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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

How to Start Doing What You Love—Today

Mondays are a drag for all of us, but if you’d rather be doing something other than your current gig, heading back into work at the beginning of the week can be tortuous. Another long week of data analysis—when you’d love to be designing. Five more days of answering phone calls from angry clients—when you know you’d be great at selling to them. Seriously, how many more Mondays will you have to endure before you can start doing what you love?

Actually, zero. While career changes do, of course, take time, there are some easy ways you can start doing your dream job today. No matter what you do (and want to do), these activities will allow you to get started doing the tasks you love and making progress toward your career goals right now.

This might just be the best Monday yet.

Look for Opportunities at Work

In most companies, there’s more work to be done than there are people to do it. And when you’re trying to make a career change, you can use that to your advantage.

As you’re going through your tasks this week, look around and think about if there are ways you could incorporate more of your dream career into your job. If you’d love to plan events, for example, see if there are any upcoming conferences, meetings, or fundraisers you can lend a hand to. Or, ask someone you admire if you can shadow his or her job for a few hours. An old co-worker of mine, who was an executive assistant but wanted to become a graphic designer, used to spend her lunch hours watching and learning from our creative department—and they eventually tossed her some small projects.

You can also talk to your boss about the type of work you’d like to be doing and get his or her advice on incorporating it into your day-to-day, whether that’s more creative work or more client-facing opportunities. As long as you make sure you’re fully staying on top of your current responsibilities, most bosses are happy to try and assign the type of work you love—if they know what you’re looking for.

Look for Part-Time Gigs

Freelancing, doing volunteer or pro bono work, or simply lending a hand to friends and family can be a great way to dip your toe into a new career path outside of working hours. Spend some time today thinking about how much time you could potentially devote to another venture throughout the week. If you’re longing to write, for example, and you typically have weekends free, carve out four hours on Saturday morning to write articles. An aspiring financial planner with a couple free evenings after work? Offer to help friends put together their monthly budgets or plan their 401(k) portfolios.

When I was looking to change careers, I found a 10-hour per week writing position that I could do on my own time. I didn’t have to quit my job (or even tell my employer I was trying something else)—but I got started doing what I loved.

Write About It

Of course, there are plenty of gigs out there that are a little harder to do for 10 hours per week or part-time. So, instead of doing it, write about it! Start a blog and write about people who are doing amazing work in the space or your take on industry trends. A friend of mine who’s an aspiring event planner doesn’t have time to plan events every weekend, but she found that she does have short bursts of time here and there where she can quickly pull together blog posts on event designs and themes she loves.

Once you get started, commit to updating your blog multiple times per week. It’ll force you to be engaged in what’s going on in the field and connect with people who are doing what you love—and it’ll be a great body of work to showcase once you start talking to prospective employers.

Look for Contests

Many industries offer contests for up-and-comers in the field—especially in creative fields, where challenges for aspiring photographers, designers, and writers abound (National Novel Writing Month starts November 1!). Do some research and see what’s out there in your world, and sign up for something that sounds interesting. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you’re “just starting out”—the whole point is to, well, just get started.


Sign Up for a Class

No matter what you want to be doing, I’m willing to bet that there are classes out there that would help you start working in (or at least learning about) your new field. Check out community colleges in your area, browse courses on Skillshare, or look into professional organizations that offer classes or conferences.

Better yet, see if you can take them as part of your current gig. A friend of mine who’s in construction management has been intrigued by interior design work after working with several designers on her team. She made a pitch to her boss that learning about design would help her work better on the project, and he’s now paying for a semester’s worth of classes.

I won’t lie—making a career change isn’t easy. But instead of thinking of it as a big, huge change that’ll take years to make, try to get started on something—even if it’s small—that will help point you in the direction of your dreams today.

Photo courtesy of iStock / Thinkstock.