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It's impossible to know what something is like until you throw yourself into the thick of it. Even something as predictable as a job can be unknowable until you arrive. Years of college and on-the-job training go out the window the moment you're left without your supervisor or you encounter an unruly customer. Just listen to these stories below about how their dreams devolved into nightmares.

*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.

Reddit user, u/TonyWitDaBigCojones, wanted to hear how things weren't what you pictured when they asked:

Why did your "dream job" turn out to suck? [Or] conversely, why did a job you weren't excited about end up being a dream come true?

When Emotions Mix With Business

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I wanted/want to be an illustrator or graphic designer. I enjoy illustration but it's a lot more emotionally labor intensive than I thought it would be. Graphic design SUCKS


Punching Way, Way Down

When I was 16 the manager of our local GameStop liked me. I was personable and extremely knowledgeable on the subject. He offered me a job when I turned 17. On my birthday I had an interview and was hired. My first day I realized all of the upperclassman nerds who were bullied in school like myself had jobs at that GameStop. And they seemed to cope with the bullying at school by bullying younger employees.

My first week in I had a kid in the class above me throw all the Xbox game cases off the display on to the floor right after I spent a hour alphabetizing them. He grinned, called me a retard and told me to do it again. That was the first but not the last time I've cried at work.


Yes, Chef.

Being a chef/cook isn't all it's made out to be. No creativity freedom unless you open up your own little business where you have all the freedom to sell and make what you like. Plus serving tens or hundreds of people is fun to a certain point. It's tiring and physically and mentally draining; but every once in a while hearing a customer say your food tastes amazing is very uplifting and almost makes it worth all the hassle.


When It Looks Flashier Than It Really Is

Might be a bit too late, but Investment Banking

Loved finance from a really young age and got a finance major in college. Was lucky enough to join a bulge bracket for a Summer internship.

That's when I realized that it was nothing like what I had imagined. While I knew they had long hours, regularly working 100+hours a week is something else. More importantly, it was really just a bunch of b-tch-work that I found uninteresting. It became quite clear to me why everyone seems to want to leave banking for Private Equity (which isn't THAT much better IMO)

Oh...I calculated how much money I made hourly. It came to about $8.50. The compensation looks decent until you realize you're working 100 hours a week and getting paid for 37.5 of them. Luckily I also got a computer science major while in college and now I'm working in software engineering.


Billing As Opposed To Healing

Working in healthcare in the US: I thought I would get to make a real difference and help people, a dream come true!

The reality was my managers expected me to bill for more services than medically necessary, and squeeze extra "units" of billable time out of every patient, whether they needed or wanted it. I quit that sh-t after I started having chronic nightmares and insomnia


Less Trench Coats With Fedoras And More Paperwork

I got a job working for a private investigator. I was so excited about starting, assuming the whole job would be fascinating. Christ on a bike it was boring. It was 90% paperwork and not any kind of interesting detective work happened at all. The boss was a d-ck too.


Teaching Alongside The Terribles

dream job —> professor. turns out people in academia are extremely toxic.


When I was looking into getting my PhD (grandfather was a professor), every single professor I knew or knew my grandpa talked me out of it.


Yeah, Horses Stink

When I lost my job as a waitress when COVID hit, I saw a job posting to assist as a horse breeder. I eagerly applied. Horses are cool! And I'd ridden them on occasion growing up.

The not cool. It is slimy and stinky and disgusting as f-ck.


I too have worked with horses briefly and oh it's too true. They are beautiful to look at but they are nasty, mean, dirty a-- motherf-ckers to take care of.


You're Not Training For The Right Job

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I feel very fortunate to be as employable being a doctor, but it definitely isn't what anyone thinks it'll be.

When you're pre-med, or even in medical school, you aren't prepared appropriately for the job you're actually taking. I don't think most people really understand that.

I'm a primary care doc, but I won't gripe about that in specific...I'm just gonna say that, no matter who out there glibly says "you know what you signed up for", most med students didn't. There's just no way to quite understand how much bureaucracatic BS and insurance BS there is inside the US until you actually have to dedicate the majority of your work to it.


Not What They Show The World, But What They're Hiding

I never actually got a job there but as a teenager I would always hear about how amazing the offices and benefits were at Google and dreamt of working there. It wasn't until I was my late 20s (depressingly enough) that I realized the reason their offices are so nice is because they want people to work absurd hours and never have to worry about like where they're going to eat or who's taking care of their kid.

My current employer does a lot of work with Google and we've visited their offices several times - no one is ever using those amenities. A lot of them just seem like they're there to show off to visitors. One of the buildings has a small arcade in it and the games are always powered off.


Still Getting Paid To Put Letters Together

When I was younger, I've always wanted to be a writer. Just like Jane Austen or something...

I write vacuum-cleaner reviews for a living.


When Customers Ruin The Thing You Love Most

I'm big into the Jeep life. I left the sh-t hours of a sound and life tech to work at a jeep shop. I learned a lot but customers are a--holes and it wore me out. Especially after COVID!

If I didn't have to talk to self [centered] customers all day it would have been a awesome job!


Never Let Anyone Make You Feel Bad For Needing A Break

I dreamed of teaching English in Japan, but the job was mostly grading (finding all the SPAG errors in 600 essays :/), I didn't get the student breaks off, and was constantly pressured to stay late and take sick days out of my VACATION (not sick leave).

I hated never having any free time and felt like my coworkers were criticizing me for being an inferior person for wanting to have a life outside of work. I actually wanted to kill myself because I thought I was a sh-tty person for wanting time off more than I wanted to help students and that the rest of my life would suck because of having to spend it all at work.


Asking For More Than They Bargained For

I dreamed of working on sustainable buildings, turns out it's about 50% getting yelled at by contractors because they don't want to do the things they signed a contract to do, and another 50% begging the contractors to give documentation proving they did the thing they're contracted to do, after you finally got them to do it. It's infuriating. Still doing it though.

Edit: to those telling me this is just what construction is, sustainability is an EXTRA step beyond those normal things contractors don't want to do. Asking them to do something they don't want to in normal construction is like asking them to jump through a hoop. Now ask them to do sustainability stuff, that's like asking them to jump through a flaming hoop half the size over a bed of nails.


Teaching Isn't For Everyone

I wanted to be a teacher. I student taught for three months, I got called a dumb mother f-cker on my first day. Later I was stabbed by a pin from a kid who was just going around stabbing kids with pins. I never got my certificate.

About 5 years later I started working at a day care and I love it.


A Well Remembered Lesson

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Paleontologist. Living the dream, right? Boss slowly got more controlling until (eight years in) they stated "I pay you, do as I say". Not exactly a lot of available paleontology jobs and now with Covid I'm just treading water with temp jobs until museums start hiring again. Sent out some resumes last week.

People don't leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.


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If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at

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