Not every aspiring young professional or budding entrepreneur starts out working in the field they love. It can take several years to figure out what you’re passionate about – let alone land a career in that desired field – which is why you need a passion project to keep you focused in the interim.

If you want to work on the top floor of that glistening office tower, or have that swanky window office with your name on the door, or own your own business so that you can be your own boss, you must hustle. While some people are lucky enough to land their dream job fresh out of school or with the right connections, most of us have to be patient while trying to break into our dream industries.

That’s why having a passion project is so important. A passion project is a creative side project that relates to your passion and your dream job, meant to bring you joy and help you to not lose sight of what you’re truly passionate about.

Examples of passion projects include starting a fashion blog, volunteering at a homeless shelter, learning portrait photography, creating DIY jewelry and selling it on the side or starting a podcast. The possibilities are endless – all you need is genuine passion and a pre-determined commitment of time (such as a decision to dedicate every Sunday afternoon to it.)

For any aspiring girlboss or budding entrepreneur, a passion project can help you seal your fate in your chosen dream industry. Here are 6 ways passion projects can benefit those of us on the hunt for our dream job:

1. You’ll build the required skills to prep you for the career you want. Practice makes perfect, and every moment you spend dedicated to a passion project strengthens your skills, fosters your creativity, helps you innovate and boosts your productivity. Taking a picture a day for a year will steady the hand of the photographer and lead them to consider subjects they never thought to. A rookie coder taking online coding lessons will start to build websites with more complex internal work. Time spent building the skills needed for your next career move will ultimately boost your chances of grabbing an employer’s attention and proving to them that you’re the passionate, dedicated candidate they’ve been looking for.

2. You’ll end up networking and building relationships with the right people. Part of the excitement that comes with having a passion project is connecting with those who have similar goals and interests. For example, if your passion project is that you started a fashion blog, you’ll probably end up going to a few blogging seminars, where you’ll meet like-minded individuals. Who doesn’t love meeting new people who work in their dream field? Plus, those relationships will come in handy someday. Someone who wants to become a veterinarian might volunteer at a local animal shelter and, in gaining those essential animal care skills, build relationships with their fellow volunteers in addition to the higher-ups. Passion projects encourage conversation in both a formal and informal environment and the stronger your interest in the project’s theme is, the easier it becomes to connect with fellow enthusiasts and professionals – and the more likely it’ll be that you’ll be remembered.

3. It’ll bring context to what you want to achieve in life. Career related or not, people start passion projects because they’re looking to find a deeper happiness and sense of fulfillment within something they’re passionate about. If the passion project of a baker-in-training is to try a unique new recipe each week, they’re probably trying to improve their baking talent to progress towards a higher achievement in that industry. Similarly, when a person focuses on their passion project, it can act as a focal-point on the bigger picture and their ultimate goal. Passion projects for up-and-coming professionals remind them of why they’re hustling to make their career dreams come true; it gives them something to look forward to outside of the 9 to 5 and puts their real goals into context.

4. Your mood will improve and you’ll notice a reduction in stress. If you current job doesn’t involve you doing what you love, and is really only a paycheck, that can invite stress along with feelings of failure and unfulfillment. The time spent on a passion project will reduce stress, improve your mood, and shift your focus back onto why you’re pursuing the project in the first place. You’ll be reminded of the end goal, and you’ll feel confident knowing that you’re getting there. Slowly but surely. Working on your passion project will reduce the stress that comes with a job search plateau, too. It’s the ultimate source of anxiety release. You’re reminded of your sense of purpose as you work towards becoming the industry professional you’ve always to be.

5. You’ll form meaningful friendships. Going back to the concept of networking with like-minded individuals who share your passion, it’s a given that you’ll form some great friendships along the way. It’s important to have friends who have similar passions and who have a similar entrepreneurial spirit as you. These are the types of friends you’ll come to rely on. They’re the ones you’ll brainstorm with, get inspiration from, and dinners out with them will come with so much more than small talk. It’ll be #girlboss talk.

6. You’ll stay motivated. Your side project keeps you motivated and continually exercises your brain to remember and foster your passion. So long as you have a passion project on the side, you’ll always have your end goal in sight, and you’ll never lose sight of what that dream scenario is. The constant visualization that having a a passion project encourages is what will ultimately get you where you want to  be in life.

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