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Are there holes in your life where your skills and experiences don’t connect with your passions and dreams? Try this bridging exercise to brainstorm and explore possible jobs that connect your skill (what comes naturally to you) to your passion (what you love like crazy) and your burning desire. 

Jot down a list with the following categories: Skills. Passion. Burning desire. What’s missing?

List everything you can think of under each category without trying to analyze too much. List your skills, everything you are capable of doing, and your burning desire. Then look at the list and figure out what’s missing; in other words, if you are honest with your list, would it put you on a course toward doing what you love?

This exercise is designed to help you figure out how to transfer your skills and your passions to finding the kind of work you love. By figuring out what’s missing, you determine what you need to learn and where, and how you can gain experience. Here’s an example of how a fired sales rep benefited from this exercise.

Tiffany Giles of Los Angeles re-created herself when she switched her career from burned-out sales rep to special effects makeup artist at a major film studio. Here’s how she used the brainstorm list.

Skills: “I can talk to people, convince them I have good ideas. I can sell cosmetics. I’m patient. I don’t give up easily. I have a creative imagination. I know how to put makeup on people. I can draw. I can sculpt little monsters and creatures out of modeling clay. I’m a stickler for details. I can sew. I can make my own Halloween costumes. I’m a pretty good hustler.”

Passion: “I love monsters, horror movies, science fiction and comic books. I love Halloween! Creating outrageous costumes gives me a rush. I like working with my hands.”

Burning Desire: “To make money using my imagination! How cool would that be! I’d gleefully spend the whole day working with my hands creating something from my imagination.”

What’s missing?

“A job that allows me to use my imagination. Experience work-ing in a creative field. Knowing what to do with my passions. Training for a creative job as a designer of …Halloween costumes? Movie monsters? Fantasy outfits? A more fun way to work with makeup other than selling it to retailers.”

Giles identified her passion and discovered what was missing in her life. She selected one key point from each list and linked them together to find a career that excited her.

Sales + people person + makeup + imagination + sci-fi and horror movie obsession = special effects makeup artist.

What’s missing? For Giles: knowing how to apply special effects makeup, experience, and money to learn the trade.

After researching the special effects makeup field and talking with someone in the job placement department at a special effects makeup school in Los Angeles, Giles applied for student loans and signed up for a program that would provide her with the necessary qualifications.

Her student loans covered most of her tuition and housing expense. For extra income, she freelanced at photography studios doing makeup for actors who needed headshots. Later she teamed up with a photographer and started a “fantasy photo portrait” business, where Giles transformed her customers with an exotic fantasy look using costumes and makeup.

Chances are you’ve met or heard of people who turned their passions into careers. Contact them and ask them how they did it. You might find out it’s easier than you imagined. Start by thinking about your obsessions, hobbies, subjects you love to talk about at parties and the kinds of magazines or websites you’re compelled to visit for clues.

Most of us are too narrow-thinking regarding our skills and possible employers. There are more possibilities out there, but you have to look for them. The “turning lemons into lemonade” approach can be applied to adapting your product or service to a new market, or transferring your skills to a different industry. Make the most of these tools: résumés, recruiters, training, volunteering, internships, and pro-bono work

A savvy recruiter can help you write a killer résumé that showcases your qualifications. There are different styles of résumé writing. No matter which you choose, your objective is to influence employers and convince them you can make their lives brighter.

And then there’s the interview: John McCrea, managing partner at Bialla & Associates, Executive Search Consultants in San Francisco, shares this advice. “I find that the best interview techniques are just common sense: dress well, make eye contact, etc.”

That said, these are the most important things to keep in mind: Do your homework. Try the product; sign up for the service; Google the company and learn everything you can about them and take mental notes to use in the actual interview. It will indicate that you care and are passionate about the opportunity and it will make your interview conversations that much more dynamic.

Listening is much more important than talking. Most people tend to talk too much in interviews and oversell themselves, and they miss what the interviewer is interested in hearing. Listening cues you into what the interviewer is interested in. I’ve witnessed an odd phenomenon over the years; most interviewers like to talk. If they do most of the talking it is amazing how often they will think you are brilliant. By the way, you can always stimulate interviewers to talk by simply asking questions. What are your biggest needs? How will you be evaluating the role?

Above all, be yourself. You want to connect with the interviewer. Most decisions are made based on chemistry. If the chemistry is good you will leap to the top of the heap, and anything missing from your background will become unimportant. If the chemistry is not good, then the perfect résumé won’t matter. Plus, you want them to hire you for who you are. You want the fit to be good as much as they want the fit to be good.

Follow up. Write a thank you note (or thank you e-mail). Most people don’t, and doing so will make you more impressive to the interviewer. They’ll like you and remember you.

Be persistent. Don’t assume that because you didn’t get a job they don’t like you. You may be the right person, but there is not an opportunity for you at the present time. Persistence keeps you on top their mind when the right opportunity comes around. Just be sensitive to the fact that there is a difference between persistent and obnoxious.

Be patient, particularly in this environment. Don’t look desperate. It makes you a less attractive candidate at best, tainted goods at worst. One option is to consider offering your services on a consulting basis. Present it as a potential win-win. The company can test drive you without committing to a full-time hire, and you can likewise check out the fit. You are positioning yourself as someone with functional expertise they can use, not someone desperate for a job. If you have done a good job of understanding what you are good at you will know the strengths you can leverage in this regard.

Don’t lose heart. Dare to live your passion. The possibilities truly are unlimited.

Candice Reed is the co-author of Thank You for Firing Me! How to Catch the Next Wave of Success After You lose Your Job. For more articles and ideas, check out thankyouforfiringme.org


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