Do you dream of turning a passion of yours into a viable career? Many of us would love to find work that is both intrinsically rewarding and financially sustainable. Turning that dream into reality is by no means an easy feat in this, or any other, economy. But it is possible, if you are willing to take action. Here are some first steps to consider if you want to turn a passion into a career.
Identifying Your Passion and Finding Ways to Pursue It
- Non-Profit and Volunteer Opportunities: Some of my clients have made the shift from a corporate role to a position supporting a cause near and dear to their hearts by first volunteering their skills and eventually transitioning into a paid position. Have you always wanted to work for a company that supports cancer research? Do you want to help children with autism? First volunteer your skills for a cause you are passionate about to get your foot in the door. If you are an accountant, you can work for a cancer research non-profit in the accounting and finance department. Search for Controllers and CFOs of local and national cancer research fundraising organizations to approach using search engines and LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search. Do you have a talent for managing staff and identifying talent? Apply your human resources expertise to a membership development role within the non-profit cause that lights a spark within you. Using LinkedIn’s Company search to identify target companies to approach is a good place to start.
- Hobbies: Love to run? Perhaps your corporate skill set would be of value to an organization that targets runners. Or you could develop a side business venture that is connected to running, since not all passions have to evolve into full-time employment. In either case, begin by using LinkedIn Groups to find groups containing the term “running.” You will find groups associated with marathons, half marathons, and countless other running enthusiast groups. Review the backgrounds of group members for common points or connections. Do they tend to work at companies that support an aspect of running, such as apparel, vacation tours, events, or sports advertising? Do they work at ‘regular’ companies with active running groups? Use LinkedIn Groups to connect to these groups. You can then begin to engage members who share your passion for running, with the goal of gaining insight and contacts that might lead to a job related to running.
- Corporate Work at Companies that Inspire You: Let’s say you have a genuine talent for digital marketing and want to leave your dead-end corporate marketing job in pursuit ofa role with a funky, aggressive startup that serves small and midsized businesses. You can use the LinkedIn Company Search function to locate boutique marketing firms. Additionally, you can conduct a LinkedIn search on ‘digital marketing’ to identify jobs, companies and connections that are affiliated with digital marketing. Look at related skills in this section to identify other areas to pursue. For example, when looking at related skills for ‘digital marketing,’ you will find that mobile marketing, digital strategy or online lead generation are other fields to incorporate into your job search. You may realize you have a more marketable skill set than the one you initially identified—or that you have a stronger interest in another area with skills that can be easily cultivated.
- Culture & World Travels: Have a passion for history? Want to see the world? Have you considered being a finding international opportunities in your current field? You can use search engines and the geography search option found on LinkedIn to identify people and companies in places you have always wanted to visit – especially those that employ individuals with your background and require the country expertise you bring to the table. Reach out to new contacts discovered through your research to learn more about working in these industries and geographic locations. You can determine which, if any, lifestyle and financial changes may be required to make this career shift. Perusing LinkedIn Groups can help you further build your network and reach out to individuals who are already actively engaged in your area of interest.
Approaching Companies and Contacts That Can Benefit From Your Passion and Skill Set
You have now begun to identify organizations and connections that can help in your quest to land a career rooted in your passion. The next step is to make contact and conduct exploratory conversations with key individuals to learn all you can about transitioning to this area. Your exploratory questions and conversations should help you decide how to structure your new pursuit to fit your lifestyle and financial needs.
- Follow your target companies on LinkedIn and other social media venues to learn as much as you can about the culture and nuances of the industry and organization. This information will help you make an informed approach at the right time.
- Sign up for email newsletters or RSS feeds to receive updates about networking opportunities and trending topics on your area of passion. Entrench yourself in your area of passion to learn as much as you can about working in that industry from these sources.
- Set up a communications strategy outlining how often you will reach out to contacts within and outside your network to further your pursuit of new opportunities. Track how many contacts you will reach out to per week via email, phone and in-person meetings to help you stay grounded and avoid the risk of over- or under-estimating your efforts.
- Open your mind to how this new pursuit might manifest itself—it may not lead to a job right off the bat. Consider consulting assignments, entrepreneurial ventures and volunteer opportunities to start.
- When approaching companies, outline in a cover letter how your passion qualifies you for consideration. Help the reader see how your skill set is transferrable to this new area that inspires you. Keep it concise, to the point and focused on what you can bring to the organization.
Don’t get discouraged. Stay the course. Anticipate that your desire to transition into work that inspires you may not at first be welcomed by employers, friends or family. Focus on improving your qualifications and remember to network to spread the message of your dream. You only need one person to believe in you, to give you the chance to work at what you love. Don’t give up on your passion or yourself.