Q: I grew up knowing I would have to work to support myself. I have no problems with that. I have a college degree, and I interview well and get the jobs I want. What haunts me is the feeling I should find what motivates me; I don’t know that I have a passion for anything regarding work. I have done well in my different jobs, and I know I have a strong work ethic. I am not motivated by money, but I want to make enough money to live on; I’d rather not get trapped in a materialistic lifestyle. I have had hobbies such as painting, jewelry design and sewing, but I don’t know if I can turn any of those interests into a business. Where do I begin?
A: No one can force a passion into a business. Some people just know immediately what inspires them. For example, some people may work in regular jobs where they feel accepted but not driven to achieve extraordinary goals. In their spare time, though, they may be passionate about saving animals, which might motivate them to volunteer with an animal rescue organization.
Volunteering is a great way to see how an agency is managed, to watch the procedures and see what works or doesn’t work, to meet the people in the lead roles and paid positions, and to take note of the organization’s politics. Yes, there are politics in every for-profit and nonprofit. Where humans are at work, there are politics, so this aspect is important to observe. As you get to know the agency and its operations, it becomes easier to see if it would be a good fit to switch into when a paid position opens. Becoming familiar with a charity may also lead to recognizing where an additional position could add value to the organization. A written proposal can be submitted for consideration to the board of directors. This type of formal process may be required in larger agencies, but your passion could arise from the mere creation of the new position.
You could turn each of your hobbies into a business if your products are appealing and sell through word of mouth. Whether you knit baby-buggy blankets or design leather bikini belts featuring natural semiprecious stones to cover the belly button, the target audience for your products will ultimately determine your success. Once the product becomes popular, you can sell it online or through a merchandiser. Sara Blakely created the Spanx shapewear brand and found a company to manufacture it, but she handled her own sales to stores in the beginning. There is no right way or wrong way to create and market a product. Take care to not tell friends (and sometimes family members) about your business plans, as friends have their own agendas in mind, and friends remain friends only if jealousy doesn’t enter the relationship.
Entrepreneurs have followed many different roads to success. Some families are emotionally and financially supportive. Some people have no support and still succeed. And sometimes a person’s original business goals change in the process. Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi didn’t set out to be millionaires. A business may or may not catch on. Since you are not driven by money, focus on your hobbies and have a wait-and-see attitude about what develops. If one activity doesn’t excite you, drop it and begin another one. By keeping your plans secret, no one will be able to encourage or discourage you, and your choices will be your creations alone. When and if a product becomes outrageously popular, you can happily leave your regular job for your passion, and the success will be all yours.
Email career and life coach: [email protected] Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/features/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.