How to transition from a day job to pursuing your passion

Discovering what you love doing is a gift. But can you turn your passion into a career? Let's find out

baker smelling bread, passion

I worked in the corporate world for 14 years, five of which I would say were spent pursuing a passion [of sorts] and the other nine were spent ‘doing the day job’. During my 20’s, the day job was supplemented with lots of new experiences and having lots of fun. And to be fair, in hindsight, I learnt a bit along the way.

But once I hit 30, the fun-mist of youth seemed to abruptly lift and reveal that it wasn’t going to be enough for me to just ‘do a day job’ and that either I had to find some new [more constructive] passions or had to add some more zing at work. I then spent five years doing a bit of both and ultimately got to a point when I gave up the corporate shenanigans to turn my passion into something akin to, but so much better than, ‘a day job’.

In this post, I’ll share my thoughts and experiences about how you can:

  • Find time in a busy life for your passions
  • Enjoy the ‘day job’ even when you’d really rather be somewhere else
  • Transition your passion from ‘spare time’ to ‘full time’

Snippets of time for your passion

  • In the early days of the journey towards your passion and at times of frustration or boredom, it’s easy to feel like there can never be enough hours in the day to make enough of a shift towards your passion. By using laser like focus and consistency, I believe you can explore, nurture and build your passion with just 30 minutes a day. Little and often is key.
  • Pick a passion – perhaps you’re lucky enough to have lots of passions but pick one to focus on at any time.
  • Know what you want and need right now. Do you need to research? To educate yourself? To practice? To brainstorm? To plan?
  • If all you have is 30 minutes, then make it 30 mins, not 25 or 20 or 10. Turn off the distractions, put the phone in a drawer, create a physical space for your project.
  • Now what if you are struggling even with the prospect of 30 minutes a day – life is already way too busy. [A little warning: I might get a bit feisty here!] My questions to you would be….. “How much do you really want to pursue this passion?” and “Are you the thing that is making you busy?” I’ll leave you to mull over the first question in your own time but the second one is a real bug bear of mine. I really dislike the word ‘busy’ – I think it gets used in a misleading way and as a relatively lame excuse. We all have the same number of hours in a day and we all face the same choice about how we use them. Want more time for your passion? Get organised, prioritise and get disciplined.

Should you quit cold turkey?

Many people spend a significant part of their waking lives at work and it’s really, tough to maintain a positive mindset if you’re not enjoying it. That difficulty then goes to a whole new level if you’ve actually got a passion that you’d much rather be doing with your time or as your job. The bad news is that there is no magic wand. The reality is that most of us aren’t going to go from discovering our purpose to quitting our day job overnight. Some wonderfully crazy spontaneous folk do, and good for them. But, be honest with yourself and get real about your life, if you’re a slightly risk-averse former accountant like me then it ain’t gonna happen like that. And, the brutal truth is that you may never get to the point where you’re either able or want to give up the day job anyway. The day job is still important even if it doesn’t set your heart on fire and you’d be doing yourself a huge favour if you’re able to come to terms with that.

Ways to make peace with the 9-5 job

  1. Get curious about what work means to you [the money, sense of purpose, making a contribution, working with great people] and then focus your attention on the aspects of your current job which do meet your needs
  2. Identify any linkages to your passion – no matter how tenuous – and find ways getting more work in that space
  3. Find satisfaction in the little things – forget the big picture, focus on doing boring/uninteresting things really well
  4. Get organised and efficient [yes, again!] – if the reality of your job is currently 8-6 then get efficient so you can turn it into 9-5
  5. Creating something great takes time. And, our fragile minds/egos often need that time to get comfortable with the prospect of change and the fact that we may be taking a risk.

    Things to consider before turning your passion into your job

Passion does not necessarily translate into a good job. Some things are best left as amazing, fulfilling, life affirming interests. Go back to the exercise about ‘what you need from work’, then evaluate and be brutally honest about how your passion might stack up.

Assuming one of the reasons you work is to earn some money. Why are people going to pay money for what you are offering? What is the problem that you are solving for them?

How much money do you really need? This challenge goes in both directions. If you really want your passion to be your job are you willing to change your lifestyle and earn less? If you have a family and a mortgage to cover, will your passion generate enough for you to survive?

Move away from the fantasy and get real. What will your life really be like if you turn your passion into your job? Done all of that and still think it’s a goer?

Here are the real gems from my experience of making it happen

  • Realise that, often, this kind of a journey isn’t just made up of one step. It’s likely to be a number of significant steps taken over a prolonged period of time. The first step, for example, might be finding a job which blends your current skills/experience with your passion.
  • Planning, but not too much. Of course you have to have a plan before you quit the day job. But if you feel you have to plan and be clear on every minute detail then a) you’ll never get round to starting and b) your plan will be too restrictive and inflexible to be successful.
  • No-one can tell you it’s 100% going to work. If you’re waiting for that affirmation, I’m sorry to say you’re going to be waiting a long time and you’re never going to do it. Get really clear on the risks, mitigate and manage them and, if you’ve got your head around it, then you’re probably good to go.
  • Find a way of giving it a trial. Getting out of thinking and into action is a really important stage in the process. Is there any way of testing the waters? May be work the day job part time and use non work time to try your passion.

Remember you’re really lucky to have found something that you’re passionate about – some people are on a permanent quest to find that and don’t always get there.

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