Warning: Potential disillusionment ahead!
Here are the confessions of three professionals willing to divulge the hidden downsides of their dream jobs (and why they’re still passionate about their careers despite knowing the truth).
The Dream Job: Restaurant Critic
Let’s review the job description for this one: Eat delicious meals at fantastic restaurants and expense every morsel, sit in your pajamas in the cozy comfort of your home while you type up your opinion of the meal, get the thrill of seeing your name in print, eat more delectable freebies, write, repeat, then wait for the paychecks to roll in. That’s all there is to it, right?
“I am always concerned with consumption/weight control,” confides Charyn Pfeuffer, a freelance writer and the food, wine and travel editor for Valley Lifestyles magazine, e-mailing from a fitness spa where she’s “performing hours upon hours of exercise daily as a damage control attempt for the havoc my career wreaks upon my body.”
“I regularly eat many-coursed meals (which means many, many calories), frequently attend winemaker dinners and love to cook at home as well, so it’s hard to stick to any sort of diet,” laments Pfeuffer. “Moderation doesn’t really exist in this career.”
In addition to health concerns, Pfeuffer acknowledges that it can be unnerving to know her words hold such sway over both her readers and the businesses she critiques. “It is tough to be in a position where you are judging someone else’s creativity and passion,” writes Pfueffer. “It is a tremendous amount of responsibility to play a role in how the public perceives someone else’s livelihood.”
And of course, there’s the pay, which Pfeuffer describes as less than impressive, joking, “[There’s] nothing like having your rusted 1980 bright yellow Volvo valeted at some of the finest restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles.”
Still, Pfeuffer feels the upsides of being a restaurant critic easily outweigh the downsides. “I adore what I do for a living and the once-in-a-lifetime experiences it affords me,” she writes. “Like some people idolize athletes, I idolize the creativity of chefs.”
The Dream Job: Vineyard and Winery Owner
Is there a more romanticized profession than owning a vineyard? It’s difficult to even hear the word and not imagine golden Tuscan hillsides, an outdoor table crowded with wine carafes, soft cheeses and fresh fruit, and an enormous tub filled with laughing, long-limbed women, the purple stains of wine creeping up their legs as they crush grapes below their bare feet.
“First of all, there’s no vacation at all, no holidays, no retirement fun and no insurance,” says Jeff Pipes, the owner of the sustainably-farmed and organic Pipestone Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, California.
“Do you know about surveying, soils, chemistry and biology?” Pipes suggests you ask yourself before you enter this line of work. “Will you mind getting up at two in the morning for five weeks to turn on your frost control system? Can you work seven days a week for months on end? Do you have enough cash to live on for five to eight years after you buy your property and plant the vineyard?” If not, Pipes says, running a vineyard probably isn’t for you.
“Remember,” he adds, “this is farming. You can do everything right, and have a year or more of effort into it, and then Mother Nature can ruin you in just a few minutes with a frost or hail or a storm. You have to be prepared to be wiped out at any moment.”
Still, Pipes is passionate about his chosen career. “Wine is one of the few foods where you can know the place from where it came, the family that grew it and made it, and the year and weather that made the wine taste like it does with each vintage,” he says. “I love my life, every minute of it, but it’s not for everyone in this fast-paced day and age.”
The Dream Job: Fashion Merchandiser
Style Network addicts dream about parlaying their obsession with clothing into an exciting career in the fashion industry, envisioning themselves swathed in couture as they rub elbows with celebrities at the Milan fashion shows. Many of the stylish set aspire to a role as a fashion merchandiser for a specialty store, where they see themselves developing the hottest new trends in clothing and accessories.
“People have the misconception that fashion merchandisers just play with clothes all day long, when in reality you are running a multi-million-dollar business,” says Carolyn Williams, senior merchant of female accessories for Abercrombie & Fitch. “You still have to make Excel spreadsheets and analyze numbers.”
Merchandisers must have profound knowledge of their target customer, and be able to foresee and capitalize on fashion trends. In addition to overseeing new product designs, they evaluate manufacturing costs, supervise production and determine retail prices. Ultimately, merchandisers are held accountable if a product they’ve developed fails to bring revenue to their company.
“It’s not glamorous—you don’t spend your days going to fashion shows,” Williams reveals, adding, “It’s hard work, with long hours. And overall, it’s not a highly paid profession.”
And yet, even with the long hours and lack of glamour, Williams still feels that she has a dream job. “You get to take the idea of running a business,” she says, “and apply it to an industry everyone can relate to. After all, we’re all consumers and we all spend money on clothes. It’s the best of both worlds—fashion and business.”