Anyone who coaches with me knows that I’m not one of those “identify your passion then drop everything to do what you love” type of coaches. I believe that it’s important to find enjoyment in what you do, but all too often the “follow your passion” mantra is an excuse to give up on a tough task or job or fuel for pumped-up hopes that we’ll find a market or job for what we love. The mantra also assumes that you already know what you are passionate about or that you’ve already had contact with the thing you’re passionate about.
This message is particularly important for career changers and their coaches. “Follow your passion” advice assumes that you can dig deep enough in yourself to determine your next job or career. Career changing is introspective work. It’s full of reinvention and figuring out what you enjoy, what makes you tick, how you do your best work and in what environments, and more. But we cannot stop at introspection. The PhD Career Explorer or Changer must try new things (intern, volunteer or work part-time), talk to new people (informational interviews), and get out of the academic bubble (attend an industry event, listen to a podcast, or read a magazine article in a field of interest). As a coach, I do not want to add to the pressure that a PhD Career Changer faces when trying to figure out “if not academia, then what?” by telling them to identify their passions and run with it. My job is to share with you the tools to open new doors and new opportunities.
You may not know what you are passionate about other than your dissertation research topic, if that, but you do have interests. Those inklings that pull at you and catch your attention. You can’t be held back by expectations of what a Ph.D. in (insert your field here) “should” be doing or “should” enjoy. Paying attention to your interests is a good way to start when trying to figure out possible career moves and what appeals to you outside of academia. I did this recently by attending an industry event in Brooklyn, NY co-hosted by BBMG and Echoing Green. I’ve done enough work to know that I’m a strategy nut. Nonprofits and companies hire me to do their strategic planning and to design new programs. I love going from ideation and challenge to structure and pathway forward, and, truth be told, I’m a sucker for social entrepreneurship and the creative industry. I guess I owe my love for design and fashion to being the daughter of a seamstress and growing up with my mom’s studio in our home.
I lucked up on an open event that merges my two interests; here’s the description:
Sounds a little intimidating for someone who’s not an industry insider, right? That’s the thing about interests, you don’t know much about them or your potential place in them until you dig a little deeper. Needless to say, I had a blast. I got to see Echoing Green’s mission at work. I met interesting startups like Enstitute and Seeding Labs. And, I met cool people from companies in the area like Random House and Rabin Martin. Check out photos from the event. Then break out of the library carrel and follow one of your interests this week. Check back and tell us where it takes you!