You are here

What to Do When Your Skills Don't Align With Your Passion

October 2, 2013
Stephenie Zamora

Skill (noun):
1. The ability to do something well; expertise.
2. A particular ability.

So many of us get extremely caught up in doing the things we're good at. Maybe it's a trade we learned from our parents growing up or maybe it's what we were directed to go to college for, and we have a degree plus years of experience under our belt.

Regardless, it's not our passion.

This realization can cause a lot of confusion and heartache.

But I spent ___ years and thousands of dollars going to school for this.

This is the only way I know how to make money.

The thing I love to do can't be a real career.

Everyone says I'm so great at this, I would be a fool to change paths.

Here's the truth about "what you do best":

You were given these strengths and skill sets as tools, not necessarily to build your life around.

I'm a prime example of this. My skills, experience and "expertise" are in design and branding. I went to school for it, worked at many firms and agencies, even built a business of my own around it! But it's not my passion. My passion is personal responsibility, and I'm driven by the desire to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

How to Connect Your Passion and Skills

1. Make a Transferable Skills List

The first step towards building a life around your passion, while incorporating your skills and strengths, is to take a look at how they integrate with one another. Start by making a list of all the skills that you've developed or honed as a result of your education, training and experience. Think of as many as possible. In my case, not only did I have all the skills and experience of design, but I learned a ton about running a business, bookkeeping, customer service, working with vendors, pitching, sales, printing and so much more. I gained the tools necessary to build a solid business doing what I love and a different perspective on how to teach it to my audience. Additionally, my personal experience in building a life I didn't love drives the work that I do for others.

Once you have your list, take a look and see what's transferable to your passion. What skills can you use to build a career, business or life around what you really love? Get creative - sometimes the answer is not always obvious or conventional.

2. Reframe Your Situation

Many times you may experience feelings of guilt or shame around the fact that you went to school, trained or spent years of your life following your skills, not your passion. Before you can move forward with what you love, you have to release those feelings and reframe the situation.

First of all, you would not have ended up doing whatever you've been doing without those natural skills and talents. There is a reason you spent time in the field you did and not another. Even if you were shoved into a profession that felt completely out of your skill set, you likely landed in a position that was fitting on some level.

Instead of viewing this as wasted time, work to see it as time spent honing your skills and talents in a different way. Having a unique perspective on how to do things will prove to be invaluable as you pursue your passion. No matter what you've been doing, it will serve you as you in the years to come. Look to positively reframe your situation constantly. There's no sense wasting time in that negative space!

3. Dabble in Your Delights

Don't think that because you spent years as a lawyer you can't "waste time" painting. Or that you have no business building a life around working with kids when all you've done for the past decade of your life is crunch numbers and push papers.

You're drawn to what you're drawn to for a reason. Don't over-think it! Do what you love. Do what you deeply desire to do. The things that light you up, fascinate you and feels right. Feelings should always win out over thoughts.

If you feel like you want to paint and be an artist, paint and be an artist. Don't worry about the thoughts that tell you it's silly, childish, random or a waste of time. Don't think that you should be focusing on that big promotion when you don't love what you do. Put energy into what you love to do, not what you do because you can.