How to have a career you love based on your personal interests

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Doing a job you love is the career Holy Grail, the promised land, Nirvana. But how do you achieve this, especially if you're not sure what that career or job might be?

‘First of all, understand that it’s unlikely you’ll “love” your career every day. No career is 100% perfect, nor will it give you everything you need,’ says Alice Stapleton, an accredited career coach of 10+ years experience, who offers one-to-one coaching for those in their 20’s & 30’s that really want to change career, but aren’t sure where to start or what they want to do instead.

‘We all have diverse interests and needs. Some of those will need to be met in your personal life, not just your career. To feel fulfilled in work, your personal life needs to be rich and satisfying too. Try not to expect to get everything from one job — it’s only one part of your life after all.’

Get to know ‘you’

To truly understand what you want from a career, think about what makes you tick in the following areas: values, motivators, life purpose, favourite skills, strengths, interests, your ideal working day, preferred type of organisation and working environment, and what success looks like to you.

Identify themes

Now look for themes across all of these areas. ‘It’s worth then considering what career options exist in relation to these themes and testing these out in some way. Moving into a career where all these areas and themes are aligned is the holy grail of careers. But it needs testing and experimenting with first. Only then do you truly know if that career will suit you or not and how you feel about the compromises that might need to be made.’

Make lists…

Make a list of everything that interests you, suggests Stapleton. ‘What common themes can you identify? Maybe they're all outside, maybe a lot of them relate to people, or different cultures, maybe practical skills? Yes, you can explore how you can be paid to do some of these interests, but often it’s more helpful to identify why these things are of interest to you, and how you can translate and account for that in a role.

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‘Try to immerse yourself in these interests too — what jobs do exist? You might love music — finding a finance role in that industry could be a good way to combine your skillset and interests.’

…and more lists

Make a list of all the skills you have. ‘If you were using those skills in an area of interest, what role might you be performing? For example, as an accountant, you might have finance skills, but also project management, problem-solving, attention to detail, report writing, which you could take into an industry of interest,’ says Stapleton.

Transferable skills

Consider your transferable skills, those gained from previous experience and qualifications, as these are useful in helping you find a new path and then making the transition to a role, industry or career. 

‘Transferable skills can feel a bit “chicken and egg” – do you decide what you want to do and then make your previous experience relevant, or do you base what you want to do solely on the skills you already have?’ asks Stapleton.

Use your network to ask questions about different roles and industries, and expand your network into new areas. ‘It can be helpful to talk to people in professions you know nothing about - ask them where someone with your background might fit in best. Alternatively, look at the job descriptions of roles and careers you like the sound of – how could you make your experience seem relevant to these? Or, if there are gaps, what can you do to build up those skills, eg courses, volunteering, work experience etc?’ says Stapleton.

‘Use LinkedIn to see where others with your background have moved on to. Which skill sets did they make the most of? Ask them how they made the transition. If one person has done it, so can you.’

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