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What do I do with my life? What am I good at? Should I pursue a career that makes the most money, or find something that I excel at and enjoy?

These are questions that most of us have asked ourselves at one point or another in our lives, especially in our 20s and 30s.

Unfortunately, these questions are often met with unoptimistic answers. I’ve received plenty of lectures about how I should prioritize stability over everything.

But this doesn’t have to be our reality; there are always creative ways to make money doing things you actually enjoy.

Yes, I know the common wisdom from Boomers is that we have to put our nose to the grindstone from 9 to 5, but I think we deserve more.

The millennial-friendly career

When choosing a work path, an all-too-common mistake is deciding on something simply because it’s lucrative or comfortable. 

Sure, that’s the safe option. But, from my very real experience, climbing the corporate ladder because you think it’s “the responsible thing to do” can lead to burnout, depression, and even crippling anxiety. (Just keeping it real).

Nobody is denying that financial stability is important.

I remember when I finally started making decent money and I could get manicures! I could afford a nice cocktail on the weekends. I could even buy clothes that weren’t 90% off. Money is nice – for sure.

The issue is that we’re told that there are only a few career paths that we can take to get there and that other means to the same end are a waste of time. There seems to be a recurring narrative that giving up the dream of doing something you’re good at is worth the financial gain that you’ll find if you do something “practical”.

This is, simply put, not true. Finding a job that you love absolutely can be practical. Practicality and happiness are not mutually exclusive.

You can find a career that you both excel at and love to do.

The flipside is finding a career that you don’t love, but staying there because it pays the bills.

When I made the glorious leap to full-time freelancing, I could tell how insanely jealous my former coworkers were. Everyone feels trapped in cube jail, from my experience.

I’ve had countless people tell me that they hate their jobs, and they wish they would have chosen a different direction “while they had the chance.”

When you settle for a 9 to 5 simply because it’s practical, you neglect the talents, passions, and strengths that could really fulfill and excites you.

I’ve met several people who decided to switch up their job scenario after realizing that the 9-to-5 wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. One was a professor who decided at age 43 that she wanted to take a different path to make money, one that she enjoyed and thrived in.

Another was a friend who was unsure of her degree and decided to pursue freelancing, which currently enables her to travel and set her own hours and financial goals. Plus, working in yoga pants is uber comfortable right?

No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can absolutely change your job without losing financial stability.

How do I know what I’m good at? Do I even have strengths that are worthwhile?

This is another one of those questions that can be overwhelming and frustrating at times. If I want to find a job that I love and make money doing it, how do I figure it out? What am I good at? Where do I even begin to look for my purpose in the context of a career?

There are several key things to keep in mind when trying to discover what you’re good at and how that can translate into your work life. 

According to a Forbes article titled “4 Ways To Figure Out What You’re Good At (Not Just What You’re Passionate About),” one of the best ways to find what you’re good at is to think about what skills have most helped you thrive throughout your life.

What are the abilities that you have honed throughout the years that serve you most in your life now? Using those skills in a career will come naturally to you because you’ve spent a lot of time developing them already.

Did you fight with siblings a lot and discover how to mediate? You’re probably really good at conflict resolution.

Did you write really convincing letters asking your parents for things? Maybe you even used that skill in college to ask professors for a later deadline. You may be a skilled persuasive communicator and could be an incredible asset in marketing.

There are so many skills that can translate into hundreds of different types of careers, side hustles, online stores, and anything you can imagine. This is 2021 and nothing is off-limits.

The important thing is to play to your strengths, using your talents to guide you to the right job. If you’ve always been extremely talkative and loved to chat, chances are you’d do really well in some form of communications like freelance writing, blog posts, etc. If you loved to write in your diary as a child, you may be a fantastic journalist or columnist.

Even if you loved to make embarrassing videos with your friends on your computer, that can be translated into a real-world skill and can be used to make a living.

(Have you heard of TikTok? It’s kind of the biggest media platform of the moment and it’s all about embarrassing videos.)

So, how do you take that step? How do you merge your purpose, passion, and skills?

How do I find my purpose?

When asking yourself “what is my purpose?” the best place to start is to think about what makes you feel the most passionate. What activities make you feel capable, make you feel good about yourself? What qualities do others admire about you, or you admire about yourself? A great way to find your purpose (or multiple different purposes and passions) is to figure out what makes you feel strong, capable, worthy, etc.

What sets you apart from others? Is there something unique that you’ve always loved about yourself? What are people always asking you about? (for me it’s resumes. I’m the resume whisperer)

Did you always receive the same compliment about a certain skill throughout your life? Finding your purpose is about searching for the things that make you feel capable and fulfilled.

When asking yourself, what am I good at, all you have to do is think about third grade. I remember how much I loved writing. I even wrote in my journal that I wanted to be an author. Today I make the bulk of my income as a freelance writer.

So what you liked to do when you were young is significant. Remember back when you were little – what did you spend hours doing? Typically, we start to show aptitudes or affinities for certain things even at a young age.

Were you always doodling in class instead of focusing on the assignments? You may have an artistic streak that could turn you into a freelance illustrator.

My husband was always entrepreneurial. He would buy penny candy and resell it for a nickel. Talk about ROI. Now he’s an investor (no surprise there!)

Careful, don’t let your strengths trap you

On the other hand, just because you’re a child prodigy in math, doesn’t mean you need to be a mathematics professor. An important thing to consider is that, just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you necessarily want to make that your career.

One of my favorite books about finding your purpose is The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle Laporte. This quote stopped me in my tracks:

Be careful what you’re good at—you could end up doing it for years. – Danielle LaPorte

All my life I had been an achievement junkie. I thought if I was good at something, I simply had to do it. It never dawned on me that I had a choice.

Reading that book was a turning point. A revelation. I started my life with new intention after that. I wanted to feel good every day doing the work that I was doing.

I may have been making great money during my years in corporate, but I grew more unfulfilled with each raise or promotion.

Look to the strengths of others

One great way to take your passion and turn it into a career is to find someone that has already done it. Gaining wisdom and advice from someone with expertise in the field you want to enter is extremely helpful when trying to start a new career pursuing your passion.

Starting out on a new career path can be daunting, and finding a mentor will make the transition less overwhelming. A mentor can help you take your first steps into this new venture because they’ve been in your shoes and know what works. Seek out people in the field that started out from a similar place that you are starting, and follow in their footsteps until you get your bearings.

According to Business News Daily, one important reason that a mentor is so helpful is that can act as a sounding board.

Starting out in a new career, you may not necessarily know what works and what doesn’t. The right mentor can encourage your good ideas and help you sidesteps some mistakes early on in the process.

Not only will they impart knowledge on what they’ve learned, but they will also be able to discern which strategies you have will work and which ones might not.

If you have an idea for a career path but it’s relatively unique or you can’t seem to find anybody who is doing what you want to do, then find somebody who has a good business model or who is excelling in and passionate about their career.

People like this have pinpointed their strengths and manifested success for themselves in their careers. Surrounding yourself with people like this will teach you invaluable skills and tips about how to build a career from scratch, even if they’re not within the specific niche you’re looking to explore.

The secret is you already have the strengths and skills you need to make money. What you really need is to give yourself permission to be happy. I know that sounds cliche AF. But once you realize that people have the power to do what they want, instead of following the 9 to 5 template, your possibilities open up drastically.

Perhaps the most common thing that holds people back from venturing into a new career is the fear that they can’t do it. We’ve all been taught at some point that we need to find a practical job and cling to it. That kind of job provides stability, sure.

But it also can be the one thing holding you back from finding a career that you’re good at and that fulfills your purpose. Take the first step. Do something to begin this exciting new chapter in what will be an amazing story. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from grabbing a hold of something incredible.

The path to success can be a little bumpy when you’re starting down a new road, but the destination is so worth it.