How to Turn Your Interests Into a Career
We'll spend a lot of our lives at work, so many of us might dream of doing something that we love – of turning our passion into a career
Gill Hasson has some tips to help get you started
If you are stuck in a career rut, maybe career coaching can help you – find your coach here
What do you like doing? What are you interested in? Is there something that you really enjoy doing; something that keeps you interested and engaged, that you spend quite a lot of time doing and learning more about? Did you have a favourite subject at school – whether you left school last year or many years ago – was there one or more subjects you particularly enjoyed?
Do you have any hobbies? Perhaps you enjoy fishing or birdwatching? Perhaps you like watching or playing football? It could be gardening that you enjoy. Going to festivals or throwing parties. Maybe it’s hiking or skiing or running marathons. Perhaps you enjoy playing computer games, reading novels, watching films, or singing in a choir. Maybe you’re fascinated by pond life or Victorian oil paintings.
Have you thought about doing what you enjoy doing – what interests or fascinates you – as a job or career?
Pretty much any interest can be turned into paid work and a career. If you enjoy model-making, for example, you could be a prop maker creating objects for use in theatre, film, and TV productions. If you really enjoy reading, you could be a book editor commissioning authors to write books, or a proofreader or subeditor, checking and editing written documents, articles and books. Of course there’s more to being a subeditor or proofreader than a love of reading. And there’s more to being a prop maker than enjoying model making.
But the main thing is knowing that having an interest in something could (but doesn’t have to) lead to a career in that area.
Perhaps you love graphic novels but think you couldn’t make a living out of graphic novels. Actually, you could: you could be a comic book or graphic novel illustrator, you could publish comic books and graphic novels, you could work in marketing for a comic book or graphic novel publisher. You could work in a shop that sells comic books and graphic novels. Someone does. Why not you? It could be that you’re into trainspotting. Is there a job doing that? Maybe not. But there are plenty of opportunities to work on the railways. Or with a railway preservation line. Are you are a keen birdwatcher? The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has around 1,500 paid staff; there could be a job – a career – there for you.
There are lots of ways you can combine skills and interests. Perhaps you feel strongly about climate change. And you enjoy writing; you’re good at it. So you could be a journalist writing about climate change and green issues.
Perhaps you’re interested in children’s learning – in how children learn – but you don’t want to be a schoolteacher. Are there any other paths open to you? Yes, there are. You could, for example, have a career as an educational psychologist.
Maybe you’ve thought about turning an interest or hobby into a job or a career but haven’t done anything about it because you’ve dismissed the idea as unviable; you think it wouldn’t pay enough or you’d have to study and get qualifications, or friends and family might think your idea is ridiculous. Or you don’t know how to get into it; where to start and what further steps to take. Whatever the reason, you just don’t think it’s a realistic option. Most likely, though, your assumptions about why you couldn’t turn a passion, interest, or hobby into a job or career are just that – assumptions: beliefs that have little in the way of evidence to support them.
Before you dismiss a particular line of work or career as unviable, you need to find out more about ways into it or how you could make it work for you.
Should you make your passion your work?
Of course, just because you have an interest or a passion for something, it doesn’t mean you have to turn it into how you earn your living. You might want to keep it as something you do that’s separate from work; for some people, turning an interest or hobby into work changes it from a ‘love to do’ to a ‘have to do’. Or you have done your research and actually, for you, turning an interest or hobby you have into a job or career really isn’t viable.
What if there isn’t anything you feel inspired to do?
It could be that you don’t have a particular passion or interest to pursue as a job or career; there isn’t anything you feel particularly inspired to do. Is there something wrong with you? Of course not! You’re not the problem; the problem is the belief that there is a dream job or career out there for each of us, that we were each born to do and devote ourselves to doing for all our working lives.
Perhaps you’re hoping that once you’ve found your ‘calling’ everything else will fall into place. Certainly, some people do appear to have a ‘calling’; they’re compelled to pursue a particular career which they dedicate themselves to and enjoy doing throughout their life.
But who says you have to have a job that you love, that’s your calling, your passion? It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll have job or career which starts with you waking up every single day dancing out of your pyjamas to do it. Yes, there may be a dream job out there waiting for you, but you can spend a lot of time and energy looking for it and if you are unable to find it, you risk feeling continually disappointed.
Your ideal job or career isn’t necessarily something you find, it’s something you create. Other people’s ‘successful’ careers often have paths that belie the idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.
Many people who really enjoy their work do so and have got there as a result of trying something, discovering they like it, and developing their interest, skills, knowledge, and experience from there. They’ve put their time and energy into making their work or career work for them. You can do the same.
You don’t have to have a calling, a big idea, or a long-term career plan. Instead, you need to identify what might be of interest and be a good direction, take one step at a time, and learn from what you find out along the way.
Gill Hasson is author of Career Finder: Where to Go from Here for a Successful Future