A writer friend once said that she quit going to writers’ conferences because everyone was depressed and unemployed. Putting herself in that kind of environment didn’t make her very excited about a career in writing.
It seems that many people find it hard to use their artistic talents for a financially viable career.
I think this may be a failing of our education process. Schools and universities are great at teaching us how to pursue a traditional career but not so great at helping us identify the talents we already possess as the basis for a career.
For instance, in college, I had to learn about the Krebs Cycle. The Krebs Cycle is described as “the central metabolic pathway in all aerobic organisms” and is a depiction of how organisms produce energy from the carbon sources they ingest.
Of course it is.
Now, I’m sure Mr. Krebs was a brilliant scholar but his dang diagram was responsible for the only “D” I got in college. Furthermore, the term “metabolic pathways” does not come up that often in conversation, at least not in my Krebs-less social circles. In fact, when all is said and done, I’m more fascinated by the fact that the word “aerobic” has an “e” as the second letter instead of an “i”. To me, that’s hilaerious.
The problem, as I see it, is that our standard educational system does not encourage students to figure out their innate gifts and skills and further, does not instruct them on how to make a living using those gifts and skills. This is particularly true when the student’s gifts are more creative than practical.
My son graduated from college recently and got a job as a civil engineer. He chose engineering because he not only likes science and math, he’s also skilled in science and math. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher. She loves children and is creative in the way she teaches. But who’s to say that these are the careers for which they were destined? What if there is another path that ignites their passion even more but they don’t yet know what it is?
For most of us, we go to school and then get a job. And if we’re lucky, we stay in that job for many years. But then again, maybe it’s not lucky—especially if we could have chosen something that was better aligned with our talents and our interests.
It took me ten years to figure out my ideal career. And I might have pursued it sooner but I didn’t know that I could. My education prepared me for the path I initially chose rather than helping me figure out the path that was the best fit for my gifts and skills. That being said, I had wonderful experiences in every job I had. But I might have had enjoyed different opportunities if I had figured it out sooner.
So how does one find a way to turn a talent or a passion into a career?
Well, aspiring writers may not be a Stephen King or a J.K. Rowling, but there are a number of careers in which writing is the primary skill. A photographer may not land the cover of National Geographic but photographers are used in a variety of other jobs. And a fine artist may not have a show in the Museum of Modern Art but artists can use their skills in many different creative and design roles.
I think that there probably a perfect job for all of us but we may never find it because we settle for what we have and thus don’t really feel the need to find something else. But as someone who gets to do what I love and make a good living at it, I can tell you that there is nothing better than when our gifts, our skills, and our career line up. When this happens, work is no longer work. And for the record, I will never have to memorize the Krebs Cycle again.
Here are a couple of things to consider in pursuing a job or career that is truly aligned with what you do best and with what you love most.
First, figure out what skills you possess. Simply write down all the things you do well. For me, I know that I’m good at writing, speaking, running meetings, managing people, creating humor, etc. It’s a weird blend of skills but that’s what makes my life fun—finding work that uses all of those skills.
Second, determine what you like to do as well as what you don’t like to do. While I’m good at managing people, it was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Thus, I would think twice before taking a job where I had to manage people. On the other hand, I love to write and speak. I would jump at the chance to have a job where those were my primary responsibilities.
Third, look for opportunities that complement your gifts and skills. Sometimes we take a job simply because we need a paycheck. That’s fine in the short run. But for the long-term plan, our job should be more aligned with what we want to do.
Lastly, tell everyone what you hope to do. This is where the power of connections come into play. The more your friends and colleagues know about where you’re gifted and what you want to do, the more likely they will be to give you ideas, send you job openings, or connect you with the people who can help you find your path.
Some people think that a fulfilling job is when we simply figure out how to like what we do. I think it’s more fulfilling when we can do what we love. It’s a subtle distinction that makes a huge difference. While it can be a bit of a challenge to figure out your ideal job or career, the more thought you put into it, the better the chances are that you’ll find it.
Then, you’ll be making a living by doing what you love.