Early in my career, after I’d helped my first few hundred people discover new career paths, businesses and organizations to launch into, I found myself wondering why different industries fascinated me so much. It didn’t matter whether the topic was entertainment, finance, apparel, aerospace, publishing, technology, food service, fitness or stranger stuff like neutraceuticals, biofuels or nanotechnology! Every industry was a totally different world that had different experts, jobs, media, events, publications, education centers, trends, definitions of success, terminology and even dress codes! And every single one was packed with opportunities as limitless as your imagination.
As if all that wasn’t intriguing enough, there were endless ways you could find or invent opportunities in any combination of industries. For example, take animals. With a traditional eye, you’d probably think your career options might include pet stores, veterinary medicine, breading and boarding. But cross a love of animals with all the other ways you could serve them and their owners and you get clothing for pets (apparel), gourmet pet bakeries (food service), organic health supplements (neutraceuticals), magazines and books (publishing), animal tracking devices (technology), and so on. With a little creativity you could have a field day coming up with ways to play in this world.
Then one day, my good friend Bob Cohen from the Harvard Office of Career Services explained to me the difference between “function” and “industry.” Simply put, function is what you do, industry is where you do it. Your industry, he explained, is your playground. It’s the world where you can have the most fun doing what you do best.
I realized right then that one of the biggest things holding people back from loving what they do is not knowing what industries they should (or should I say want to) be in. And the simplest way to figure this out, if it isn’t already obvious, is to get someone to think about what they love doing. If you love playing video games, consider working in the video game industry. If you love music, there’s a whole other industry to play in. What you do in that industry is a question of function. You can be a writer in any industry, right? You can be doctor in any industry. An accountant. A teacher. A marketer. A salesman. The world really is like one big candy store of options and opportunities! You just need to find your industryxthen dive in.
Once you’ve identified your playground, it’s just a matter of getting yourself into the middle of all the action. Join the trade associations, subscribe to the blogs and newsletters, buy the top magazines, attend the conferences and events, follow the hottest experts and stay on top of the trends. For more information on how to Master Your Universe, check out the 10-minute podcast from our NY Times Bestseller, Secrets of the Young & Successful.
Think of your industry as your playground and this powerful secret of the young & successful will cause a paradigm shift that can instantly turn your career exploration into an adventure.