Ask a kid what he wants to be when he grows up and you will likely hear something like “astronaut” or “rock star.”

Most of us learn early enough to readjust those dreams. “For almost all of us, this career concession happened as we gained awareness of our personal realities and limits, discovering that there are people who are more beautiful, more athletic, better dancers, better guitarists, etc,” writes #b#Paula Caligiuri#/b# in her blog ( “Our fantasy career dreams dissolved and were replaced by the dominant message that we should ‘get serious about our future.’”

But Caligiuri is not one to allow dreams to dissolve completely. A work psychologist and professor at Rutgers in New Brunswick, Caligiuri also is an occasional television personality on CNN and the author of “Get a Life, Not a Job” (FT Press). She will speak about her latest book and its implications for finding yourself when she addresses Bio1-NJ on Wednesday, June 9, at 2 p.m. at the Rutgers Labor Education Center in New Brunswick. For more information on this free event, E-mail

Caligiuri has written extensively on the topic of discovering the passions within the passions. We might, for example, give up on being rock stars, but what was it that made us want to be one in the first place?

“While many fantasy career dreams are still not realistic, there may be some insight to be drawn from those dreams,” she writes. “There are many possible career options that exist between an unattainable ‘fantasy career’ and a ‘get serious career.’ We just need to root our career dreams in the realities of our natural skills and abilities.”

Caligiuri recommends people ask themselves a few basic questions — what actually is your dream job? What three skills, abilities, or personality characteristics do others frequently compliment you on?

From there, start thinking about careers that would afford you a chance to use those skills and traits. Then figure out where they overlap. If there is no overlap, “ask yourself: what do the listed careers have in common? Your lists may shed light on your ideal career from the perspective of the way you like to work,” she writes.

While Caligiuri is keen to give career advice, she is no stranger to getting it. And not all of it has been good. “About 20 years ago I was given a piece of well-intentioned but rather bad advice,” she writes. “I was advised to stop smiling so much.”

This was at the time that she was entering the world of academe, and the intention was to help her look more serious. Unfortunately, she writes, she just looked scary when she tried not to smile in a photograph.

“My advice-giver was trying to protect me from a negative stereotype: people who appear warm and friendly may be perceived as less competent compared to people who appear cold,” she writes. She didn’t buy it, and she has done well enough without the advice. Caligiuri, today is a professor in the human resource management department at Rutgers, where she has directed the Center for HR Strategy since 2001. She joined Rutgers in 1990 as a research assistant. In 1995 she became an associate professor of HR management.

Caligiuri earned her bachelor’s in psychology from Canisius College in Buffalo in 1989 and her master’s in industrial and organizational psychology from Penn State in 1992. She stayed at Penn State for her Ph.D. in the subject, which she attained in 1995.

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