Working For Your Passion

Dandelion by Melissa Nucera

Artwork by Melissa Nucera

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to find your passion and do work that you love. I wanted to write about it here because I’m obviously passionate about books but I’ve never really given that much thought to a career related to this particular passion. Why? Frankly, because the opportunity hasn’t presented itself. As much as I would love to have a book-related job, it’s not something that I’m actively pursuing for several reasons: 1) I have no idea how to find a job like that, 2) I’m not even sure if I’m qualified for it and 3) I guess I haven’t been willing to take the plunge and risk the stability provided by jobs I’ve had. Well, based on what I’m seeing, it looks like I have to work harder if I want to find a job that I’m passionate about instead of just waiting for it to happen. I’m giving this a lot of though because it would be amazing to have a job I’m excited about, something that I love doing.

Zen Habits talks a lot about finding the job you love. Here’s a little snippet that I’d like to share:

The work you love is out there. Waiting for you. But it won’t find you — you have to go looking for it.

Another excerpt from a Harvard Business Review post because I think he’s also talking about passion, How to Let Your Purpose Find You:

But finding a purpose is not like shopping. The unforgiving truth us: it’s a little more like boot camp. It hurts, it’s hard, but you can emerge fitter, tougher, better. Want purpose? Prepare to be left black and blue — all over, over and over again. Purpose beats you up; it bruises you; it’s no mere shadow-boxing with “life goals” but a bare-knuckle gladiatorial contest between you, and the heavyweight champion known as a life that matters. Like Big Love, it doesn’t just give you scrapes — it leaves with you scars.

The thing is, I just started a new job. It’s the reason why I moved to Singapore. It’s only been a few months and honestly, it’s not easy adjusting to this new chapter of my life but I see a lot of potential in what I’m currently doing. There’s so much to learn and build upon. It’s far too early to tell if this is something that I’d like to do for the rest of my life though. I’m sorry for being vague but I’m hesitant in giving out details about my personal life and that includes my job. Also, I don’t know if I enjoy reading and blogging only because those activities let me relax and unwind. Will I still feel the same way if I had to earn a living doing something similar or would I get sick of it? I think I’m still in the exploration stage and even though I’ve been blogging for years, I haven’t decided if I love books enough to base my career choices on that.

I’m mostly thinking out loud here and I just wanted to share my thoughts. Also, I’m curious about the rest of you readers and bloggers out there. I know a lot of you have book-related jobs (as librarians, authors, book sellers, editors, publishers, etc.) but there are also people like me, who don’t work in the field. Some have a mix of both: they have a day job but they work on the side as an author or editor or something like that. For those of you who have careers in the book industry, how did you go about pursuing that track? What are the pros and cons of working in the industry? And for those who have the same situation as I do, have you ever considered going in a different direction professionally so you can do something you love? Did you feel like you had to take a risk in order to do so?

24 thoughts on “Working For Your Passion

  1. For myself, I started volunteering in my school libraries when I was in middle school and then worked in my university library when I was there. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to do that and that any other job I took would have to be temporary. It took me over a year and depleted my savings pretty badly (I think I had $300 when my first paycheck came?) but I did find first part-time and then full-time work. And it has its difficulties–every office/work environment does. Plus there are so many uncertainties about the future of libraries and physical books. Libraries also don’t pay wonderfully well, so compared to some of my classmates I am not as well off financially. But I AM doing something I love, and feel so fortunate to be able to do so.

    One of the major cons from my pov, and this is a whole can of worms, is that there’s a distinct less-good-than-me attitude by a lot of librarians (those with an MLIS) in my system towards those of us who don’t have an MLIS. This is also, unfortunately, pretty common in other places. Quite honestly, I can’t afford to go back to school right now, much though I would love to. That doesn’t mean that I’m any less professional, dedicated, or passionate about books.

    • Starting with volunteering is a good idea. It’s something that never occurred to me because our school library didn’t have a program like that and most books there were for classes, not a lot of fiction titles. So did you take up library science because you knew that you wanted to become a librarian? It seems like if you want to go after what you love, you usually have to take a financial risk – what you said about your savings being depleted supports this. I had a feeling libraries don’t pay well but they probably pay enough, right? Your classmates that are better off financially, do they love what they’re doing?

      Oh wow, I did hear that you had to have certain degrees to move forward in the system but I didn’t know that there would be some kind of snobbery in that environment. MLIS is a masters degree in library science? I know exactly what you mean about doing a good job even if you don’t have that extra degree. I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t had an issue with that but I get the feeling that I’d encounter it sooner or later, especially now that a lot of my friends are getting post-graduate degrees. I want to go back to school but I want to study something that I love, or something that would lead me to my dream job.

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  3. I don’t work with books, but as I’m majoring in illustration I obviously plan to. And I will admit, sometimes its scary and there are a whole lot of people telling me that its hard to make money in art, its hard to freelance, that the market is unpredictable…. on and on. But I’ve decided to make a go of it. I don’t know what will happen, but really loving what I do is important to me.

    • Rosie! So glad to hear from you. Majoring in illustration sounds like so much fun. That’s something that I’d love to do if I had any talent but no such like. Just imagine, you can be a book cover designer or an illustrator for children’s books. AND you can do fan art for your favorite books whenever you want to. Yay you for doing what you love in spite of what everyone else is saying! You’re way ahead of me on that score.

  4. Another great post, Chachic. I think most book industry careers are fairly competitive and don’t pay well, but it’s a trade off for doing something you love, and it is worth it for some people. A few years ago when I was working 30 hours a week at the library, I never got sick of it, nor has my job gotten close to making me hate books, but I can see that happening in other librarian positions or other book-related professions.

    • Holly, are they really competitive? I guess that would make sense since there are a lot of book lovers all over the world. I mean, just look at how many bloggers are out there. Is 30 hours a week a full-time job and is that spread over 5 days? Just wondering because I’ve always worked 40 hours a week (or even more when I have to work overtime).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I think you know that I’ve always been curious about this but I’m thinking about it more and more lately. I have no idea if it will lead to anything but I think it’s a good idea to start a discussion through this blog post.

  5. Hey, Chachic! It’s been a while since I’ve left a comment here or even gone around to other blogs to comment. And I directly blame that on my book-related job.

    Kidding. Well, partly.

    I work in publishing, but we’re also a conversion house, bookseller, and distributor. Everything ebooks. And I love my job, because it gives me the chance to work directly with what I love. But work is intense and fast-paced, especially in the ebook world. Hence, the lack of blogging.

    But I have to say it’s also a bit difficult working in books and being a free-for-all reading advocate. Life was simpler when I was just a reader and blogger. But now, seems like I have to think about things from the opposite side, especially when it comes to bookselling. I haven’t been asked to do or say things I don’t believe in, which is wonderful. But there are a lot of politics especially in the traditional lit scene, and if you’re not tough, it can be very disheartening.

    Oh, and to answer your earlier questions: yes, I had to take a risk. I quit a job I was immensely bored with, even if it was a bit related to reading. I wasn’t out to get into publishing, but since I did some editing jobs for an educational publishing house, they hired me when I was free. And then I got this job. How did they find me? Through my blog and other online presences. Which is why I think if you’re passionate about something and you put yourself out there enough, opportunities might come knocking. Or you just go find them.:)

    • Honey, thanks for dropping by to comment! I appreciate it. More so because you mentioned that you haven’t been commenting on a lot of blogs lately. 😛

      So the nature of the job is intense and fast-paced? Or is it because the company is still in the process of expanding and exploring different markets? Although that kind of thing is pretty common in most start-ups (is Flipside considered a start-up?)

      See, that’s what I’m worried about. Will it still be fun if you have to worry about things from a different point of view – you can’t be as laidback as you once were when you were just a reader and a blogger. I guess it really depends on the role or what kind of work you’re doing. I think it would make me sad to give up the blog and even sadder if I didn’t have that much time to read. Although it’s probably worth all the trouble if it means I get to have a job that I love. Work takes up so much of our time that we have to at least like what we’re doing – otherwise, we’d be miserable.

      Haha in my mind, you’re one of the success stories because you’re working with books and you love what you’re doing. PLUS you got that job because of how passionate you are about books, I still remember when you were telling us about how you were initially contacted by your current boss. So I guess it’s a good idea to just keep reading and blogging. 🙂 At least I still have my blog even if I haven’t been posting as actively as before.

  6. Well, that’s definitely some interesting food for thought. I actually got asked (in a job interview) once… “What do you want?” It was the only question asked for the entire interview. And I couldn’t answer. Because technically I know what industries I’d like, but it’s breaking in that’s causing problems. LOL. I’m not giving up yet though. It’ll come some day. It’d be difficult to break into publishing here in the Philippines though, at least if you’re interested in getting into an international publishing house. I still find it strange why most of the big publishing houses opened their Asian regional offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Singapore without considering the Philippines at all.

    • I heard an interesting job interview question today: “How is this different from your dream job?” I would have been stumped if I got asked that question. Kind of like that question that you mentioned. And yes, exactly. We’re aware of what we want but it’s a struggle to break into that space.

      That’s something that I also don’t understand, why aren’t there bigger publishing offices in the Philippines when most people speak English. I hope publishers realize that there’s a big market back home and that they should invest in the country. Big publishing houses have regional offices in Singapore? Hmm maybe I should check them out. Haha.

  7. I’m like you in not being in the book industry. I am happy though – right now book blogging is my own thing that I do in my spare time, while work is in an entirely different sphere. So not much help from me, but if you are seriously considering changing careers, might as well ask earlier rather than later!

    • Yeah, I compartmentalize as well – work and real life is different from blogging. But I’m trying to decide if it might be a good idea to merge the two. I’m really not sure if that’s something that I’d be happy with though, I guess that’s part of the risk. You’re happy with your job though? I think I could become happy with my current one, if I could just learn to love living here.

  8. I feel like I’ve been talking about this topic a lot with people lately–maybe we’re just on the same wavelength. I think I like being on the fringes of the book world as a blogger. I’ve worked in a bookstore for a few years on and off and it is sometimes really disheartening how little people read, how little some employees read, etc. (though I’m sure there are lots of booksellers who know a ton) I think you’re right that there might be a bit of burnout if it was books at work and books for fun after work.

    • Hey, I had no idea you worked in a bookstore for a few years! So sad that it was disheartening for you though. Are you thinking of going back to that kind of work? Sometimes I wish I could give it a try just so I would know what it would feel like, so there won’t be any “what ifs” for me. Let’s see if I can make it happen. For now, I still need to give my current job a chance and see where that would lead.

  9. I enjoyed reading this post! It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking and reflecting on lately – what I’m truly passionate about and what I would love to wake up in the morning and just do. I’m currently in the same position as you, but I’m starting to feel restless, dissatisfied and inspired to move into an entirely different field! While I certainly can’t do that (since I’m saving up for my wedding) anytime soon, I am hopeful that at the end of 2013, I will get to pursue my passion for writing.

    • Alexa, good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way! Hope you can find a way to pursue your passion sooner rather than later. I hope I can do the same, would love to have a job that I’m excited about. It’s pretty exciting that you’re planning for your wedding. 🙂 I still remember your post about that proposal in Fully Booked.

  10. Personally, I moved to the US because I loved books in English so much. (I’m from Mexico.) I now work at a Barnes & Noble as a head cashier. For now, I love working with book merchandize and so forth. The next step up for me at this point would be to be a merchandize manager.

    I’ve often wondered about writing for a living, but I’ve decided I would hate that. I like writing for myself, as a relaxation or for love of the art. I’d like to publish someday. But if I wrote for a living (say…for a magazine, newspaper, etc..) I would hate it. I already tried freelance copywriting once before and soon felt like shooting myself. lol

    Much luck for you!! It really does take time and much self-exploration to figure out what you want in life. I wish you the best! 😀

    • Alejandra, sorry for the really late reply. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t able to reply to your comment. That’s great that you moved from Mexico to the US because you love reading English books. Even better that you’re working at B&N, which you seem to be enjoying. It looks like you have a career path that you can follow while you’re there?

      Me too, I don’t think I can be a freelance writer and I don’t see myself publishing a novel either. I’ve never even attempted to write a book.

      Thanks for the well wishes! I do know that it will take time for me to figure things out, I don’t mind just as long as I get there eventually. 🙂

      • hey there! I actually don’t work at B&N anymore! 🙂 I work at Cobalt, a Seattle corporation that works with car delearship websites. I love working with websites, so cool 😀 But I DO want to publish a book though! 🙂

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