The American writer and humorist Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This sentiment is reflected in popular career advice to “follow your passion.”
You are fortunate if you have discovered your passion and it leads to a career that is not only personally satisfying but also economically viable. Few people at the early stages of life, school, and work know with certainty what their passion is, or whether it can lead to a job or profession. That knowledge forms with some combination of exploration and education. During this journey, you will make some wrong turns and likely backtrack at times, but eventually you will find your way. The following steps can help you turn your passion into a career:
1) Define your passion. Be honest with yourself about what you enjoy doing and what you are good at. Ask yourself whether you would be willing to do this activity if you were not paid for it. If you’re struggling to clarify your passion, consider taking a career interest inventory or seeking the advice of a counselor, mentor, or trusted friend. While these methods shouldn’t be considered the sole determinant of your passion, they can give you some valuable insights. Many career resources offer suggested vocations that are consistent with your personality characteristics or interest preferences. This will allow you to generate a list of potential fields to explore.
2) Research your passion. Read books and articles, talk to people who are already working in the field, and find out what it takes to be successful. The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you will be to make a informed decision about whether this is the right career path for you. Try to get experience in the field through internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs. This will help you gain first-hand knowledge about what the day-to-day work entails and whether you are still passionate about it.
3) Assess your skills. To turn your passion into a career, you will need to develop certain skills. Take stock of the skills you already have and consider what additional skills you will need to acquire. Many careers require formal education and training, so you may need to go back to school or participate in professional development activities. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have all the skills you need at the outset. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you can always acquire new skills as you go.
3) Get educated. This could involve taking classes, getting a certification, or going back to school. Focus on gaining the entry-level skills and knowledge you will need to get started in your chosen field. Start with a broad base of training at first, and then specialize as you gain more experience. Remember, most jobs today weren’t even invented a few decades ago, so don’t limit yourself by thinking that you need to get a traditional education in order to succeed. The ability to think, adapt, and communicate are important skills in any profession.
4) Make a plan. This plan should include both short-term and long-term goals. But, be flexible, as your plans may change as you gain more experience and knowledge. In the short-term, your goal might be to land an entry-level job in your chosen field. In the long-term, you may want to become a manager or start your own business. Whatever your goals are, make sure they are specific and realistic. Consider using an approach including SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This will help you create goals that are achievable and that you can track your progress towards.
5) Take action. Pursuing a new career can be a slow process. Don’t be discouraged if you encounter some bumps along the way. The most important step is to get started and keep moving forward. Networking with people in your chosen field, attending career fairs, and applying for jobs are all good ways to get your foot in the door. Start small and build up your experience and knowledge over time. Persistence is key to successfully developing your passion into a career. Keep track of your progress, no matter how small, and celebrate your accomplishments along the way.
6) Never give up on your dreams. Following your passion can lead to a successful and fulfilling career. The most important decisions in life include the type of work you want to do. Don’t let anyone else tell you what’s possible or impossible for you to achieve. You are the only one who knows what you are capable of. And, you are likely more capable than you believe. So, go out there and pursue your passions with confidence and never give up on your dreams.