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August has ended and it’s time to get the September issue of Vogue. Seldom do I read the articles, but I like to look at the pictures, most of which are advertisements. The Table of Contents in the 2012 issue doesn’t even start until page 76. Though I’ve heard more than one fashion industry expert say they’re selling the dream, not the reality, I still like to look. Dreams are hard to resist, and just in case I ever get invited to dine in a mythical garden with the Mad Hatter and the attire is black tie, I’ll know what to wear. The September issue may have a few dreams that could be adjusted to meet the needs of reality, but not many.

Reading about career options on the plethora of career websites, or, if you’re a student, the exciting careers a degree at name-any-university would result in, is not unlike looking through Vogue. The snapshot is not the reality, just the dream. The snapshot doesn’t show you any of the prep work or the behind-the-scenes. You don’t see that the model had to sit for hours while her make-up and hair were being done, that there were lots of mosquitoes, and that it was unusually muggy that day. To know all that, you’d have to have been there.

Before you commit yourself to the dream, take some time to understand the reality. Reach out to people who are doing what you think you want to. Talk to more than one. Ask what you need to do to get a job in that field. Ask what their day-to-day experiences are like. Ask what growth opportunities a job open to someone like you can lead to. What they like the most and the least. Ask them what personality makes someone a good fit for that career path. Then ask yourself if this is a version of reality that could feel like your dream.