How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

How to make a living doing what you love

Roadtrip Nation has spent 15 years road-tripping all over the world to interview inspiring people—from lawyers to lobstermen—who love the career they’re in. Why? To figure out how people find satisfying careers, so that those of us still looking can do the same.

At your core, what really makes you happy? This is one of the most important questions the career experts at Roadtrip Nation ask as they take to the road to cull wisdom from thousands of individuals who truly love their work.

All this wisdom–the self-confessed missteps and revelations of people in all kinds of careers—forms the basis of Roadtrip Nation’s career resources, which are now available to you. Essentially, it’s age-old advice being passed down from generation to generation, but in a truly modern way. Let’s explore some of the insights gained from Roadtrip Nation’s years on the road and how you can apply them to finding a career you love.

1. Start with who you are: Self-exploration is a great exercise in finding career happiness, and it’s the first step Roadtrip Nation recommends in finding your career sweet spot.

The traditional way of finding a job was less about you and more about the world around you; it consisted of browsing a list of careers and picking one that vaguely matched your skills and salary hopes. The problem is, that method focuses on what exists externally rather than what you have to offer internally.

‘Your compass is your interests, values and attributes – and finding work that fits your personality quirks is crucial if you want to get more out of work than just a paycheck’.

Roadtrip Nation

Everyone has different goals and motivations that drive them, so truly knowing yourself will help you match who you are to jobs that engage you on a meaningful level, regardless of the money you make. Doing “meaningful” work doesn’t mean you have to cure cancer by the way. Whether it’s conducting life-changing research or working on a reality show, you can improve lives in countless ways. The key is to avoid choosing a career because you’ve been pressured to feel like you should do it. Instead choose something because you actually want to do it.

If you are unsure of what you want to do, Roadtrip Nation suggests thinking about what you do in your free time that can transition into a job that feels like play. For example, they once interviewed a jelly bean flavour scientist who turned her love of candy into a job making barf-flavored jelly beans (among other flavours!)

2. Look at who you want to be: If you have found your hobby, great; now think about jobs that align with this activity. Don’t know where to start? Do some investigation beyond the obvious. We all know name-brand careers like doctor, lawyer, teacher—those trodden paths we’ve known about since we were kids playing “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But our options are much more vast than we could ever have imagined, and they continue to grow as new industries and technologies crop up. Think about what you want to do in terms of interests—not industries—and you’ll see there are countless jobs that combine your skills and hobbies, from doing public relations for a beer company, to organising rock climbing expeditions, designing video game environments, and beyond.

Once you have an idea of a job area you’d like to explore, reach out to professionals doing the work who can open your eyes to what the job is really like. Their knowledge of the ins, outs, and pitfalls can help you see whether your expectations of your dream job match reality.

do you want to work in New York City?

3. What about a detour? What should you do when you dream doesn’t happen right away—or at all? Sometimes career paths do not follow a straight line. If you’ve hit a roadblock, remember that finding your way around them is an important part of this whole process. Don’t see failures as shameful—they are helpful indicators that you need to approach things from a new angle. Maybe you can’t be a famous dancer, but you have aptitude for choreography, arts administration, fundraising, or anything in between. When you accept that change is a vehicle for growth, you free yourself up to take risks that will bring you closer—not further away—from where want to be.

Most importantly, don’t be disheartened. ‘Our interviews and resources prove that even the successful people you look up to often didn’t know where they were going when they first started out. Almost every person endured—and overcame—obstacles, and you can too’!

4. Until you reach your destination: As you have probably heard, life is a journey, not a destination, so it’s vitally important to enjoy the ride. ‘More often than not, we’ve found that the things people traditionally equate with success – money, power, prestige – don’t actually add up to career happiness’. 

It’s true: studies show that money doesn’t lead to career happiness. This theme is present throughout the interviews carried out by Roadtrip Nation, and rings especially true for Todd Sotkiewicz, president of Lonely Planet Americas: ‘Find an avocation, not a vocation’. Likewise don’t be afraid to continually challenge yourself even when you think you’ve achieved your goals. ‘Staying satisfied requires a process of constant appraisal,’ Roadtrip Nation tell us, using two of their case studies as examples: ‘Laura Danly is an astronomer who reached what she thought would be the pinnacle of career success at NASA, only to find it wasn’t the right fit, but educating others was. Pam Gaber was a high-powered pharmaceutical rep who realised that despite her prosperity, her true passion lies in helping animals’.

The best approach is to follow your instincts and pursue something you can put your heart and soul into. So, what’s your dream? Follow Roadtrip Nation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find it.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum