3 Super Successful Aussies On How To Turn Your Interests Into Your Career

Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Pia Miranda
Brought to you by La Trobe University

La Trobe University is in the top 1.5 percent of universities worldwide.

The old saying goes that, if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And while it may have once seemed like a pipedream, it’s now becoming more and more attainable to have a career that directly aligns to your personal interests.

We spoke to three successful La Trobe University alumni who’ve each turned their passions into their nine-to-five. Here are some of their top tips for those keen to live the dream by following their dreams.

#1 Focus On The Future, Not The Past

Just because we start off on one path doesn’t always mean we have to continue in that direction. Yep, sometimes things change for a reason. While Aussie actress Pia Miranda cemented an everlasting place in our hearts as Josie Alibrandi in the 2000 hit flick Looking for Alibrandi, the popular actress hadn’t always wanted a career on the big screen.


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“I spent most of my childhood and teenage years studying to be a ballet dancer,” she says. “I think dancing was a good foundation for me as an actor as you learn the art of storytelling by using your body and your emotions, and I still use those skills today.”

Similarly, Punkee multimedia producer, Tara Watson, also found herself in a career vastly different to what she had intended to pursue. “I wanted to be a vet or work at a zoo and most of my early education was driven towards this goal,” Tara explains. “While I always loved writing, I didn’t see myself doing it as a career until I did an arts degree and then moved into journalism.”

And, for Australian gold medal-winning Paralympian, Timothy Matthews, his career didn’t take off until he was in his third year at university. “Up until then, sport was a fun thing to do,” he explains. “I didn’t really know anyone with a disability or compete in sport against other athletes with a disability until I was 21.”

#2 Be Prepared To Put In The Hard Yards

While Tara admits it can be extremely tough to make a living as a creative, she believes it can be achieved with a hard work and unwavering dedication. “I’ve worked in admin and retail – basically I looked at any way to make money while trying to get my writing published,” she says.

As an actress, Pia understands how tough it can be to land a gig, but believes the effort is worth it – even if you need to sidestep into another industry for a while. “I was lucky enough that, through university and drama school, I was surrounded by people who were writing plays and making their own work, so I could express myself creatively,” she says. “This helped get me through those years of working in bars and waiting tables.”

Even award-winning athletes like Tim have experienced ups and downs. “I worked full-time throughout my competition career as competing in Paralympic sport back in the late ‘90s didn’t come with financial rewards,” he explains. “It made for some very long days, but I was fortunate to have a flexible employer throughout my running career that provided me with my leave for competitions, training camps or events.”

#3 Innovate, Disrupt, And Challenge The Status Quo

For Tara, working as a writer in an industry that’s constantly changing and innovating requires a certain level of out-of-the-box thinking. “Expertise in writing alone is not enough anymore,” she says. “It’s good to carve out your own niche…so think about taking electives while you study in topics you’re passionate about.”

Tara believes this differentiates you from the competition. “Early in my career, I studied professional photography, learnt Photoshop, created a monthly podcast and I applied to internships overseas – basically anything you can add to your CV to make it more memorable is a plus.”


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#4 Accept The Ups And Downs

Bagging a job as an actor is one thing, but understanding and accepting the way the industry works when you miss out on a gig is a whole other kettle of fish. Having the emotional intelligence to acknowledge the situation you’re in and move forward if you don’t get a role is a skill of its own.

“Surround yourself with supportive people whose talents you admire – it’s a great way to feel fulfilled,” says Pia.

#5 Remember The Importance Of Self-care

All jobs can be stressful, but passion-led careers tend to be more emotional. Pia understands this firsthand. “Acting can be really hard because long periods of downtime are inevitable,” she explains. “You may go six to 12 months without work and then book two jobs at the same time and have to turn one down, which makes no sense!”

Pia believes weathering those ups and downs becomes easier with time, but has some advice for those who may be struggling in a similar situation: “I try to keep my life full and make sure I have lots friends outside the industry – although it’s important to have actor friends so you have other people to have coffee with when you are unemployed for a long time!”

Tim agrees that creating a full life outside of work is incredibly necessary. “I had other things in my life outside of athletics and, now that I have a family of my own, I have great respect for those who are able to compete at a very high level and balance that with work and family.”

For Tara, these hard times also serve as important life lessons. “I went through a long period where I struggled to get any kind of work and almost felt forced to change careers,” she explains. “I just had to keep hustling and wait for that big break, which might mean writing for very little reward. It’s all about building up your CV. Every brick counts.”

#6 Get Real

If you’re determined to turn your passion into your career, Tim recommends taking a realistic approach. “Nobody owes you anything – the earlier you understand that, the more inclined you’ll be to make your own path to where you want to go,” he says. “Show initiative and take opportunities that are presented to you.”

For those chasing the life of a writer or creative, Tara also believes in the School of Hard Knocks approach. “Work bloody hard, because it’s all about the hustle and constantly reaching out to people for job opportunities,” she says. “No-one will just give you a job. You have to seek them out, which means building relationships as you go.”

And what about when you work your arse off and you’re still at zero? Just remember this too shall pass. “When you get knocked over, take a day to mourn with Netflix and chocolate then pick yourself dust yourself off and keep fighting,” says Pia. “The hits are part of the journey.”

(Lead image: @_piamiranda / Instagram)

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