Have you ever heard a variation of the quote, “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”? Some attribute it to Confucius or Mark Twain, while I first heard a similar sentiment expressed by Chicago entrepreneur Larry Levy.
While you may aspire to pursue your dream job, how exactly do you turn what lights a fire in your belly into a solid career with salary and benefits? Here are a few tips on how to marry your passion and purpose.
How to find a job you love
Question what you’re pursuing
Today, Neil Stanglein serves as the international director of development for Delta Zeta Sorority. But he didn’t always imagine having that career. Since the sixth grade, he knew that he wanted to be a television reporter or news anchor. He attended the University of Missouri-Columbia’s (Mizzou) School of Journalism and majored in radio/television. Throughout college, Stanglein helped plan some of the university’s signature events, including homecoming and Greek Week, and also served as an orientation leader, tour guide and editor-in-chief.
During his junior year, he began to question whether TV news was a career path he still wanted to pursue. A summer internship for a senator in Washington, D.C., further opened his eyes to using his journalism degree outside a TV station. After applying to 19 reporting and anchoring jobs and not receiving a single interview, Stanglein began exploring other career opportunities.
“Those included being a house director for a local fraternity, as well as interviewing for a job with the Mizzou Alumni Association,” he says. “That interview helped me realize I was not passionate about journalism, but rather campus and alumni involvement. That led me to start applying to jobs at colleges and universities.”
Through his research, Stanglein learned entering that field usually meant obtaining a master of education degree in college administration—a career path he had not yet considered. His first job following college graduation was as a director of student involvement.
“After one year in that job, I returned to Mizzou to begin my master’s of education degree while continuing to work full-time,” Stanglein recalls. “That began my career in higher education, specifically fraternity and sorority life, for eight years.”
Keep your options open to find a job you love
Stanglein realized in 2013 that his career in higher education was going to have a shelf-life, and began considering a change.
“After talking to friends and mentors, I realized alumni relations or fundraising was a logical next step—I like people and building relationships!” he says.
He transitioned into fraternity/sorority fundraising, which led him to his current role.
In addition to changing goals and interests, pursuing your passion as a profession can potentially lead to issues. This BBC Worklife article details how employers can undervalue and overwork particularly passionate employees, as well as how those employees have a tendency to overlook negatives or toxicity due to their love for—and/or commitment to—the work they’re doing. Stanglein also mentioned the potential financial impact of moving into a career you’re passionate about, such as obtaining another degree.
“It is not a get-rich-quick scenario by any means,” he says. “However, if the job pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head, I think you are doing okay. The BMW may just have to wait, and you might just have to save a little longer for the exotic vacation.”
Stanglein has collected lifelong friends from both his higher education and fundraising careers. He can also share his passion with and bounce ideas off his fiancée, a sorority alumna from Butler University.
What has Stanglein learned along the way?
“To listen to my heart (not necessarily my head) and to ask questions and seek resources that help outline ‘this is what I like to do, and how do I make that a career?’ I also went into things with an attitude of ‘Well, let’s give this a try!’” he says.
Consider growing your side hustle to a full-time gig
According to a 2022 Insuranks survey, 93% of respondents working part- or full-time have a side hustle. Of those with side hustles, “90% say they enjoy their side hustle, and 49% would quit their full-time job if they made enough money from their side hustle. In fact, 41% like their side hustle more than their full-time job,” according to the survey. So if want to make a go of turning that gig into your full-time profession, here are three tips to consider:
- Determine if your part-time passion works as a full-time business. Love to paint a few hours every weekend? Consider how inspired you’ll feel to create when you have 40 hours a week to fill and it’s more closely tied to your overall livelihood.
- Analyze the competition. What does your product or brand offer, or do better, than what exists in the current market? You can build this information into overall product development and marketing.
- Create a business plan. “Crawl, walk, run, sprint” can be a helpful approach for determining how to structure your time and effort in order to build and sustain growth.
Jill McDonnell is a Chicago-based content writer and communications professional. She has a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller novel.