5 Tips for Turning Your Passion Into a Career

Young woman knitting
Is knitting your No. 1 favorite thing to do? If you play your cards right, you might be able to make a profit.

Imagine your very favorite activity. Maybe you love to knit or sew. Maybe you're obsessed with movies or theater. Now, imagine quitting your day job and getting paid to work at the thing you love the most. Many fantasize about turning their pastimes into full-time gigs, but actually making the leap is a little bit tougher. It takes research, planning and plain old hard work.

Unless you're independently wealthy, you can't just quit your job to pursue a new career without preparing. You need to be able to keep paying your bills as you pursue your passion, and you need to make sure you have the skills necessary to succeed at this new endeavor. Whether your vision involves self-employment or working for your dream company, you probably can't just shift careers overnight.


Whether you're looking for a career change or aiming to transition your hobby into a full-time job, it can seem like a pretty daunting task. With some planning and a few tricks, though, you just might be able to get paid to do what you love.

5: Hatch a Plan

Like any major life change, switching to a career you're passionate about takes some good, old-fashioned planning.

If your dream job involves working for yourself, you need a business plan and a savings plan, so your career change doesn't spell financial disaster. Consider this your exit strategy, and take the time to crunch some numbers. How much income will you need to net, after taxes, insurance and business expenses, to make ends meet, and how are you going to meet those goals? Most entrepreneurs don't turn a profit right away, so it's a good idea to save up at least a year's worth of expenses. Even if you don't end up having to tap into that nest egg, you'll be glad you have it in case an emergency comes up.


Looking to work for your dream employer? Read up on the company and familiarize yourself with the industry. Do you need additional training to get the job you want? Take some classes or look for an internship where you can learn the skills you need to get that ideal job. If there isn't a particular opening or position that you have your eye on, stalk the company's Web site for job listings. It may feel like applying through a company Web site sends your resume into a black hole, but that isn't always the case.

4: Network, Network, Network

It might sound trite, but in many industries, it really is all about who you know. It's a lot easier to get an interview if someone within the company vouches for you, so get out there and meet people in your desired field. Scope out some local business networking events, grab your business cards, and start schmoozing. You can also set up an informational interview, where you chat with someone in the industry to get a feel for what you need to know. You'll gain valuable insight into your new career path, and, if you're lucky, you might even get yourself a job offer out of it.

If your dream job involves working for yourself, networking is just as important. You need to build up that client base so you can afford to keep the lights on. It's also helpful to build up a support system of other local entrepreneurs, so that you have a network of people who you can bounce ideas off of or ask for help when you're stuck.


3: Work on Your Resume and Cover Letter

Young woman in cafe with laptop
If you want to break into a creative field, don't be afraid to get creative on your resume -- it may give you an advantage.
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Your current resume and cover letter may have been perfect for impressing your current employer, but if you're looking for a career change, you need to spruce them up to match your ambitions. If you're working in the tech field now and want to move into something more creative, for example, you'll want to change up your resume to focus on your creative skills. This is called creating a "targeted resume." Do some research to see what key skills your ideal employers are looking for, and feature them prominently in your resume.

The same goes for your cover letter. You want to sum up your skills and explain, point by point, why you're the most qualified candidate for the position. If someone from within the company referred you, the cover letter is a good place to mention it. Many companies give extra weight to applicants who have an internal referral.


2: Think Outside the Box

Maybe you don't have the skill set for your dream career, but that doesn't mean you have to give up. Look for other jobs within the same industry that will make you just as happy. For example, if you love movies but don't have the technical skills to be a director, check out what positions are available that would let you be close to the action and use the skills that you already have. It's also a good idea to consider what you really want out of a dream career. Maybe it's not so much the job itself that's your passion, but what the job allows you to do. If you love to travel, for example, you might want to look at working for an airline or a tour company

If you want to work for yourself, you might need to find creative ways to make ends meet while you get your business off the ground. Can you take a part-time job that isn't too taxing, or take on some freelance work in the evenings that leaves your days free to focus on the business that you're really passionate about? Diversifying your income streams helps keep you more financially stable during tough economic times.


1: Be Realistic

Professionals chatting over coffee
Talking to those who have already broken into the field you're interested in will give you a realistic view of what the job is all about.
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Talk to some people who are doing the job you're after. There's often a big difference between the career you fantasize about and the day-to-day reality of turning a hobby into a full-time gig. If you love antiquing, you might dream of opening an antique shop of your own. Remember, though, it's not all about scouting out great finds. You have to deal with taxes, accounting and business licenses. For many people, it's worth sorting through the more mundane details in order to do what you love, but make sure you don't take the plunge with stars in your eyes.

This is another case where the informational interview can be a big help. Ask about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job you want and what it's like to work at that particular company. Few jobs are as fun in practice as they seem to an outsider, and getting a clear picture of your potential new work environment can help you ensure that you don't end up disappointed.


For more career articles, check out the links on the next page.

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  • Ancowitz, Nancy. "Expand Your Network and Land Your Dream Job." Psychology Today. July 10, 2011. (July 13, 2011) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/self-promotion-introverts/201107/expand-your-network-and-land-your-dream-job
  • Grimm, Joe. "How LinkedIn Signal helps find jobs and stories." Poytner. Feb. 14, 2011. (July 13, 2011) http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/career-development/ask-the-recruiter/117650/draft-210-how-linkedin-sognal-helps-find-jobs-and-stories/
  • Needleman, Sarah E. "How to Land That Dream Job When You Lack Certain Skills." Yahoo! Finance. May 25, 2007. (July 13, 2011) http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/103063/How-to-Land-That-Dream-Job-When-You-Lack-Certain-Skills
  • Simply Hired. "Writing a Targeted Cover Letter." May 10, 2010. (July 13, 2011) http://blog.simplyhired.com/2010/05/writing-a-targeted-cover-letter.html
  • Trunk, Penelope. "Don't wait to land your dream job." The Boston Globe. March 16, 2008. (July 13, 2011) http://www.boston.com/jobs/news/articles/2008/03/16/dont_wait_to_land_your_dream_job
  • University of Colorado Denver Career Center. "Resume/Cover Letter Writing." (July 13, 2011) http://www.ucdenver.edu/life/services/CareerCenter/JustAsk/Search/ResumeWriting/Pages/ResumesCoverLetters.aspx
  • Wallick, S.H. "First Person: The Reality of Running a Home-Based Business." Yahoo! Finance. March 16, 2011. (July 14, 2011) http://finance.yahoo.com/news/First-Person-The-Reality-ac-4040729098.html?x=0