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 of my proudest life achievements, from childhood to young adulthood, there are obvious common threads: storytelling, embracing creativity, speaking to large groups through my work.
Today we are talking about one of the toughest career topics: finding your calling. This topic is tough 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 a 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 goods, foods and handmade gifts. People from those countries donate money to buy goods, donate time to run the booth and donate talents to sell handmade gifts. All proceeds from the booths goes to a good cause in the area. This year, the proceeds benefit a local kindergarten and music school.
Long story short, the person running the American booth said 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 gifting services. I can do that, I said. I would love to give that a shot!
Making connections, asking good questions and volunteering are great ways to find market needs. First of all, the wider your network is the more chances you will have to find 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. Even when you are figuring out what your career should be.
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 help you? Obviously there is an endless amount of questions you can ask, so be a productive listener to spot opportunities to learn more.
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 test my idea out to see if I enjoy the process, if people like it and if people would be interested in my work outside of this one event.
Finally, by putting all of three of these steps together you can test our career idea. Do you love it (and can you tolerate even the crappy parts of it)? Would people be willing to pay for it? Is there enough work to make a living?
2. Write Out Your Passions and Hobbies
Okay, this sounds obvious. But taking time to brainstorm your passions and hobbies from past and present can help you rediscover your element.
What did you enjoy doing when you were young? Your favorite subjects in school?
In which areas do you excel, in school or in work? Do people come to you for a particular skill, area of expertise or training?
Back to my recent example: in school, 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 it (two lady bugs who met, fell in love and started a family), but it was out of the ordinary for someone my age. For the rest of my schooling, I continued taking art classes. Sadly, I did not hyper-focus on it and lost my practice once I went to college. Crafts and little projects, yes, but I did not stay disciplined in this subject that so captured me at age 6.
The Christmas Bazaar created a need for gift tags. There are simple ways create them, but I decided to have fun with this little project. In recent years, I have purchased art supplies in hopes of re-igniting this passion, so 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. We shall see if shoppers like the tags as much as I do, but the fact that I loved making them is a good start in the direction of my element.
3. Find a Mentor
In the book The Element, Robinson talks about four ways mentors help you on your career exploration: recognition, encouragement, facilitating and stretching.
Mentors can recognize your potential in the chosen field of study. If you (and the mentor) find that you are heading in the right direction, the mentor can break the career down so you can focus on specific skills and abilities.
As with any new endeavor, there is a learning curve when starting a new career. Mentors continually remind you of why your work is worth it, what the end goal looks like and how to overcome obstacles along the way. They are your light at the end of the tunnel.
The reason so many people hire career coaches is because we learn from their experiences, get shortcuts to our desired outcome and are given a clearer career plan. Mentors can facilitate this type of coaching. Mentoring is fulfilling for the mentors, too, so many times this invaluable advice comes free of charge.
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 make sure you continue growing toward your potential.
If I want to continue pursuing a business in art, I need to find mentors in that field. I could use Instagram to find amazing calligraphers or Etsy to contact a successful seller of calligraphy art. By doing this, I could better understand what a life in this business looks like (and therefore decide if I want to continue pursuing this as a career or keep it a hobby).
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!
*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!