University furloughs, layoffs and budget cuts have put frowns on many faces around Illinois and generated bitter discussions on social media. Frowns may soon spread to the business and nonprofit sector as politicians attempt to whittle down our state’s debt burden. In these trying and uncertain times, how can you turn your frown upside down?
I reflect back on the process that I went through two years ago to turn my own frown upside down. Yes, it is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight and it requires more than facial muscles to achieve a genuine smile that emanates from your whole being. Although I loved what I was doing, I was frowning because I didn’t fit into my employer’s culture. Let’s face it, a large bureaucratic institution fundamentally finds it difficult to support entrepreneurial and collaborative thinking - values that are core to my being. I needed to align myself with an entity that possessed values similar to my own.
Here is the 4-step process that I followed in my quest to align my personal and professional life.
1. Find Your Passion. First, figure out what you want out of life and what puts a smile on your face.
a. Start by grabbing a notepad and drawing a vertical line down the middle. In one column, write down activities that make you smile and are energizing. In the other column write down activities that drains your energy. It will become clear pretty quickly where your passions lie.
b. Another way to find your passion is by daring to dream. Ask yourself, “If money and time were no object, how would I like to spend my time?”
I found my first passion when coaching startup and existing businesses as a small business development center director in Missouri. I discovered my second passion when I started teaching entrepreneurship to teens in a summer camp and club setting. In both activities, I loved seeing the light bulb turn on when business owners and students would learn something new and help them get what they needed to succeed.
2. Acquire Skills. Once you identified what you want, now you need to spend the time to become an expert in your field. This can be achieved by drastic changes, like heading back to school for a degree, or more subtle revisions such as: reading books, webinars, job shadowing, workshops and certifications. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” as outlined in his book, Outliers. Gladwell professes that you need to dedicate 10,000 hours to become an expert in your field.
You also need to keep skills up-to-date. Although I earned my MBA 12 years ago, I continue to get certified in new programs. I also took a geographic information systems class at local community college last year so I could become more proficient in market research and analysis. Now I am attending webinars, reading books and meeting with businesses and actually tweeting, posting, pinning and e-blasting to keep up to date with new technology.
3. Surround Yourself with Supportive, Positive People.
Collaborate with positive people you enjoy and respect. This makes whatever passions you pursue seem like play.
4. Take Action – This last step is the most important one yet the most difficult to achieve. You have to be brave enough to take a leap of faith and follow your passion.
I now have my dream job - well actually two dream jobs – all gained through this process. My first job is teaching ClassE, an experiential-learning entrepreneurship class for high school students. This fulfills my passion to be in a creative, learning environment where I can hopefully inspire others to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship. My second dream job is creating Dau Consulting, a strategic planning, marketing and training collaborative composed of highly intelligent, positive and skilled marketing and management consultants. We work together, support each other and provide services to keep Central Illinois organizations healthy and vibrant.
I am smiling and thriving in my two new roles. I hope you find your passion and take action to pursue it.