Some people are lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do in life and love the career path they've followed. Others, however, don't know where their true passions lie, or pursue their dream career only to find out later on that they hate it. Doing what you love and loving what you do is important for long-term career satisfaction and success, but how exactly do you follow your heart and find a job or start a business that you truly enjoy? Here are 13 tips for doing what you love for a living.
Do some soul searching
Steve Zeitchik, founder and CEO of Focal Point Strategies, said that to do something you love, you have to first spend time thinking deeply about things that bring you enjoyment.
"Take a step back and figure out what it is that you enjoy doing," including as many specifics and details as possible," Zeitchik said. "Don't categorize it into a specific career or industry."
Only after you come up with the list of things that bring you joy should you think about the careers that each might fit.
Make time to make it happen
Once you've determined which of your passions you want to shape into a career, Deirdre Maloney, business consultant and president of Momentum, said it is critical to take the steps necessary to turn that idea into a reality.
"Once we pinpoint ideas, we need to do something decidedly not passionate: schedule time in our calendars to come up with our plan to get there," Maloney told Business News Daily. "The plan must be written down, even if it's broken out into tiny, baby steps."
Figure out how to profit from your passion
Melanie Connellee, executive coach and president of business consulting company MLC Group said that to turn something you love into a business, you have to determine how to make money from it.
"Spend some time brainstorming," said Connellee. "Look at it from several avenues — from your perspective, from the buyer's perspective, the end user's perspective and the audience perspective."
For example, she said, people who love art could fund their passions in several ways, including by teaching art, working in a gallery or doing portraits.
It's OK to make a major career change, but you also have to be realistic about it. David Ruch, performer and teaching artist, said he broke off from a white-collar job in marketing in 1992 to pursue a career in music, but his advice is not to assume doing a job you love is going to be a utopia.
"Treat it like a job and work twice as hard as you ever have before," Ruch said. "You'll need to, but you also won't mind because you really believe in what you're doing. I've seen too many people branch out to pursue a passion without realizing they are now entrepreneurs and will be wearing several new hats that might not fit quite so well at first."
Surround yourself with supportive people
Sara DiVello knows firsthand what it takes to make the switch to a true passion, having left her corporate public relations job to become a yoga teacher and author. She believes the key is surrounding yourself with supportive people.
"Because your colleagues may feel just as trapped and scared, a dynamic can evolve where they can actually contribute to holding you back," DiVello said. "Some co-workers were overtly discouraging, telling me I'd be back, that I'd miss it."
DiVello said the support of friends can make people feel less alone — and much braver.
When you're trying to pursue a career that you love, make sure you network and find peers and mentors to help you in the process.
Identify people in your network and beyond who hold your dream job — or something close to it — and ask for an opportunity to speak to them," said Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of career consulting firm Resume Strategists. "If you don't know people well, initiating conversation via LinkedIn is a great way to start. Tell them you are making a career change and conducting research and due diligence to make a well-informed move."
Gelbard said to ask about their education, career progression and the challenges they've faced, along with the skills and experiences and connections they've acquired along the way. You should also look for people who work in your desired job, and conduct webinars or give talks or book signings as well.
"Attend these events, if possible, or watch them online," Gelbard said. "Reach out to speakers afterwards and tell them how much you enjoyed the event and be sure to mention a specific part. Also mention the career change you are pursuing and ask if they might have a few minutes to speak [to you] in the next few weeks. You'd be surprised at how generous people are with their time, particularly when you are asking them to talk about themselves and how they got to where they are today."
Consider the environment you want to be in
Don't just think about the job you want to do — think about the kind of atmosphere and people you want surrounding you.
"When you're trying to figure out what you want to do, also consider this: With whom do you want to work?" said Alexandra Golaszewska, owner of publicity company Alexandra Go. "For example, maybe you're a person who doesn't feel particularly creative, but you love being around creative people. Some would consider that a dead end, but it doesn't have to be. You could work in an advertising agency, or for a fashion brand."
Golaszewska noted that companies like this need creative employees like designers, but they also need account managers, HR people and bookkeepers, so there are options for you beyond the obvious.
Don't wait around
Chryssa Zizos, founder and president of Live Wire Media Relations, said she believes that the longer people wait to make a career switch to something they love, the less likely they are to ever do it.
"If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, then you should act quickly," Zizos said. "Open the business you have been dreaming of, because as you get older, you are less likely to take risks."
Before jumping in with both feet, however, Ben Seidel, president and founder of Igniting Business, says those interested in switching their careers to something they love should take some classes or get some professional instruction on the industry. That way, they can make sure the career truly suits them.
"Invest in some coursework or professional training in that area in order to gauge your talent and endurance," Seidel said.
Swallow your pride
Jana Glowatz, CEO and founder of Jana Public Relations, experienced a major career change and knows what it's like to have to start over. Her advice? Stay humble.
"I think the most helpful tip I can offer someone is to swallow your pride," Glowatz said. "I had been working in real estate and finance but knew my true calling was to be a publicist.
Glowatz said she went back to school and did several internships working side by side with younger college students.
"Even though I was significantly older, our experience in the field was similar: limited," Glowatz said. "I stayed humble and knew that I had to learn and absorb everything I could, even if it was from someone younger. It's important to remember that when you're in this position, you're not above any task or project given to you."
Find ways to validate your decision
Sometimes coming to terms with the decision to start a new career path or business can be the hardest part, which is why Halona Black, writer and education and digital publishing consultant, said it's important to find a way to validate what you're doing.
"When I started my first side business as an education consultant, I had a hard time believing that I could do it," Black said. "So what I did was act the part. I got business cards made, wrote up a new resume with my new title and started a blog."
Black said that keeping a blog helped her believe in her goals even when she wasn't entirely sure she believed in her vision, and it ultimately helped her business.
"Writing via a blog on a regular basis helped to validate my experience and preparation and got me several of my first opportunities as an education consultant."
Don't try to do it all on your own
While many may think doing something they love requires that they start their own business, Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing at career network Beyond.com, said this doesn't have to be the case.
“An easier path is to find a company that does something related to your hobby, and try to get a job there," Weinlick said.
For instance, Weinlick said a friend of his loves dogs and that her dream was to start a nonprofit that cares for canines.
"She found a job working at an Internet site that provides pet advice and sells pet meds, which is a great fit," he said.
Yeosh Bendayan, owner of Push Button Productions, said people pursuing a passion must ready themselves for the early struggles that will inevitably occur.
"Be patient," Bendayan said. "It took us nearly two years between the start of business and being able to comfortably afford our salaries, so we could quit our day jobs."
Additional reporting by Business News Daily Senior Writer Chad Brooks.