How To Find Your Passion (And Possibly Turn It Into A Career)
We often come across this modern-day career mantra: that to succeed in life, all you need is to find something you love, and then find a way to get paid for it. While it’s a pretty idealistic way to look at things, the majority of the time it isn’t really feasible for most people. But what if we threw caution to the wind and decided to go all in on our passion projects – is there really a way to turn them into a lucrative career? We called in an expert to help.
We’ve spoken before about whether you can be happy when your work isn’t your passion and concluded that it often comes down to what you want out of life. Passion comes in many shapes and forms, and making a living off of one might mean an entirely different life change – so how can we know whether it’s really worth throwing away your cushy nine-to-five for a life of uncertainty and (maybe) success?
We sat down with Karen Bremner, a Brisbane-based career coach at Key Coaching, to suss out the reality of aligning your passion and your career.
The 5 most important things to consider when turning your passion into a career
Let’s dissect how to find your passion – it’s certainly not as easy as some people make it look, and so we can get caught up in an idealistic view of it all and even lose track of what we’re really looking for. Karen breaks this passion-finding process down into five easily digestible steps:
#1 Passion itself
“Often people get stressed out searching for their passion – that one, all-consuming thing that’s perfect for them,” she says. “That’s a lot of pressure, when really, few of us have one clear calling, and no career – however great – is perfect.”
If you’re feeling a little stuck thinking about your own passion, Karen suggest turning the metaphorical volume down and focussing in on your interests and engagement instead.
#2 Passions grow
Everyone’s passion starts as something small and insignificant – it’s only through time and experimentation that you can truly realise their potential. As Karen puts it: “You didn’t develop an appetite for coffee or oysters or pilates without giving them a good hot go, and the same goes for anything else – career included.” Experiment, she says, look out for small sparks and then fan them out. After all, “you never know when the spark may develop into a flame.”
#3 Passion alone is not enough
This is a big one. “You might love singing, but if you’re tone-deaf, that’s a hobby – love alone won’t cut it!” says Karen. You’ve got to realise that whatever you want to do, you’ll need potential, hard work, practice and a whole lot of determination to keep going. Think of passion as the rocket fuel that drives you, but you need patience and diligence to be successful.
#4 Careers are commercial
Some passions translate more easily into profitable careers than others, so you need to do your research and think creatively. “If you want to be paid to pursue your passion, you need to explore the market demand and how you can meet that,” Karen says. Who can pay for what you’re offering? What problems can you solve? How can you test things out? And is this something you want to do for money, or just for yourself?
Not all passions will be full-time earners, or start out that way. So consider if your passion could be a side gig, something you do while you earn your living in another job. “It may develop into something bigger, and if it doesn’t, you’re still OK,” she says.
#5 Success is personal
“Before you can pursue a fulfilling career, you need to know what fulfilling looks like to you,” says Karen. More importantly, your idea of success might be very different to what your parents, partner or peers consider success. “Take the time to define success for yourself – whether it’s about money, contributing to society or using your key strengths. That way, you’ll be working towards personally meaningful goals each day.”
Actionable steps to take if you want a career aligned with a passion
#1 Get self-aware
If you want a career with a passion – namely, one that taps both your interests and strengths – then you need to know what that looks like. Karen says this begins with a little self-reflection.
“Think about what you love doing, what you’re doing when you lose track of time, come alive and feel full of energy – these are signs of genuine engagement, and can act as a compass in career choice.”
Are there any skills you like using? What problems do you love solving? What environments do you thrive in? What were you doing when you completely lost all sense of time? All good questions to ask yourself on your road to self-discovery.
#2 Get out there and experiment
You’re not going to find your passion by sitting and wondering – get amongst it. Karen suggests hopping online and researching topics, testing the waters with free courses (try MOOCs, a massive list of open online courses) and look out for volunteering opportunities – you’ll be surprised how many people actually develop their careers this way.
As Karen puts it: “You won’t develop a passion – or a career – just by thinking about it; you need to get active.”
#3 Build your ‘tribe’
“Once you’ve got some ideas, reach out and talk to people in those areas, people who share your passions,” she says. That way they can share their stories, tell you what it’s really like and give you some killer inside advice, because there’s nothing like some hard won tales of triumph and failure to turn things up a notch. Also there’s something to be said about networking with people in the industry – you never know whether a quick coffee date could lead you to your first foot in the door.
#4 Reality check your choices
Unsure about your options? Ask for help. “A professional career coach can help you to navigate your choices, open your eyes to new possibilities and save you money, time and the heartache of a bad career decision,” says Karen.
And her final parting words? “Ultimately we’re all different and there’s no one ‘right’ way to have a career. Some people want work that makes their hearts sing… others want a job that pays the bills, preferring to pursue their passions outside of those hours. Both are equally valid, so do what works for you!” Cheers, Karen.
Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.