Do you have a hobby or a passion — something you really enjoy doing in your spare time? Do you love gardening, caring for animals, fitness, or the outdoors? Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could spend more time on your hobby and less time at your “job?” With the right strategy and perhaps some additional training, you may be able do both at the same time.
When choosing a career, one of the things you must consider are your interests and for a select few, your passion. One of the keys to identifying an ideal career is to pursue something that you, at the very least, have a genuine interest in.
For me, the transition was simple. When I was laid off from my last corporate position, it forced me to look at myself and career from 50,000 feet up. Though I really enjoyed sales and technology (I was an IT strategic representative), was there something more? The one thing that had a profound effect on my career and life was my dedication to professional development. This was a habit I developed a number of years back when a former supervisor encouraged me to listen to audio programs in my car as I drove from account to account. I was putting in a lot of windshield time back then covering parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. I chose programs by Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey and others and they had a profound effect on my life both personally and professionally. So for me the path was clear, after my layoff from high-tech, I would start my own professional development company helping people achieve their professional goals. That was 2001 and in the 12 years since, I have assisted thousands of people make a change for the positive–landing a better job or starting their own business.
So what can you really get behind and champion? No one ever said your occupation had to be something bland, boring, a real drag, or just “a paycheck.” Though for most people, they let the job choose them instead of choosing their job or career. My challenge to you is to find something that corresponds to your true interests, skills, and talents. A hobby and the skills you utilize in that hobby don’t necessarily have to stay separate from your occupation.
So here are a few tips for turning your hobby into a viable career or pursuing a position that correlates to your key interest areas or maybe even your passion:
1- There are two ways to approach: career change or entrepreneurship
Perhaps you’re in high-tech as a software developer but an avid gamer on the side. Why not see what you would need to do to utilize your IT skills for an up-and-coming or maybe even an established gaming company? Or, perhaps you’re currently selling home improvement products but steal away to go fishing any time you can. Companies like Rapala, Eagle, Fenwick, or Shimano may love to talk with you! With 70-80% of all jobs going unadvertised, assembling a target list of organizations and then networking your way to introductions to employees and key decision makers is simply one of the most effective ways to find a job in any type of economy.
Maybe you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and now is the time to hang out your shingle. Turning your passion for gardening, jewelry, web sites, or cookies may just be your ticket to starting and navigating a new business venture to profitability. Get ready for some long hours, frustrating days, and problematic customers and clients. But despite the challenges of starting your own new venture, the rewards are many with you being in charge as the boss as the most the best one of all. You and only you are solely in charge of your own success. Many successful companies today were started in a garage (Microsoft), kitchen (Famous Amos Cookies), or on the kitchen table (1,000,000’s). If you have the passion and persistence, you have the most important elements already covered.
2- Conduct a skills assessment of yourself
If you’re considering a different occupation but the same industry or the same occupation in a different industry, start researching target job descriptions and conduct a gap analysis. See which of your skills will transfer and what skills you need to develop or acquire. These are also the key skills you’ll need to highlight in your resume when applying to open positions at your target companies.
Starting your own business begins with passion and persistence, but what do you know about finance, tax law, operations, negotiation, and most importantly sales marketing? I work with many entrepreneurs each year who are outstanding at what they do but lack the business training to effectively operate their venture and turn a profit. The good news is that there are many opportunities for gaining basic business skills at low or no cost. Check out your local SBDC or SBA office for a list of classes, training opportunities, and mentors to help you make it through the early years.
3- Thoroughly research the economic impact
Making a career change into a new industry or occupation can often mean entering at a lower income level. But for most people, the change is worth the financial sacrifice provided you have planned accordingly regarding your economic needs. There are a litany of resources available on the web to help determine what your target occupation will pay. Try using Salary.com, PayScale.com, or O*Net to research average salaries. Set your sights on the lower end of the salary scale when making your estimates.
In starting your own business, the cold hard fact is that you won’t make much money in years 1-3. This is normal and pro forma for any new business. So you’ll need a plan for meeting your personal economic needs while you grow the business. Some people use savings, credit, work part time, work full time, or do contract work on the side. Hard work and long hours are the norm, but if you remind yourself on a daily basis as to why you’re in the game, you’ll advance and grow while other will drop and fade. The #1 rule of thumb regarding starting your own business is that if you’re starting it strictly for the money, you’re starting it for all the wrong reasons.
4- Conduct an informational interview/get advice from a trusted business source
Before embarking on any career change, you should talk to a number of people who are currently in the front lines. Ask for introductions via your networking contacts or use LinkedIn to look up people who are in the position you are pursuing. The best information is taken directly from the source, so try conducting at least 3-5 informational interviews asking non-threatening or overly sensitive questions. Ask people what the rewards and challenges are, what skills are required, hot companies they would look into, and what sort of advice they would have for someone looking to break into the field. People generally like to talk about what they do, so expect a positive response for any informational interview request. Focus on the common denominators: information all or most of the contacts mentioned as being important. Always offer to return the favor by putting them in touch with someone you know or acting as a resource for them in the future.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, getting a second opinion on starting a new business is smart business. As the saying goes, love is blind, so talking to a trusted business source that will offer you an unbiased view of your business idea is mandatory. Not every hobby-type endeavor is solvent as market needs, competition, profitability, and timing are all critical factors one must consider. A business coach, SBA mentor, or preferably an independent business owner in a similar field are great sources who can give you straight talk about the feasibility of your idea.
Not everyone is going to wind up a star by following a well-loved hobby or passion into a professional career. We can’t all be Olympic skaters, owners of a multi-million dollar business, or real estate moguls. However, it can be taken as a promise that, if we follow the lines and design of our natural interests and talents, we will give ourselves the very best chance to grow into the most successful—and fulfilled—people we can be. It will also ensure that we have more days we love because we’re doing the things that most interest us, define us, and give us meaning.