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Dream Jobs: Pursuing Childhood Aspirations [Research & Statistics]

We delved into the experiences of 1,000+ dream job chasers, revealing their career aspiration, disappointments, and experiences with job interviews and resume writing.

Agata Szczepanek
Agata Szczepanek
Career Expert
Dream Jobs: Pursuing Childhood Aspirations [Research & Statistics]

Banner image with title Dream Jobs the Pursuit of Childhood Ambitions

Firefighter or teacher?

Astronaut or doctor? 

Or less down-to-earth, like Superman or a Princess?

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?


The journey from our desires to the reality of our careers is fascinating and often unpredictable. The big question here is – how many of us succeeded? 

ResumeLab looked into the matter and surveyed 1,000+ employees about their dream jobs, additionally asking about:

  • Success stories of achieving dream jobs
  • Unfulfilled aspirations and failures
  • First job experiences
  • First interview
  • First resume

Join us as we embark on a journey through the dreams and destinies of those who dared to chase their childhood ambitions.

Childhood dream jobs

Childhood dream jobs and whether people achieved them

If, as a child, you wanted to become a teacher or actor, your choice missed the podium of our ranking.

The number one job for kids is business owner. Is this due to the influence of such high-profile names as Musk, Zuckerberg, or Bezos?

The second place is taken by astronauts, followed by IT specialists. 

Then we have teachers, architects, dancers, actors, athletes, and lawyers. 

Interestingly, both men and women shared put business owner as their number one dream job.

Top 10 childhood dream jobs for men

Top 10 childhood dream jobs for women

Business Owner

Business Owner





Programmer/IT Specialists

Programmer/IT Specialists













This differentiation shows that there is no longer such a thing as a gender job in the world of work. Men being dancers or teachers? Sure, after all, these aren’t female-only professions. Women as IT specialists and firefighters? Of course!

But dreams are one thing, and reality often has different plans for the future workforce. Therefore, as part of our survey, we asked respondents if their aspirations come true. 

84% of respondents achieved one of the jobs they had on their childhood dream list.

Moreover, 87% currently work in a profession they dreamed of as a child.

Demographic differences:

Who achieved a childhood dream job?
• Gender: 80% of women and 89% of men achieved their dream careers. • Education: 77% of respondents with Bachelor's or Associate degrees vs. people with no college degree, 92%.
• Industry: 74% of IT/Software workers vs. education sector workers, 90%. • Salary: 91% of people earning $75,000 and more vs. 75% of those earning $25,000–48,999.
Who currently works in that profession?
• Gender: Almost the same number of men and women, 87% and 86%, currently work in this profession.
• Education: 95% of master’s degree holders, vs. 82% of people with no college degree or bachelor’s/associate degree.
• Industry: 92% of healthcare workers vs. 80% of IT professionals.
• Salary: 91% of people earning $75,000 and more vs. 72% of those earning less than $25,000.

Most importantly, their vision of their dream occupation didn’t turn out to be disappointing. In addition, those who didn’t manage to work in their dream profession also don’t complain about their current career.

In total, 86% of respondents are satisfied with their current work.

And yet, they are satisfied with how their careers have progressed.

  • 24% feel extremely successful in their professional lives.
  • 40% feel quite successful.
  • 35% of respondents are somewhat successful.
  • Only 2% believe they haven’t succeeded in their work lives.

But reality is not colorful for everyone. Still, some haven’t ended up as they wished and regret it.

Unfulfilled job aspirations

Unfulfilled aspirations

In the realm of childhood dreams, the possibilities are endless, and aspirations often soar to breathtaking heights. As we journey into adulthood, we strive to make our dreams a reality, but the path is rarely a straight line. Life's twists and turns sometimes lead us in unexpected directions, and not everyone achieves the dream job they once yearned for.

Also, regardless of their efforts, our respondents failed to achieve their desired profession. However, they did not give up easily. 

  • 76% of dream job non-achievers have taken steps in the past to pursue that career.
  • But the sad truth is that 72% of those who haven’t achieved their dream jobs regret it.
  • As a result, 67% still dream of the job they dreamed of as a child, while 61% don’t pursue that career anymore. 
  • Still, 61% of respondents would take the leap if they could trade their current career for their childhood dream job.

However, life creates different scenarios, and our career choices depend on many factors beyond our control. 

Reasons why people haven’t achieved their dream jobs include:

  • Family reasons - 53%
  • Financial reasons - 52%
  • Didn’t actively pursue the career - 39%
  • Bad economic conditions or different market trends - 30%
  • Change of interest - 27%
  • Lacking the necessary education or qualifications - 26%
  • Lacking talent - 18%
  • Felt that achieving the job would be impossible - 18%

These numbers are a testament to adaptability and making choices that align with their present circumstances. They remind us that pursuing professional fulfillment may take many forms, and it doesn’t end with our unfulfilled childhood dreams. 

Demographics differences:
• Gender: The top 2 reasons for women were financial reasons (53%) and the fact they didn’t actively pursue a career (48%). For men, these were family reasons (66%) and financial reasons (49%).
• Education: For people with no college degree, the reasons they failed covered bad economic conditions or different market trends (81%) and lack of talent (69%). Workers with a master’s degree or higher mentioned financial reasons (56%) and lack of necessary education or qualifications (53%).

In reality, dream jobs have different characteristics. According to our respondents, these are:

  1. Work-life balance – 42%
  2. Fame or notoriety – 36%
  3. Job security – 34%
  4. Career Advancement – 34%
  5. High salary – 32%
  6. Exciting job duties – 30%
  7. Feeling that job duties have meaning and significance – 29%
  8. A job that matches passion and interest – 26%

Take a look at the podium. While financial success and a sense of purpose remain important, people increasingly prioritize work-life balance, job security, and career advancement. The data suggests a shift towards more holistic and personally fulfilling career aspirations, reflecting the evolving values and expectations of the modern workforce.

Fame or notoriety, surprisingly, holds a substantial role as a dream job characteristic. This could be attributed to the age of social media and the allure of recognition and influence in today's interconnected world.

First job experiences

First job experiences

The first job experience is a rite of passage for many, a significant step in the journey toward adulthood and independence. For most, the first job is a blend of excitement, apprehension, and a dash of the unknown.

But, overall, people seem pleased with their first meeting with the labor market.

  • 66% were pleased with what the job reality appeared to be like.
  • 34% were disappointed with the job reality.

If these sentiments are too optimistic, look at the following data. 

87% of respondents say that their first job had a connection or relevance to their childhood dream job or career aspirations.

So, for these people, getting their first job was taking a step towards fulfilling their dreams.

But how did the first job influence people’s perceptions of career goals?

  • 58% said their first job positively shaped career aspirations.
  • 36% admit it had a negative impact and shifted career goals.
  • In the case of 6% of respondents, it had no impact. 

But there’s more. We also asked if the first job provided unexpected insights or challenges that altered people’s perspectives on their dream careers.

  • “It offered valuable insights and positively influenced my path to my dream career”– 51%
  • “It offered insights that made me resign from pursuing a dream job”– 43%
  • “It didn't offer any new insights or challenges relevant to my dream career” – 7%

Lessons were learned, and conclusions were drawn. It appears that first experiences, even if not directly aligned with ultimate goals, can provide a deeper understanding of the professional world and sometimes help refiner career paths and make informed decisions.

Lastly, let's consider when is a good time to start gaining first experience in the labor market. Always? We asked respondents at what age they got their first jobs.

  • 3% were under 16 years old.
  • 13% were 16–18 years old
  • 33% were 19–21 years old
  • 33% were 22–25 years old 
  • 18% were over 25 years old 

Most young people, 66%, choose to go to their first job after high school or even achieving a university degree between the ages of 19 and 25. 

Some of the most popular choices for the first job among young people include: 

  1. Office work – 36%
  2. Delivery person – 15%
  3. Cashier – 12%
  4. Grocery store bagger – 8%
  5. Dishwasher – 6%
  6. Dog walker – 6%
  7. Babysitter/nanny – 4%
  8. Lifeguard – 3%

It's intriguing that 36% of young individuals now embrace office work as their first job. It could reflect evolving job market dynamics, where office roles are becoming more accessible to young talent. This trend also signifies a heightened focus on skill development and career prospects early on, as office roles often offer a structured and educational platform for growth.

But looking for a job is not a lottery win. You must look for job openings, prepare a resume and cover letter, and, most importantly, apply. 

How many positions do people typically apply for before they get their first job?

  • 25% of respondents needed to apply for 1-5 job openings.
  • 23% sent 6–10 applications.
  • 31% applied to 11–15 different companies.
  • 16% sent 16–10 applications.
  • 5% needed to send more than 21 applications.

In conclusion, you never know how lucky you will be in securing a job. These findings only underscore the significance of perseverance, adaptability, and, in some cases, the high competition in the job market for young job seekers.

First resume

How do people rate their first resumes?

Whether reaching for that childhood dream job or embarking on a different career adventure, nailing your resume is an absolute must.

Overall, 73% of respondents positively evaluated their first resume, including:

  • 18% said it was very good, 
  • 55% rated it as good. 

For 22%, their first resume was acceptable. Only 6% of respondents said it was bad or very bad. 

But the good news is that people constantly work to improve their resumes.

92% of respondents have updated their resume since their first job search.

This implies proactive efforts in enhancing their resumes, encompassing both theoretical knowledge and practical skills' development.

And people keep in mind updates. 

91% of respondents update their resumes regularly. 

First interview

First job interview

Looking for a job plus preparing the first resume equals the first interview. The interview process becomes inevitable as individuals embark on the quest to land their first jobs. 

Staying on the subject of dream jobs—

9 in 10 respondents were interviewed for their childhood dream job.

Individuals' determination to engage with and pursue the careers that once ignited their childhood imaginations is strong. Chasing dreams probably compensates for the fear of the experience.

66% of respondents say that the first interview was a positively exciting experience for them. 34% admit it was terrifying. 

Moreover, job seekers have done their homework. There was no need to be scared, as 9 in 10 respondents felt adequately prepared for their first job interview.

Proper preparation is half the battle, but slip-ups do happen. 

Overall, 75% of people were satisfied with their performance during the first interview, while 26% felt embarrassed. 

As job interviews (especially the first one) go with the complex interplay of self-evaluation, expectations, and the emotional journey, our respondents revealed the intricate blend of confidence that accompanied pursuing their careers.

Job seekers are not resting on their laurels, and 95% have significantly improved their job interview skills since then. 

It's a positive indicator of ongoing self-improvement and adaptability in the ever-evolving job market.


The above-presented findings were obtained by surveying 1,062 respondents online via a bespoke polling tool. They were asked questions about their childhood dream jobs. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and a question that permitted open responses. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question.


The data presented relies on self-reports from a randomized group of respondents. Each person who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. There are many potential issues with self-reported data, like selective memory, exaggeration, attribution, or telescoping. Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for readers’ clarity and ease of understanding.

Fair use statement

Want to share the findings of our research? Go ahead. Feel free to use our images and information wherever you wish. Just be transparent and link back to this page, please—–it will let other readers get deeper into the topic.


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Agata Szczepanek
Agata Szczepanek
Agata Szczepanek is a career expert at ResumeLab. With her professional insight and thinking outside the box, Agata's mission is to help people from all backgrounds find their dream job. A master's degree graduate in Journalism and Communication and English Philology, her work has been featured by top media outlets, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Motley Fool, and HR Dive.

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