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Matching Your Personal Passion to a Promising Career

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Passion can be a powerful motivating force – one that gives us a sense of reward when we fulfull it, and a sense of frustration if we try to set it aside. That deep need – whether it’s to contribute, change, curb, create or conquer – drives not just the decisions we make at moments of big change, but the daily actions we take as well. The key is to make decisions and take actions that turn our passions into work that pays off. The goal is to spend each working moment discovering our potential and creating a foundation for its fulfillment.

The Different Kinds of Career Passion

Passion for a life’s work can come in many forms. It may be a sweeping drive to learn or succeed that is rewarded by any accomplishment, or a hunger fed only through time spent doing specific activities. It may be obvious from early on, or only sparked after many years of work. Some of the more common career passions are:

  • Exploring and discovering
  • Expressing artistry
  • Supporting and healing
  • Leading positive change
  • Maintaining order
  • Communicating a message
  • Uplifting souls
  • Working with technology
  • Keeping people safe
  • Financial success
  • Working from home
  • Inventing and building
  • Advocating for the disadvantaged and downtrodden
  • Attending to details
  • Excelling among peers
  • Travelling and experiencing different cultures
  • Working with tools and materials
  • Interacting with people
  • Challenging and conquering limits
  • Being the start of something big
  • Having fun
  • Performing and entertaining
  • Caring for animals
  • Collecting and selling
  • Organizing events or people
  • Teaching and guiding
  • Solving problems
  • Working outdoors and with nature
  • Doing good work

Whether you feel destined to occupy one of these listed roles, or inspired by something entirely different, there are specific strategies that you can use to turn what means the most to you into something that pays the bills too.

For articles about different kinds of passions and the kinds of jobs that can fulfill them, check out BrainTrack’s Career Planning Guide.

How to Make Passion Work for You

Here are several strategies to help you start feeding your passion today:

Find the source of your passion – A true passion is something that you do where you forget about the world around you. You forget about being hungry or the sink that needs fixing, and time flies happily by. Does your passion do that for you? Or are you passionate about a pastime because other people inspired you? Because you are unhappy with the way things are? Perhaps you want to be recognized or influential. Or maybe you haven’t spent time exploring your own passions to know what truly fulfills you. Taking time to do some career exploration can turn wishful thinking into realistic goals.

Start where you are – Because we are so propelled by our desires, we often create ways to pursue our passions without even realizing it. It is a strong likelihood that you already have readily available everything you need to begin. Step back and look at your surroundings from a different angle. How do your current work responsibilities, leisure activities and lifestyle choices reflect your personal passion? How can they be focused on, expanded upon, and developed? What books, website favorites, or computer software do you already have that can give you the information you need to take the first step in turning a vision into a paycheck?

Come up with a flexible plan – Imagine yourself living your dream. What do you do each day at work? What surrounds you? Who do you interact with? Now, work backwards. How did you get there? Did you go to school? Work in a particular industry? Develop a team of people you rely on? Did luck play a big part in it, or hard work? By asking these kinds of questions, you can establish big picture goals, and benchmarks to measure your progress along the way. This plan should be general enough to allow for the unexpected opportunity to come along, yet clear enough that you can see it happen in your mind.

Read between the lines – In many cases, the path to making a dream come true may come in disguise. Daily job responsibilities are often much more complex than their descriptions, and any one of them may lead to an opportunity for furthering goals. The approach, then, is to truly investigate job opportunities, keep an eye out for new developments at work, and pay attention to people you meet in your daily life. Figure out how each opportunity is another step in the right direction – even if it seems completely unrelated.

For example, a recent college graduate with a degree in speech pathology may have a dream of owning her own speech therapy clinic for children, but have to take a job working as an activities coordinator at a resort hotel in Florida in order to pay the bills. Her work there, though, allows her to get experience working with children, coming up with ideas for programs and implementing them, and interacting with parents. Because it is related to what she does for work, her company reimburses her tuition so she can take night courses in business, and then she comes up with an idea for a program that combines fun activities and speech therapy in a unique way. She tells her idea to one of guests at the resort who is an administrator at a hospital, and soon she is developing a pilot program for the hospital’s rehabilitation department. The program is successful, and she is hired as a consultant to create the program at other hospitals. Eventually, she has her own clinic where not only does she provide speech therapy services, but she’s able to impact the lives of many more children by training speech pathologists from hospitals across the country – something she never dreamed of being able to do.

Keep generating momentum – If you’re not sure what your true passion is, have been discouraged from pursuing a passion because many people already do it or you’ve read that it doesn’t pay well, or you see no way to get from where you are now to where you want to be, just keep moving. Maintain your focus on your goals, and do something – anything – for your long term future at least once a week. Go to a career website and browse job descriptions. Join a professional association in your area of interest. Make a point of meeting people or reading blogs by people who do what you want to do – successfully. Subscribe to the magazines they subscribe to, and follow their progress through social media. Start your own blog to spread the word, share the joy, and make the connections that will turn your passion into a prosperous venture. Both you and your life are complex and varied, and there are many paths to your goals.

A member of BrainTrack’s writing team, Ellen Berry contributes to the website’s Career Planning Guide.