How to Make a Living Doing What You Love
No matter a person’s gender, age, or industry, everyone wants to find a job he or she enjoys. Oftentimes, this is easier said than done. The elusive ideal of a “dream job” is appealing, but what are the steps needed to find and secure that job?
For me, it’s all about figuring out what you love; that’s the starting point. Once you have clearly articulated that, both to yourself and others, you can proceed from there. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in my own personal journey toward pursuing my passion. In my case, that passion was art, but these are key steps in anyone’s journey to a rewarding, fulfilling career.
Ask Yourself, “What am I MAKING Time for?”
The biggest difference between a hobby and a passion is that you find yourself making time to pursue a passion, even when you have no time to begin with. One of the biggest indicators for me that art was more than just a hobby was when I found myself still painting in my head, even when my job kept me too busy to spend hours physically painting. I noticed that I was subconsciously incorporating my art studies into every job I had as well, from packing design in the 1980s to exhibition design in the 1990s. The more I worked my art into my jobs, the more rewarding they became for me.
What do you find yourself making time for? If you’re unhappy in your current job, whether you’re feeling overstressed or understimulated, where do you find your mind traveling? Once you take a few moments of self-reflection to pinpoint the subjects of your passions, you can figure out what binds them together.
Figure Out Why You Love What You Love
If you had a day completely to yourself, with no responsibilities, what would you spend it doing? Most people have a variety of hobbies and interests, but the key during this phase of self-reflection is to figure out what all your favorite things have in common. You might realize that your passion is creative expression, writing, or even project management. No matter what you love to do, it will be much easier to explore career opportunities once you hone in on the central element that ties together your list of passions.
Go Out and Do It
Once you define what you’re passionate about, it’s time to do your homework. Leverage your contacts and set goals for yourself. Learn everything you can about the industries where you see the potential to pursue your passions in the form of a career. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either; the traditional route is not always the best.
Talk to friends, family, former co-workers, and other professional contacts. Tell everyone you know about how excited you are to pursue a career in your chosen field. Ask their advice, and ask them to connect you with any contacts they might have. The more enthusiastic you are about your new path, the more likely you’ll stand out in their minds when they have a conversation with someone who may be interested in your skill set. In today’s business world, you need both self-determination and the ability to network to be truly successful, so it’s important to do both in your journey to doing what you love as a career.
Finally, set goals and benchmarks for yourself – and hold yourself accountable for them. I like to set one major goal per year, secondary goals once a month, and even minor goals once a day. This way, I’m always moving forward.
For example, you could start with a goal of taking at least 30 minutes a day to pursue your passion, whether it’s writing, painting, or cooking. Your month-long goal could be to assemble these experiences into a killer portfolio, and your long-term goal could be to get at least 10 interviews for jobs that include the passions you’ve identified. No matter what goals you choose, make sure they are challenging but attainable and, most importantly, measurable.
Never Turn Down an Opportunity
Take every opportunity you can to explore your options. If you’re offered an interview from an unexpected source, take it. If you randomly find that your best friend has a connection in the industry you’re looking to get into, don’t be shy about asking him or her for contacts. If a company tells you they’re not hiring, ask if you could still set up an informational interview to learn more about the industry. A good first impression can help when they are hiring.
It’s all about finding little ways to work your way in. Often, the more informal routes built on your relationships with people and your networking abilities are the most effective.
Throughout my journey to pursuing art as a career, I’ve learned that passion truly is the spirit of life. Pursue the things you’re enthusiastic about. If something excites you, learn everything you can about it, find out what you need to do to be successful at it, and do it. Life is too short to put your passions on the back burner. With a little self-reflection, the determination to do your homework, and a lot of motivation, you can find your own dream job and live your passion every day, just as I have.
Liang Tang is a vastly established artist and architect. His work won the 10th China Times Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award. Liang is currently the Vice Secretary General of the Cultural Exchange Center between Hong Kong and Shanghai. To see Liang’s work, visit his portfolio.