, nudges or shoves our protagonist into discarding their ordinary or sell-out job and moving onto realising their full potential. See Rom Com Job for details.

Characters often make huge strides towards their dream career during a Hard-Work Montage. Compare to Out of Job, into the Plot. Contrast with Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Legend of Black Heaven: Inverted. It opens with a bored and unfulfilled salaryman who used to be a rock star; he gave up his musical career for a steady office job so that he could support his family.
  • One-Punch Man: The main character quit being a run of the mill salaryman and trained for three years so he could take up superheroing as a hobby.
  • Space Brothers: After being fired from his job, Nanba Muuta opts to pursue his dream to walk on the Moon with his brother as astronauts, and then to be the first man on Mars. The story is about their experiences getting to those goals.

    Asian Animation 
  • Wilk from Bread Barbershop always dreamed of working at the eponymous Bread Barbershop his whole life, which he makes very clear to Master Bread when he introduces himself in "Job Test".

    Comic Books 
  • The Killing Joke presents a possible origin story for The Joker, in which he starts out as a decently-paid lab assistant who quits in order to become a stand-up comic. However, he fails miserably at this, due to lack of confidence. With a wife and unborn child to support, he turns in desperation to crime, setting in motion a chain of events leading to his disfigurement and Sanity Slippage.

    Fan Works 
  • After the Jungle Series: About five years after graduating at the top of her class at Bennington College, Olga Pataki (Helga's older sister) decides to quit her job as a teacher to pursue a career as an actress—she even moves to New York City to try and get a role on Broadway. Unfortunately (for Olga), while she's got passion and determination, she just doesn't have the talent or the skills necessary to make it big as an actressnote —also, on kind of a lesser note, Olga's parents don't approve of her wanting to become an actress. After Olga gets married and has children, she's forced to go back to working as a teacher to help support her family—but even by the time Olga's well into her 40s,note  she's still trying to achieve her "pipe dream" (as Helga calls it) of becoming an actress, even though it's clear that it will never come true.note 

    Films — Animated 
  • Fantasia 2000: Duke, the construction worker in the "Rhapsody in Blue" sequence, eventually quits his job, during The Great Depression no less, to pursue his dream of being a jazz drummer.
  • Monsters University: Foregone Conclusion, since we know that Sully becomes Monsters, Inc.'s top scarer, but the ending montage shows how Mikey and Sulley start in the mail room, through being janitors, cafeteria cooks, until finally a chance for a shot at the coveted scarer position becomes available.
  • Megamind:
    • Metro Man gets tired of being a super hero and doing what everyone expects him to do, so he quits by faking his death and planning to go into the music business under the name Music Man. He's not very good at it.
    • Megamind himself is an inversion. Being a supervillain was his dream job. When that didn't work out, he became a superhero instead.
  • Ratatouille: A rat named Remy is a cooking genius and he longs to become a chef. He gets his chance to cook at the restaurant founded by his idol, Auguste Gusteau, where he gets his cooking experience and fame.
  • In Robots, Rodney's father wants to be a musician. At the end of the movie, he gets his big chance. Turns out he can't play. The thing is, he hasn't done it in quite some time and is a little rusty. He eventually gets back into the groove.

    Films — Live Action 
  • (500) Days of Summer: Tom leaves his job writing greeting cards to pursue his original aspiration to be an architect.
  • Aspen Extreme: Man working as a machinist gets an offer for a promotion. He takes this opportunity to quit, going for his dream job as a ski pro.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Jacob Kowalski works at a canning factory, but as the film begins he's trying to get a loan to open a bakery. At the end, Newt Scamander gives him the collateral he needs to satisfy the bank and secure the loan.
  • Hop features E.B. refusing to inherit the mantle of the Easter Bunny, escaping instead to Los Angeles seeking to become a drummer in a band.
  • If You Believe: Tom Weller gave up being a successful lawyer to work on his first novel full time.
  • Juno: Mark is interested in music and works as a successful jingle composer. Later in the film, he informs his wife Vanessa that he leaves her and moves downtown to become a rock musician as he has always wanted.
  • In The Kid (2000), the main character Russ had a dream to become a pilot when he was a kid. After being reunited with his past self they both meet his future self who is the pilot of the red biplane they've been seeing, prompting both to exclaim, "We grow up to be pilots!"
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Toula Portokalos works in her family's Greek restaurant. When she is in her early thirties, she decides to invigorate her life. She goes to college and starts working at a travel agency.
  • In October Sky: Homer takes a job in the town's coal mine after it seems his hobby of rocketry has caused a forest fire. He does well there but when he figures out the fire started too far away for a rocket to have started it, he begins pursuing rocketry again, determined to get out of that town and go to college. He eventually goes on to work for NASA.

  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying: An advertising copywriter quits his job to turn his back on the world of money and become a poet. He gradually discovers that having no money sucks.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Two minor characters in Changes were saving up to get married and open a tavern. And then the man gets on the wrong side of an assassin team. The woman is smuggled out of Haven to safety, but we never learn if she got to open that tavern.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: Penny aspires to become an actress, a TV or film star if possible. She works as a waitress and goes to auditions. She had a role in a commercial once, but other than that — no big luck so far. She gave up her pursuit of acting in later seasons (after quitting the Cheesecake Factory in an attempt to devote her full efforts to acting for a time that ultimately fell through) and got a job as a saleswoman at a pharmaceutical company where Bernadette works. At least once it is mentioned that the skills she picked up as an aspiring actress seemed to be transferable.
  • Big Wave Dave's: Dave is from Chicago and he has always had the dream of starting a surf shop in Hawaii called Big Wave Dave's. The pilot opens with him and his two friends who are not satisfied with their lives. Marshall has just lost his job at a law firm his father started, Dave is divorcing his wife, and Richie is unsatisfied with his life as a typing teacher. Dave suggests to really do it; the rest of the guys are a bit doubtful, but the eventually decide to go in.
  • Dirty Jobs: This show is all about inverting this trope. There are skilled tradesmen who eventually got good at their current jobs, followed opportunity, not passion, and prospered as a result.
  • Downton Abbey: Gwen Dawson is a housemaid who is determined to make a better life for herself and become a secretary. She spent most of her money on a typewriter and took a correspondence course. Lady Sybil helps her to sneak out of the house to attend job interviews. She often thinks she's trying in vain because other staff think she should be happy she can work as a maid in the first place and her prospects do not look so well. However, in season 1 finale, she lands a job as a telephone company secretary.
  • Friends:
    • Monica's then-boyfriend Pete, an uber-rich businessman, gives up business to become an Ultimate Fighter.
    • Subverted with Chandler who works as a data analyst for a corporate organization but he has always assumed it's temporary. When he's offered a promotion, he quits because he doesn't want to get stuck there. However, he has no idea what he'd like to do instead and the money they offer him is too good, so he returns.
    • Played Straight in later seasons when Chandler learns he's the only one of their gang who hates his job and pursues a new career in advertising. It seems to have been chosen rather randomly but he really likes it. However, he has to start at the bottom of the career ladder.
    • Phoebe's Love Interest Mike used to be a lawyer, however, he decided to become a professional pianist in his early thirties. It helps that he has some family money.
  • Gilmore Girls:
    • Lorelai and her best friend Sookie share a dream of opening their own hotel one day, and they are slowly working on it. At the beginning of the series, Lorelai is a hotel manager, while Sookie works at the same hotel as a very talented chef. Later they buy a historical inn called Dragonfly, they renovate it and start running it to a great success.
    • Rory Gilmore has longed to study at Ivy League and become a journalist since the beginning of the series. She works diligently on her dream. She wrote articles for Franklin, a Chilton Academy newspaper, and also worked as an editor for students' newspaper at Yale. The series ended with her landing a job as a journalist for an online magazine covering Barack Obama's campaign. In revival miniseries, her journalism career did not look so bright — she wrote a stellar article for New Yorker, but otherwise she was struggling to find new topics for herself.
  • Girls:
    • Hannah is an aspiring writer from Michigan who has moved to New York to pursue her dreams. At the beginning of the show she's still receiving financial support from her parents, but they cut her off in the pilot. She has a string of various jobs and later gets an e-book deal.
    • Marnie has worked in a gallery and gets fired in season 2. At one point she says she wants to be a singer and tries pursuing it as a career.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Marshall Eriksen dreamt of being a lawyer in order to save the environment. He had several well-paying corporate jobs, but ultimately decided to pursue his ideal job.
    • Lily's dream career is Played With. She's a kindergarten teacher and fairly satisfied with her job. However, she would love to become a professional artist. Her work is quite nice, but only on the amateur level. She goes to have professional classes in a selective art programme and later tries selling some paintings, with mixed success. One episode was based on her trying to figure out what she would love to do with her career, and finally, she says she did figure it out: she starts her old-new job as a kindergarten teacher.
    • Randy Wharmpess, who worked for the Goliath National Bank, urged Marshall to fire him so that he can use the compensation payment for founding his own brewery.
  • The Joe Schmo Show third season, the Full Bounty. The chosen "schmo" for the season (he's the only "real" person on the reality show, the other competitors are actors) already owned a successful business but nevertheless went on the show, believing he was competing for a dream job to work as the understudy of a world-famous bounty hunter named Jake Montrose, and eventually perhaps gain similar fame.
  • Judging Amy: Amy's brother Vincent wants to be a writer. He's writing but struggling in the first episodes, but later lands a publishing deal for his book of short stories. He also teaches creative writing.
  • Key West: Machinist wins a lottery, quits to move to Florida and become a writer like his hero Ernest Hemingway.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • A barber gives it all up to become a lumberjack. He has a hair phobia and he never really wanted to be a barber anyway.
    • A chartered accountant wants to pursue a career as a lion tamer, but he is discouraged from doing that by a vocation guidance counsellor, who says his aptitude test shows he's perfectly suited for a career in chartered accountancy. Sadly, his ideas about lions are also quite twisted.
  • My World… and Welcome to It: Subverted. In "The Ghost and Mr. Monroe," John quits his job at The Manhattanite when managing editor Hamilton Greeley criticizes one of his cartoons. Unsure of what to do next, John decides now's the time to write that novel he has always fantasized about. His time unemployed is short, though, as one of the magazine's major sponsors sees John's cartoons and says if Hamilton doesn't hire John back, he'll pull his ads. As a result, John decides to put the novel off until later.
  • The Office (US): In the ninth season, Jim decides to become the co-founder of a new sports agency in Philadelphia and also help Darryl pursue his dream in the process. Jim, however, has to put the dream job on hold as his marriage to Pam starts falling apart and he decides that his family is more important than his personal aspirations. Pam later repays the favor by arranging for the entire family to move so that Jim can finally pursue his dream in earnest.
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • Leslie Knope works for Pawnee's Parks and Recreation Department, which is almost an ideal job for her because as she was practically born for public service and politics. In season 4, she successfully campaigns to become a member of the city council — she referred to this position as her dream job. She wants to improve her town and to advance her career, possibly aiming to become the City Manager. Her ultimate goal is becoming the first female President of the United States.
    • Tom Haverford's ultimate dream in life is to become a mogul, and it does not matter to him very much in which branch of business. He tries to use his job at Parks and Recreation Department to his advantage and tries to secure favours from local contractors. Tom has shown his passion for entrepreneurship when he co-founded Entertainment 720 (this one failed spectacularly), Rent-A-Swag (a great success, but was undermined by his partner and his rich father), and Tom's Bistro (a successful local restaurant).
  • In Red Dwarf, Dave Lister's dream is to one day move to Fiji, buy a farm and open a Hot Dog Stand. He's a lazy slob who works as a third technician, repairing vending machines on Red Dwarf, a giant spaceship of the Jupiter Mining Corporation. He tries to save the money to carry out his big plan.
  • Spinning Out: Marcus turns down his admission into Stanford Medical School to be a skier.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • Prue starts out working at a museum, but quits due to lack of respect (and working for her ex) and takes a job at an auction house. After a season there, she quits again, this time due their lack of integrity authenticating a piece. After quitting, she reveals that her dream job has apparently always been photography, which she works at for the rest of her time on the show. She never gets any particular recognition in the field or prestigious jobs, but she seems satisfied with her work.
    • Piper's dream job is to own her own restaurant. A flashback episode reveals she was working at a bank and Grams encouraged her to pursue her dream. She auditions as chef at a local restaurant in the pilot, presumably prompted by Grams's recent death, and quickly winds up as de facto manager, which is adjacent to what she wants. In between seasons 1 and 2, she changes her goal to running a night club when she learns it's easier in the area, but her passion remains in cooking. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that she did eventually manage open a restaurant.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger:
    • The premise of Season 5's "99th Ranger" details Ranger Walt Cobb being killed in the line of duty and Walker and Trivette needing to fill the vacant position he left behind in their Company. The two applicants to replace Cobb are Texas DPS Trooper Santiago Perez and Brookdale Police officer Bobbie Hunt. Ultimately, it's Hunt who earns the job, especially after taking down her abusive ex-husband, Russell Stafford, who nearly made her give up her dream of becoming a Ranger.
    • "Deadly Situation" in Season 9 details rookie Sage City policeman Glenn Cooper (who is the descendant of the legendary Ranger Hayes Cooper and a distant cousin of Walker) seeking to become a Texas Ranger. Having gotten his start in Sage City, he busted three of his own, later revealed to be four (his lieutenant tipping off the trio after he received original copies of Glenn's evidence against them), for partaking in a drug ring and nearly took the fall for their crimes, thanks to Walker and his team intervening.
  • In the Tenacious D show on HBO, one of the D's open mic night sets has them play "Cosmic Shame", in which JB urges the audience to quit their day jobs and pursue their artistic dreams while they still can. However, he acknowledges that it's a risk, and that they may not necessarily turn out to be any good.
  • The Rookie is essentially this trope in a nutshell. John Nolan always wanted to be a police officer but when his then-girlfriend got pregnant while in college, he dropped out and went into construction. The series starts after Nolan's son has gone off to college and since divorced the girlfriend from college when he is involved in a bank robbery where he manages to stall the gunman long enough for the cops show up. This inspires Nolan to move to Los Angeles and join the force as the oldest rookie in LAPD history with much of his initial story arc of the first season is proving his decision is not the result of some Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis.
    • Feds, the spin-off features Simone Clark, a former guidance counselor, who has a similar backstory to Nolan with her joining the FBI as she always dreamed.

    Video Games 
  • Among the characters in Dragalia Lost, some characters do get their vocation:
    • Aeleen is a valkyrie who has dreams of becoming a nurse. She eventually gets an alternate version of herself with her long-desired profession: a nurse.
    • Hope is a priest-in-training with dreams of becoming a knight who often ignores his priestly duties because of his desire. He finally gets to be a Templar.

    Visual Novels 
  • Subverted in Melody. The title character aspires to be a famous musician - which many people would consider a dream job - but the protagonist has to convince her to take up and career in music, and also to perform in public.

    Western Animation 
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Dread 'N' Breakfast", Timmy's dad leaves his current job in order to make and sell sock monkeys.
  • Mr Krbec and his Animals: Mr Krbec is a pensioner whose dream comes true in the very first episode. He reads an ad in the paper and applies for the position. Next scene he's moving to a beautiful old castle and starts living there. He becomes the castle's "castellan", which means he's a keeper and warden of the place and he's also responsible for guiding and tours. He has many merry and wacky "gothic" adventures.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Daring Doubt", while under the influence of a truth amulet, one of Cablleron's goons announces that he's quitting his job as a henchman to pursue his dream of being an opera singer.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "And Maggie Makes Three" reveals that Homer once quit the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to become a pin-monkey at the local bowling alley as soon as he got out of debt. Once he learned that Marge was pregnant with Maggie, however, he tried to get a raise by attracting more customers, but was ultimately forced to give up the job and go back to the power plant.
    • In another episode, Homer gets fired from the plant and decides to go back to his favorite job, as a dish-washer at a Greek restaurant. He quits upon learning he's being paid in dracmas and blackmails his way back into the plant.
    • Marge Simpson is a talented artist. As a teenage girl, she painted portraits (Ringo Starr's in particular). Some episodes show her trying her hand in art again, like painting Mr Burns' portrait or making life-size sculptures out of popsicle sticks, but she returns to being a happy mother and homemaker.
    • Ned left his job as a company clerk to open a store for left-handed people. Unlike the above examples, it lasts.
  • Time Squad: Many episodes involve a historical figure changing to another field of work - such as Beethoven becoming a pro-wrestler or Albert Einstein a used car salesman - and it's up to the Squad to get them back in track and keep the timeline stable.

    Real Life 
  • The author of Tsuribaka Nisshi stopped being a bank teller, and instead decided to become a Mangaka despite knowing how difficult it would be at his age.
  • The comedian Greg Giraldo was a lawyer (he had attended Columbia University as an undergrad and Harvard for law school) but decided to forego his potentially lucrative law career to become a stand-up comic. He had a good deal of success throughout his career before his untimely death in 2010.
  • German American Naval Aviator Dieter Dengler had dreamed of becoming a pilot ever since he was a young boy after witnessing an Allied pilot fly past his home. Raised in extreme poverty, he moved to New York City and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force shortly after turning 18. Unfortunately, he didn't meet the Air Force's requirements for pilot training and spent his enlistment grounded. After acquiring some college credentials, he joined the Navy and successfully became a pilot. He was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, but managed to escape, was rescued and spent the rest of his life as a civilian test pilot. A real-life Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Voice actress Kara Edwards had decided to give up voice acting in order to become a full-time radio host. However, when she realized how devoted her fans were, she decided to return to voice acting.
  • Former IGN editor/producer Colin Moriarty was on track to get a PhD in History before deciding to intern at IGN. He loves video games and according to interviews, getting paid to play and talk about them was a dream come true for him.
  • Musician Jason Everman, who briefly played with both Nirvana and Soundgarden. He had a successful gig playing with a lesser known band before enlisting in the U.S. Army (he was inspired by a Renaissance philosophy of being both an artist and a warrior). He served his first tour in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment while the rest of his career was spent with Special Forces.
  • Actor Jeffrey Wright had planned on becoming a lawyer (to that end, he majored in political science at Amherst College) yet acting remained a very important passion for him. He attended grad school at New York University for a couple of months before dropping out to become a full-time actor.
  • Antoine Jomini's father wanted him to work in a bank, but Antoine himself had spent his whole childhood studying military history and wanted to become a strategist himself. So in his early twenties, he left banking and published a treatise that caught the eye of one of Napoleon's marshals, allowing him to rise to great fame as a military thinker.
  • Several examples from the world of NCAA sports:
    • In the late 1990s, Paul Mills was a bond analyst at a bank in his native Houston area, moonlighting as a high school basketball coach. However, he wanted to pursue full-time coaching, and left the bank job in 1999 for another high school—taking a salary cut of over 80% to do so. Then in 2002, he left that post for a non-coaching position at Rice University, receiving no salary. He went on to join the Baylor staff a year later (now getting paid), staying there for 14 years. In 2017, Mills finally got a head coaching gig at Oral Roberts, a mid-major D-I school in Tulsa... and for the third time, took a pay cut to advance in his career. Thankfully, he and ORU got some recognition in 2021 when the Golden Eagles became the second 15-seed to reach the final 16 of the NCAA tournament.
    • After playing basketball at Hampden–Sydney, a small Division III school in Virginia, Griff Aldrich got a law degree from the University of Virginia and then returned to his alma mater as an assistant in the 1999–2000 season. He then left to become a full-time lawyer, but still kept a foothold in the coaching world as an AAU coach in Houston. While Aldrich became very successful as a lawyer, and also as an investor, he still felt the coaching bug. An opening came in 2016 when his college teammate Dave Odom had an opening for recruiting director at UMBC... which two years later, with a number of its players having been recruited by Aldrich, scored a historic upset over Aldrich's law school alma mater of UVA. After that season, he returned to Virginia (the state) when he became head coach at the small D-I school Longwood.
    • Joe Moglia did this in both directions. Even before graduating from Fordham University in 1971, he had been a part-time high school assistant football coach, and began coaching full-time after graduation. After a decade-plus in the high school and college assistant ranks, he left in 1983 for a Wall Street career, eventually becoming CEO of discount brokerage TD Ameritrade. But then in 2011, he left Wall Street to return to football coaching. After a couple of seasons as an assistant at Nebraska and a year as head coach in the short-lived United Football League, he became head coach at FCS program Coastal Carolina. He retired after the 2018 season with Coastal in FBS and the Sun Belt Conference, though the Chanticleers' breakout season didn't come until 2020 under his successor Jamey Chadwell.