How to Find a Career You Will Love

Bear with me for a sec till I get to the part about your career…

I had an epiphany recently while listening to Phil Town’s Rule #1 podcast. He comes from the school of investing that says to only buy stocks of companies whose products you use, love, & understand. Ideally you make a watch list of such companies and wait for a chance to buy when the market temporarily underprices them (a.k.a. value investing).

But it’s not uncommon to draw a blank when trying to create a sizable list of companies you love. To assist the process, Phil recommends doing the following:

First, make three lists:
PASSION: What are you passionate about?
TALENT: Where do you have talent (recreational and/or professional)?
MONEY: Whose products do you use to either make money, or whose products do you spend your money on?

Next, identify common areas appearing on the lists. Ideally, take the intersection of the 3 lists. Now you have an idea of what stock sectors to browse to easily find companies you understand and would enjoy owning.

And the epiphany I mentioned earlier? This is not only a great way to find stocks that personally interest you, it’s also a great way to find what careers would be fulfilling!

We’ve all heard such maxims as:

“Do what you love & you’ll never have to work another day in your life.”
or
“Do what you love & the money will follow.”

But a problem with this approach (apart from there being no guarantees that the money will indeed follow) is that it assumes you already know exactly what it is you’d like to be doing.

For many of us, that’s not the case at all. And that’s why amazon offers such great books as I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This and What Should I Do With My Life. We would like to do something that has more meaning, but we don’t know what it is.

So let’s use Phil’s same “intersection of the 3 lists” approach above, but tweak it slightly to find out what work might be fulfilling:

PASSION: What am I passionate about?
TALENT: What are my talents and skills?
MONEY: What careers have (1) a decent amount of job openings and (2) acceptable earning potential?

The MONEY list could be potentially huge if it were to indeed include all professions that have many openings and good salaries. So I recommend doing the following instead.

First, list all professions you’ve ever thought you might enjoy. Second, find websites that list professions ranked by salary or largest number of openings to make sure there aren’t any interesting ones you’ve missed or forgotten. Eliminate all careers from your list that offer abysmal salaries or few openings.

Now, identify careers having traits that show up on all 3 of your lists. Bingo – that’s probably what you’d be happy doing. It’s quite obvious that if you do what you have a PASSION and TALENT for, in a field that pays well and is in demand, the MONEY must follow. 😉

And if there’s anything that you’re PASSIONate about and TALENTed in, but can’t figure out a way to make MONEY with it, keep it as a hobby for now until you figure out a way to make it profitable. 😕

Want An Example?
OK, here are my 3 lists:

PASSION: Problem solving through mathematics, music, flexibility in work place / hours, gourmet food / wine / tea, autodidactism, eastern philosophy, raja yoga, endurance running, writing, traveling, foreign languages

TALENT: Math / statistics / number-crunching / signal processing, computer & spoken languages, self-motivated, love of learning, distance running, graduate engineering degree, extensive industry experience in algorithm R&D, teaching

MONEY: Engineering, programming, medicine, patent law, investing, bioinformatics, airline pilot, professor, internet commerce

Taking the intersection of the three, the first thing that pops out is:

Challenging Mathematical Endeavors (PASSION)
+ Working From Home (PASSION)
+ Good at Math (TALENT)
+ Investing (MONEY)
= Online Stock Trader (working from home)

(But not speculative trading or purely fundamental analysis. If I can’t specifically apply some sort of number-crunching, charting, calculating, technical analysis, etc. to the process, I’m not going to enjoy myself).

However, I don’t have a huge principle to invest, so it’s probably unrealistic to think I can earn all of my money this way. Until I do, I’ll have to either do this part time (like on my lunch hour) or consider doing without one of my above two PASSIONs (working from home) and look into the possibility of a corporate financial engineering position, or working towards the prestigious CFA certification so that I can eventually manage other people’s money, in addition to my own, from home.

Assuming I don’t want to give up on working from home just yet, and am not sure I’m ready to undertake the daunting task of preparing for the CFA exam, it’s easy to go back through the intersection of my 3 lists and see that doing algorithm developmentPASSION+TALENT work as an independent engineeringMONEY contractor is also a current possibility. So is gathering ad revenueMONEY through writingPASSION blog entries devoted to teachingTALENT others how to program and incorporate mathematicalPASSION+TALENT analysis methods into their own investment strategies.

And in fact, I’m currently pursuing all three (trading, blogging, contracting). ❗