Creative ways to turn your passion into a job

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Combining your life’s work with your life’s passion can be a challenging pursuit.

You may love something that you’re not very good at. Or, perhaps you’re lucky enough to be talented in the thing you are most passionate about, but you’re not sure how to translate it into a sustainable career. Or, maybe you spent years going to school for one thing, only to find out you’d really prefer to do something else.

No matter what’s standing between you and your dream career, though, with a little creativity it’s possible to overcome these obstacles – or perhaps bypass them altogether.

Here, five workers share how they came to do what they love in unconventional ways.

.1.“I’ve had a long-standing passion for the fashion industry. Only problem was, I didn’t feel I had the skills to become a full-fledged fashion designer. That’s why I started FashionStake, a community marketplace for fashion designers. It was a way for me to be close to the fashion industry without actually being a designer. Along with another Harvard Business School student, we launched in September 2010, and were named one of Elle magazine’s ‘Five Startups to Watch’ and included in [ popular fashion blog] Refinery29′s list of ‘Six Best New Fashion E-commerce Sites.’ FashionStake currently has direct relationships with over 200 designers and is based in New York City.” — Daniel Gulati, CEO, FashionStake

2. “In a previous life, I was a hotel developer. In 1972, I built the seventh Days Inn ever constructed, and other hotels. At one time, I had 250 employees. In 2006, I sold my hotel business. Due to partnership problems, I did not have enough money to retire. I had to find employment. At my age, it was hard to compete with the youth market. I had to be creative. An old passion of mine was blackjack. I went to my bookshelf and started to reread all the books on card counting. I read them this time with the intent of taking 5,000 dollars and testing my mettle. Five years later and I am still out there winning. I make over six figures a year. I travel with my wife and we see the great sites all over America. And she thinks I am James Bond. I think of myself as the David against the casino Goliaths. Over time I developed my own card counting system. I wrote a book and made a DVD that teaches it. They are both best sellers on Amazon.” — Daniel Dravot, Thecolorofblackjack.com

3.“I loved my successful career as a geologist in the petroleum industry and my former bosses had always been very accommodating when it came to taking care of my special needs daughter by permitting me to work a flexible, telecommuting-based work schedule. Then a new manager, who did not believe in telecommuting, forced me to make a decision: care for my daughter at home or return to the office full time. It was a no-brainer: I chose my daughter.

“We live on a farm, and nearly all of our 200 animals are rescues. Over the years my main hobby had been creating products to improve the quality of their lives. When covering the food and medical bills of all of our animals while staying home to care for my daughter became impossible, I was inspired to form Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products, LLC to manufacture and market my unique, patent-pending inventions.

“By the time my daughter was well enough to start school this past February, my business had grown from its very humble origins as a manufacturer of pre-paid, made-to-order items sold solely via my personal eBay account, to my products being manufactured by the tens of thousands in Bangladesh and sold in stores across the US, Canada and the UK.” — Tobi Kosanke, owner, Crazy K Farm

4. “I am an attorney who is developing a food safety and risk management practice to help food processing companies and restaurants reduce their potential liability arising out of preparing unsafe food (such as those containing food allergens or other food safety hazards).

“My interest in this field is personal, as I am severely allergic to tree nuts (such as cashews and walnuts). When dining at restaurants, I sometimes felt like I was trusting my health to someone who had no clue about what a nut allergy was, much less how to serve a nut-free meal.

“So, I have leveraged my nearly 10 years of litigation experience into a practice to advise companies about how to avoid getting sued. My business plan turns my greatest health vulnerability into one of my most important strengths, as my first-hand food allergy experience helps me advise clients about their customers’ expectations and how to meet them.” — Steven Kronenberg, senior associate at California law firm Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney and author of foodlawblog.com

5.“I recently started a business called CitySwarm which is basically a social club meets deal site.

“I’ve always had a passion for going out, being social, trying new restaurants, etc., and I started helping my alumni association with its social events. I put in a lot of work and always thought ‘I should be paid for this.’ So, I decided to start a business, just like an alumni club but for everyone, where I can organize groups of people and plan outings to try new things around the city.

“Instead of working directly for a company as an event planner, I thought this would be a cool way to still be able to hop around the city and not be tied down, plus I can utilize the group for unique marketing opportunities.” — Lindsay Saewitz, founder, CitySwarm, LLC, based in Chicago

How have you turned your passion into a career? Let us know in the comments section.

6 Comments
  1. I have a pretty large network of friends in government and the private industry. Because I had a background in recruitment many asked and recommended their friends that I look and perhaps help with resumes. I really took pride after building many resumes and seeing how my work got them interviews. More often they were offered the jobs they wanted. After recommendations to start my own business, I took a leap of faith and created “The Career Now Network”, we now help entry level and professionals with resume building and interview skills training. With a network of other professionals we have been able to offer Customer Service and Employee Relations training as well. – Phillip Honore, founder, The Career Now Network, based in Washington, DC

  2. In 2000, I began mystery shopping as a means to be able to assist with our household finances and still stay home with our daughter.

    In 2009, I wrote a book, called The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping, about my experiences as a mystery shopper to help others who were interested in this line of work. A few months later, I became the President of the Independent Mystery Shoppers’ Coalition.

    What started out as a means of supplemental income quickly became my passion. Now, I organize conferences around the country that teach both new and experienced mystery shoppers about our industry. There are approximately 30 sessions on everything from getting started to performing detailed hotel and casino mystery shops. Mystery shopping companies around the globe are recognizing the IMSC conferences as the best one stop educational conference to attend, sponsor and connect with mystery shoppers to perform their jobs.

    My passion for the mystery shopping industry and teaching others has turned into a full time career for me.

    • What mystery shopping companies are you working for?  I have been working with BestMark and they have a lot of automotive and retail shops in my area.  You should check them out if you haven’t already.  http://www.bestmark.com

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