Can Your Passion Be Your Profession

Belicia T. Tan
6 min readMay 25, 2021

Growing up in an Asian household with immigrant parents, I was told to pursue a practical career. Practical for Asian immigrant parents meant pursuing a major in college that would get you a job.

But as we all know, the major we pursue (or are told to pursue) doesn’t necessarily translate into the thing we’re ultimately passionate for. There’s very few of us who actually end up sticking to the job our major tells us to go for. After a couple of years of working, most often realize that their job is a profession, rather than a passion.

So the question here is, can your passion be your profession? Or do you have to sacrifice a passion for a profession and a profession for a passion? In other words, are they mutually exclusive?

Photo from Unsplash by Ian Schneider

I’m sure you already know that the answer is, “Yes, your passion can be your profession but it depends.”

It depends on what that passion is, how deep your passion is and how available that passion is.

Let’s take an example — someone who’s passionate for film-making, but currently works as an Investment Banker. Most would wonder, how in the world does one go from Wall Street to Hollywood.

Well, the short answer is, you don’t go from career to another, you grow from one career to the next.

Unveiling the Passion

Most people probably wouldn’t wake up one day and suddenly think to themselves, I’m going to quit my job in Career X and go to Career Y. Instead, the build up to that decision is a progression of career growth that allows one to gradually formulate that decision to shift from X to Y. But even so, the jump from X to Y can be quite steep and often involves a “milestone career” to launch them from X to Y. Think of it as a layover stop on a flight that gets you closer to your final destination.

In the context of the example described above, it’s probably unrealistic for an Investment Banker to expect themselves to leave Wall Street one day, and end up on Hollywood the next. Instead, something they observe about themselves first is, how deep is my passion for filmmaking versus Investment Banking.

A key indicator is, how much energy does that activity or stream of thought gives you. Or observing which outlets you use to recharge yourself on a week to week basis.

If thinking about that activity drives stress and angst, then it’s probably not your passion. But if you find yourself enjoying that activity regardless of your skill level, that’s probably something closer to your passion.

Then the question becomes, how do I know what my passion is if I don’t have a passion. Observe the activities you involve yourself in without thinking twice about. Observe the activities you find yourself excited to do, without any extrinsic motivation driving you to do so.

But the next layer is, how do I know which activities to start involving myself in if I’m not involved in any. You don’t — you simply have to start trying something new. Pick up something you’d never laid eyes on. If you hate it, then try something else. There’s plenty of options, trust me, you won’t run out.

Unveiling the Depth of the Passion

Once you find that passion, then you’d ask yourself how passionate am I actually for this. Am I better off leaving this as a hobby or pursuing it on an even deeper level?

For some hobbies, it’s actually better to leave it as a hobby than pursuing it on a deeper level.

Pursuing it deeper may actually ruin the enjoyment you experience from the hobby. Mostly because you begin to develop expectations for yourself and inner competition to be better — this has the potential to ruin the simplicity you once approached the hobby with.

In the context of our example here, let’s say our Investment Banker values filming for his own enjoyment, rather than being able to share his work publicly. He enjoys keeping his work to his close friends and family as a way of documenting his life rather than coming up with creative content creation avenues. If that’s the case, he’s probably better off keeping his hobby as a hobby rather than growing it into a profession. If he grew it into a profession, the expectation of displaying his work publicly will most likely come as a requirement, which then would be followed by the pressure of having to improve and met certain societal expectations. That would in return probably ruin the enjoyment he has from film to channel inner energy and as a means of communicating his life to his inner circle.

But on the flip side, if he enjoys filming because he’s interested in sharing his work widely, then it might actually be a good idea for him to pursue his passion on a deeper level and consider a profession for it. While in either scenario, he’d probably enjoy his passion as a profession more than his current professional as a Banker.

It’s important to keep in mind that we should handle the things we enjoy with extra care — they don’t come by easy.

Whether it’s people, activities, things etc., it’s much easier to destroy than to build; take relationships for example. How long does it take someone to build, sustain and flourish a relationship? Years. But how long does it take for a relationship to end? Seconds. While there is a progression to every moment in life, the duration it takes for the feeling of “building” versus “destroying” are on complete opposite spectrums.

Handle the treasures in life with care.

Unveiling the Breadth of the Depth of the Passion

Once you’ve dug up your gold, how do you know where to spend your gold? In other words, how do you know which professions out there exist that fall in the realm of the passion you hope to pursue as a serious profession?

Honestly, for most, it’s a shot in the dark. But you got to start somewhere. For some passion professions, there’s more availability in opportunities. Take film for example, while it’s a hard industry to break into, going into film, doesn’t necessarily mean shooting for the stars right away and going to Hollywood. There’s plenty of opportunities for one to start out at smaller media and film companies, including startups or even reputable companies including Hulu, Netflix and the alike.

But for a passion like running, there might not be as many “direct” professions that can channel this. Most wouldn’t consider the life of an Olympic runner, but even so, it’s not, not impossible to find an outlet to channel this. For example, you could set a goal for yourself to train for a marathon and donate to a good cause your workplace partners with.

The emergence of your passion is a combination of nature and nurture, but the emergence of the depth and breadth of it is a result of self-exploration and self-determination.

How far are you willing to strive for your passion in order to channel the inner self you’re destined to be?

So, can your passion be your profession?

Your passion can always be your profession, but your profession cannot always be your passion.

At the end of the day, it’s what you think of it, what you make of it, and what you take out of it. It’s all dependent on how in depth you view your passion and the level of seriousness you view of it as a profession. There’s no right or wrong in it, but as long as that passion brings you satisfaction on a deeper level than most other things in life, then you know it’s a valuable one to keep an eye out for.

For more stories on my career journey, feel free to check out the rest of my Medium blog. If there’s any way I can help you or connect you to someone resourceful, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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Belicia T. Tan

Business as Missions // Founder @girlswhoconsult // Founding team @ladder.to