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10 Tips for Turning Your Passion into Your Career

Of all the presentations and workshops I’ve given over the past few years, “Turning Your Passion into a Career” has received the greatest response. Showing people how to follow their passions is one of my favorite things to do, because the buzz in the room is palpable. People light up with excitement on the spot and within days I get a slew of emails and notes telling me, in detail, how their lives have already started to change. If you are just starting to think about a career path, and aren’t sure about the direction to take, here are some action steps to get you moving immediately.

1. Opportunity Lies in Every Difficulty; Own This Concept

A bad attitude can be your worst enemy. It’s far too easy to feel defeated or depressed when things get difficult, or if your grades aren’t up to snuff but you want to get into THAT school. You need to be your own biggest cheerleader, fire up your ambition to succeed and listen to your gut. If it’s telling you to take action, or take a different path now, listen carefully. Recognize the new opportunities presented by your challenges — they’re always in there.

2. Start by Tapping into Your Passion

It’s there, whether you recognize it or not. We’re all passionate about something – even if it doesn’t strike us as job- or career-worthy. Think about all of the things that get you fired up, excited, eager to act…write those things down. Ask others close to you to help add to the list. Sit with that paper for a few days. Add notes, details, and illustrations. Fill the page with things you love and are good at. Those are the best clues you’re going to get. You may need help to do this next part, but challenge yourself to translate what’s on that page into ways you might be able to channel those abilities or passions into some form of educational track that would deliver what you want to create for your life.

3. Know That You Always Have Options

Never tell yourself you’re stuck. You’re not. You have more options than you can even dream of. In fact, you could spend your whole life researching them and still not uncover everything that’s possible. Challenge yourself to uncover 5 new career path opportunities for you this week, then another five next week. Brainstorm 10 or 20 with your friends or family if you’re really inspired. It’s an amazing exercise to do with a group. See the road ahead of you as an open one to do with as you wish. Get excited about having so many options. That energy will help you tremendously as you set out to pursue the ones that rise to the top of your list.

4. Shake Up Your Environment and Influences

If you’ve ever traveled internationally, you know that exposure to different cultures changes your perspective, often profoundly. Start to shake up your routine, influences, and contacts locally to expose yourself to new influences immediately. If a more drastic life change is in order, think of it like adapting to a different country or culture. Consider everything you might do to visit a very different culture – all the research, talking to others who’ve been there, getting expert advice, seeing what people say online, etc. – and apply it to a new area or industry you’re contemplating. Your comfort level (and likely enthusiasm) will start to rise quickly. You could even consider studying internationally.

5. Find the Blue Ocean

Competition can be daunting. And with more people than ever applying to colleges, it can be even harder to break free from the pack. Whether you’ve got excellent grades, led the Student Council, did an internship while in school, or are really fighting for a spot at that college of your dreams, there’s a fabulous concept you should know about. It’s called the Blue Ocean strategy, and it’s based on a book by that name. The concept is simple: Most people stick to small confined areas where they fight like mad to compete for the same pool of opportunities or resources. The competition gets so fierce that it often gets bloody. However, the ocean is huge and vast and loaded with abundance. You just have to start fishing in the blue waters – where no one else is or few others have ventured. Remember that point above about international schools? That’s one place to look.

6. Explore!

Get out and discover what’s out there! Make a commitment to launch a serious expedition to uncover all sorts of new and exciting possibilities. Every day of every week holds opportunities to meet new people, attend events, sit in on webinars, sign up for newsletters, join organizations or fan pages and engulf yourself in the worlds that following your passions can open up to you. Keep exploring until you get yourself to that place.

7. What Makes You Different Makes You Special

You don’t necessarily need to be an expert in your area of passion. You don’t need to have years of experience under your belt to do something with it either. That can come. Take whatever it is that makes you different, unique, special, interesting, quirky or uncommon and turn that into a fascinating story of why you’re pursuing X. Share it with everyone you can.

Being just like everyone else is boring. Having an interesting story to tell on how you ended up in that pursuit will make people curious about you. Then you just have to back it up with a fierce passion, evidence of wanting to do something about it, and the commitment to take it forward. Other people will respond to that. And if you’re learning on the go, share what you discover along the way and opportunities will start to present themselves!

8. Find Others With Shared Values

Passion is driven by emotion, by a raw hunger to learn, pursue, explore, engage and exist in a special kind of euphoric state. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you really should. That’s the key to loving what you do. Others love the same things you love, too, and value the same things, ideals, and principles. Go find them. Online, offline, it doesn’t matter. Spend as much time as you can in these circles to fire you up and learn. So much starts to happen when you discover your sweet spot.

9. Opportunity Comes in Many Forms; Not Just Jobs

Don’t get stuck on finding a job, or starting a business for that matter. There are lots of opportunities in between that can enable you to turn your passion into your work. I like to call this range the Complete Opportunity Spectrum. Sure, you can get a job doing X, but what about a project, a consulting opportunity, an internship, licensing a business, becoming a franchisee, partnering up with an organization, doing some temp work. Break away from the “get a job” mentality. There are lots of ways to make money doing just about anything…if you’re creative enough.

10. Map Out Your Opportunities

A lot of industries and opportunities have a slew of resources dedicated to teaching people how to break into, get trained and launch a career or business. A simple Google search will tell you if that’s the case with whatever you’re passionate about. Just try “Getting a job in…” or “Starting a business in…” for starters.

Once you have your passion clearly identified, you really should create your own map of that universe. All the industries, companies, organizations, experts, educational resources, websites, etc., that are significant in any way to that one thing, should be mapped out.

We have a great exercise to help you do this, but you must take the time to build this out and I swear it will fast become one of the most enlightening activities you’ve done in your career. I do this with people every day when speaking and consulting. We even wrote about it in Secrets of the Young & Successful and blew out a whole exercise in Fast Track. But you can do it yourself. And the more detailed you make it, the easier your path will be to finding and pursuing what you really love for a living.

Jennifer Kushell (@ysnjen) is author of the NY Times Bestseller Secrets of the Young & Successful and has been called "The Career Doctor" by Cosmopolitan.

As founder of Young & Successful Media, she created – a leading destination for career exploration, tools and resources for students and young professionals around the world.


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Don Munce