Writing and illustrating my first book at age six. Serving as President of my high school business club. Presenting my honors thesis my senior year of college. Creating women’s leadership training from scratch and seeing women across the country participate.
When I think about all of my proudest life achievements, from childhood to young adulthood, there are obvious common threads: storytelling, embracing creativity, and speaking to large groups of people.
Today we are talking about one of the toughest career topics: finding your calling. This is difficult for many people because 1) your calling may not have made itself known yet, or 2) you have many interests but do not know which passion to pursue.
Last month, I listened to the book The Element* by Sir Ken Robinson. The main reason I loved this book is that Robinson gives tons of real-life examples of people discovering (or re-discovering) their element. We will walk through three ways to discover your element, and I will even give you a real-life example of how I re-ignited my passion for art!
P.S. If you want to learn how I made my own gift tags, see my free tutorial at the end!
1. Find a Need
Last week, friends of mine were preparing for a charity Christmas event here in Zagreb, Croatia. (Read more about my expat journey here!) Each year, the International Women’s Club hosts a Christmas Bazaar where more than 70 countries sell their favorite goods, food, and handmade gifts. All proceeds go to a good cause in the area, like a local kindergarten or music school.
Long story short, the person running the American booth told me that last year our handmade jewelry and origami boxes sold quickly! I asked how I could help, and she said that adding a gift tag might complete our gifts.
I never would have known how I could contribute if I had not asked. Making connections, asking good questions, and volunteering are great ways to find market needs. First of all, the wider your network is the better your chances of finding an opportunity that overlaps with your passion or hobby. I know, I know — the old “it’s who you know” saying sucks but still rings true when it comes to your career.
As your network grows, ask strategic questions to find key opportunities to explore your passions and hobbies. Is there someone with whom you can collaborate? Are people having problems that you can solve? Do they know someone who can mentor you? Be hyper-vigilant about looking for opportunities to contribute, as well.
Volunteering is an amazing way to test out your passions and hobbies in the real world. Like in my example above, a volunteer opportunity will allow me to see if I love hand-lettering enough to continue pursuing it as a side-hustle or hobby (and if people even want this type of gift).
2. Write Out Your Passions and Hobbies
Okay, this sounds obvious. But taking time to brainstorm your lifetime passions and hobbies can help you rediscover your element.
What did you enjoy doing when you were a child? What were your favorite subjects in school? In which areas do you excel, in school or at work? Do people come to you for a particular skill, an area of expertise or for mentorship?
Back to my love of art. I always loved art. In kindergarten, while other kids were playing, I wrote and illustrated a book called The Love Bugs. My book was about what you would expect from a six-year-old: two ladybugs met, fell in love, and started a family. But, creating a book from scratch was out of the ordinary for someone my age, and the fact that teachers took note meant that it was something I should also note. For the rest of my schooling, I continued taking art classes. Sadly, I got out of practice in college.
The recent Christmas Bazaar presented a need for handmade gift tags. There are simpler ways create them, but I decided to use this opportunity to get back into art. I used watercolor markers and a gel ink pen. I researched beautiful scripts on Pinterest and practiced until I found designs I felt good about. The entire process was fun for me, and that in of itself was a good sign.
3. Find a Mentor
In The Element, Robinson talks about four ways that mentors help you with career exploration: recognition, encouragement, facilitation, and stretching.
Mentors can recognize your potential in a field of study and help you focus on specific skills and abilities to test.
As with any new endeavor, there is a learning curve when you start a new career. Mentors can provide encouragement by reminding you of why the work is worth the outcome and how to overcome obstacles along the way. They show you the light at the end of the tunnel.
The reason so many people hire career coaches is that coaches provide insights on how to achieve our goals. Mentors can facilitate this type of coaching, as well, since they have been there before. Since many mentorship relationships are enriching for all those involved, you may be able to find a mentor without having to pay the high price tag of a career coach.
Finally, mentors who are invested in the relationship tend to stretch the mentee past their comfort zones. Many times, people get stalled and think they cannot push past a roadblock; mentors are there to encourage you and help you grow as a person.
As promised, you can find my handmade calligraphy gift tag tutorial HERE on my travel blog!
To download the free workbook with the three exercises above, along with other career resources, be sure to sign up for our Free Resource Library!
*This article contains an affiliate link for the book, The Element! As a bookworm, I only recommend books I really enjoyed reading. I hope you enjoy them, too!