If your passion is collecting Barbie memorabilia, is this really helpful to identifying a reasonably paying job? A lot of people are suspicious of starting with their interests to determine possible career paths. Most people start with their skills and what they are good at, and then think of where they might apply these. The problem with that second approach is you might be good at something that you don’t like. So you pursue something that is feasible only to end up doing something day in and day out that drains you. Another problem with that second approach is that it assumes that your skills are fixed and finite. You will evolve, and you will pick up new skills. So why limit yourself to who you happen to be right now?
However, when you start with your interests, you start with something you know you like. You may not like it enough to make it a career but that’s another blog post about the need to revisit your career assumptions on a regular basis. For now, your interests are a good starting point if one of your priorities is to like what you do.
But back to Barbie: what happens when what you like seems esoteric or too unrelated to a possible job? I made the Barbie example up, but when I do ask this question of my career transition clients in earnest, most have esoteric interests yes, but not exclusively so. They have many interests, and looking at all of their interests reveals patterns, priorities, and possibilities to further consider. So keep in mind that it is unlikely that you would be faced with carving out a career choice just based on something as narrow and specific as a love for Barbie. But even if you that’s all you had to go on:
You could work at Mattel. Mattel produces Barbie, and maybe you want to contribute in some way to that business, whether in administration, production, marketing, or other department. Do you want to bring something to market?
You could work at Toys ‘R’ Us. Maybe it’s selling Barbie and/or other toys. Maybe Barbie represents a playfulness that would make you suitable for toy sales. Do you want to sell?
You could work at eBay. Maybe it’s the collecting element, rather than Barbie itself that is your interest. Maybe you need to work in and around collectors, so you want to consider collecting communities such as eBay. Do you want to work with a specific customer demographic?
You could work in fashion. Maybe it’s the fashion angle of Barbie, and you need to look at careers in fashion. Do you have a creative interest?
You could work at a non-profit on leadership for girls. Maybe you are struck by how Barbie is at the top of her game in whatever incarnation she happens to be, and you want to foster that same kind of spirit for girls. Do you have a mission that pulls at you?
There is a lot more work that needs to be done with any of the above examples to really see if these career options are viable. But these suggestions are shared to prove a point that many career options can spring from something as simple and seemingly non-career related as a love for Barbie. If you think that your interests are impractical, you haven’t translated them in a way that is actionable. Rather than dismiss what your natural curiosities and preferences are trying to tell you, take a leap and believe that identifying work you love is somewhere rooted in things you love.
This post also appeared on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/work-in-progress/2011/01/03/how-to-translate-your-interests-into-viable-job-targets-part-1-believe-your-interests-matter/