You’ve heard the Confucius saying, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But what if you have yet to figure out what it is that makes your heart beat faster — or, an even more common scenario — how to turn what you love doing into a lucrative career path.
But before we explore this, I’d like to acknowledge the flip side of the coin. In one of Chrissy Scivicque’s Bad Career Advice articles, she argues that do-what-you-love career counsel is actually a bit of a fairy tale.
“When something you love becomes work, it fundamentally — and unavoidably — changes the way in which you interact with it,” Scivicque asserts. “Instead of focusing on doing what you love so work won’t feel like ‘work,’ take some time to figure out what work means to you. What do you want to get out of it mentally, physically, socially and spiritually?”
Her argument is fair. Doing what you love for a living is more complex than turning a passion into a paying job. Careful planning, loads of networking and graceful navigation of the mundane day-to-day tasks that go hand in hand with all types of work will always be there. But I can tell you this: Pursuing those menial tasks under the umbrella of a career you love vs. one you don’t is equivalent to enjoying a steaming cup of coffee with that flavored creamer you love and slurping down a day-old cup o’ joe on your way out the door just to get a caffeine fix.
Related: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee on Success, Creativity and Following Your Passion
But don’t take my word for it. Here, I’ve asked seven women I admire greatly to share their advice on how to do what you love and maintain passion as you propel forward.
1. Make discovering what you love before you enter the workforce your mission. And don’t be afraid of what you find. — Renee La Londe, CEO and founding partner of iTalent
Renee La Londe, CEO & Founding Partner of iTalent
“Before you take steps down a specific career path and get a degree in a specialized area, make it your mission to figure out what it is you’re passionate about. Take a trip to a place you find interesting. Go on a hiking expedition, a mediation practice in Tibet, or just explore what there is to do in your own backyard,” La Londe says. “You may discover that what excites you is something that doesn’t require you to go to a university or you may find that there’s a degree tailored specifically to your fine-tuned interest.”
According to a national survey conducted for CareerBuilder in 2013, only 32 percent of college grads landed jobs related to their major. Shouldn’t you take the risk of of doing something you love vs. doing something that feels safe?
“A lot of people have a deep-seated notion of what they want to do but they think it doesn’t add up to a choice that others will approve of,” La Londe says. “I was a computer geek that started out as a business major. I applied for business school because I thought it would look good on my resume. I was extremely bored with all of my business classes, but I was very excited about my philosophy and Japanese classes. It turns out that the latter two classes were great complements to my already business-centered mind. Follow your passion and I guarantee it will feed you even though it may not always appear that way from the beginning.”
2. Don’t wait to do what you love. Take risks. — Yingzhao Liu, principal designer, international, at LinkedIn
“I had a couple of realizations in my late twenties: One is that if I wait until I feel ready to do something, it will be too late. The second is that it’s actually very easy to lead an extraordinary life — you just need to be willing to do the things that others are not. The things that are a little too hard, take a little too long, or are a little too uncertain,” Liu says. “Professionally and personally, I took more risks, did things without worrying about how I might be perceived and started down paths without knowing where they would lead. Thus began a life of adventure, passion and empowerment. As Helen Keller said, ‘Your life is a grand adventure, or it is nothing!’ Take her advice.”
3. Stay positive no matter what. — Sabrina Horn, founder, president and CEO of HORN Group
“There are two kinds of people in this world: people with positive energy and everybody else. Running a company and being a parent is not easy. It requires resilience and grace under pressure. It means you need to constantly show strength, even when you’re not feeling particularly strong,” Horn says. “When I stopped trying to be perfect and control everything, it got easier. I’m a better CEO because I’m a mom, and I’m a better mom because I’m a CEO. At the end of the day, you have to make it work for you and only then can it ultimately work for everyone else.”
Clearly, optimism rocks. Picture Sabrina on your shoulder every time you’re tempted to join office gossip. You won’t regret taking the high road.
Related: Indulge Your Obsessions When Choosing Your Life’s Work
4. Identify what you value in life. Is it achievement, security or purpose? — Ingrid Sanders, founder of PopExpert
Ingrid Sanders, Founder of PopExpert
Image credit: LinkedIn
“Choosing a career you love and living with passion begins with understanding what it is you value,” Sanders says. “Do you want to have plenty of time for family and friends? Do you prefer working independently or as part of a bigger team? What appeals more to you: being responsible for the business side of things or focusing more on creative endeavors?
“Once you’ve taken the time to understand your own priorities and talents, then do your research and have the courage to dive in. Often it is nothing more than our own fears that hold us back from choosing the life and career we love. Thanks to technology, it is now more possible than ever to work independently and follow your passions regardless of where you live.”
Today, one in three workers is a freelancer. Building your own beat is at your fingertips. Who or what is stopping you?
5. Find the interaction between what you love and where you excel. — Kelly Bowles, director of user experience at LinkedIn
“Build happiness into your career by finding the interaction of what you love and where you excel professionally. Work doesn’t feel like work when you enjoy what you’re doing and see that you’re making a positive difference!” Bowles says. “My greatest joy in my career comes from connecting with and helping others. To stay energized and inspired, I look to my team who helps to drive and teach me, and continuously shape my role as a leader. I view my team’s success as part and parcel of my own.”
6. “If you say you’ll do it, do it.” — Kathy Foltner, entrepreneur and consultant
“Doing what you love and feeling passionate about your work only goes so far. Back up that passion with characteristics that will get you farther,” Foltner says. “Integrity is everything. If you commit to something, follow through on that promise. Protecting your accountability is a keystone to prolonged success.”
7. “Trust in the power of attraction.” — Geri Stengel, founder of Ventureneer
Geri Stengel, Founder of Ventureneer
Image credit: LinkedIn
“When you do what you love, people rally round you. Enthusiasm is contagious and you attract other people who are passionate too,” Stengel says. “However, what I’ve found most interesting is that those very people are not just there to cheer you on during good times, they stick around for you to lean on when times are tough. They support you inevitably. That’s the magic of passion.”
Well played, Geri. Well played. Live the life and career you love today.
Related: 15 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Who Built Careers Around Their Passions and Social Media