Last week, I had the good fortune of attending a work conference in Chicago. It wasn’t your average work conference. The attendees wanted to be there. In fact, their companies didn’t pay for them to go. They paid their own way. And they went to all of the workshops offered – even at the end, when everyone was tired.

The conference is called Podcast Movement, and its purpose is to help educate podcasters about hosting their own programs. It’s the second year I’ve attended, and what struck me last year was how passionate this group is about their work. People told me how podcasting has changed their lives. A few podcasters even got teary-eyed when they were talking about their shows. Have you ever had a job that got you teary-eyed with positive emotion? Me neither.

This year, the speech that stuck with me the most was given by Kevin Smith. You might remember Smith from movies like Clerks and Mallrats, which he directed (he also played the character of Silent Bob). Smith talked about two main topics: the importance of self-expression in your work and doing what you love. Smith said that he had the misfortune to get paid for what he loved to do early on in his career. For a time, it caused him to refuse to work on projects he loved unless he was paid.

His talk brought up an interesting point. As we grow in our careers, we often opt out of anything work-related unless we receive a paycheck. Why is that? It could be that our personal time is more valuable to us, or maybe we’re just accustomed to our companies paying for things like training, mileage, and cellphones.

But what would happen if we explored our career interests a bit more – even if we weren’t paid for it? Chances are good that new doors and avenues that we had never even dreamed of would open up for us. We might even enjoy our jobs a bit more.

Perhaps we’d change careers altogether. That’s what many podcasters are hoping for. Most podcast hosts create a show about a hobby or interest they have that’s unrelated to their day job. To put together a show, a host will often spend a large amount of their own money on microphones, educational workshops, and equipment. Some people even install sound booths in their homes for recording. They spend many hours each week planning individual episodes, seeking out guests, recording, and editing. Rarely are they paid for their work – at least, not initially.

These people learn about their craft and invest in themselves and their podcasts because they love to do so. They aspire to one day make podcasting a job they can live off of. Until then, they share stories about how podcasting has truly impacted their lives for the better.

What inspires you? What kind of work would you do for free? If money were out of the picture, where would you invest your time and resources to grow yourself?

A version of this article originally appeared on The Memphis Daily News.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.

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