Categorized | Career

Turn Hobbies Into Careers

Posted on 20 November 2009

Peder Nelson loves both skiing and mountain biking. So when it came time for him to decide on his major at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., he quickly chose recreation.

“I thought I wanted to work at a ski area,” he says, explaining that he wasn’t exactly certain of what kind of work he would do.

To be extra sure about his major, Peder sought help from Layne Meredith Nelson, director of career services and academic support at Western State.

“She helped me out a lot,” he says. “I took some career tests to feel out if recreation was a strong point for me. It was one of the top things on the list of jobs that would fit my personality.”

Peder, who’s not related to Layne, says he began working in the career center during his freshman year and became familiar with all it had to offer. So when he became interested in global positioning and geographic information systems — computerized mapping — in a sophomore environmental studies class, he knew where to go to get help in finding how to turn his interest into a career.

Peder researched the uses for the mapping systems, which are primarily used in engineering. He learned that the same techniques that are used to map things like flood plains and water sources can be used in recreation.

“There’s a growing need for mountain bike mapping,” Peder says, explaining that ski areas could benefit from the mapping techniques as well. “It’s kind of the wave of the future.”

Through career services, Peder found an opportunity to perform a “guest analysis” for the Crested Butte Mountain Resort, using a special geographic information systems computer program to track and map where the resort’s guests live and help predict where to target advertising for future guests.

“A lot of marketing firms are starting to use it,” Peder says. “People understand things much better when they see maps.”

Peder spent the summer between his junior and senior years volunteering for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, teaching employees how to use global positioning and geographic information equipment. Then he spent the fall semester of his senior year as a teaching assistant in a geographic information systems class at Western State. He has been able to keep his major in recreation and tailor it to his newfound interest. He knows he has found his calling.

Making Your Interests Marketable

Layne Nelson says that Peder isn’t the only student she’s counseled who’s been able to find a way to make a living doing what he loves. And she points out that any student with a strong interest can do the same.

What can you do if want to turn an interest into a career?

“There’s no set routine, really,” Layne says. “A lot of it is just brainstorming. I usually start out by asking students what they really see themselves doing to make sure they understand what they’re talking about…A lot of it is just conversation.”

Trish Bergmaier, director of career services at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., says she starts in the same way with students who are looking to make their interests marketable.

“The first thing I like to do is sit down and talk with them,” she says. “I ask them what are some things they are good at.”

Both career counselors say they often give students assessment tests to help them decide if they’re really suited to the area they’re considering.

“I’ll also send them away to do some research about the careers they may be interested in,” Layne says.

Bergmaier says she also likes to have students do research in books and on the Internet.

Some students, Bergmaier adds, know what career they want to pursue, but need to find an appropriate major. She points to a student she counseled several years ago who wanted to become a wedding planner.

“She wanted a four-year degree and she wanted to stay at our university,” Bergmaier says, explaining that the student knew someone who already ran a wedding-planning business.

“I had her do informational interviewing,” Bergmaier says. “I had her look at some wedding planning books and referred her to a professional association.”

After all that, Bergmaier says, she and the student began looking at possible majors.

“She chose management with an emphasis in small business,” Bergmaier says, adding that the student also spent her weekends working for the friend who is already in the business. By the time she graduated, Bergmaier says, she was ready to go into business for herself.

Layne says she also encourages students to talk to people working in fields related to their interests.

“We give out names of people they can talk to,” she says. “Sometimes that helps clarify things for them.”

Layne stresses that students who hope to turn an interest into a career shouldn’t try to go it alone.

“Take advantage of the resources at your career center,” she says. “Talk to faculty members. Go to career fairs…Just get some idea.”

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Gerry says:

    Turning your hobby into a job, career or business is nothing new. Photography is a prime example especially now with what you can do on stock photography sites. I certainly agree that doing something you love instead of something you are doing just to earn money is a much better way to live your life.

  2. New York Wedding Photographers says:

    You have to follow your passions if you want to live a fulfilling life! Don’t sell your time strictly for money!

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