The Road to Passion, Purpose, and Entrepreneurship

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by: Minda Harts, Founder, The Memo

In college, many of us aspire to graduate and immediately land our “dream job” -- that job that will allow us to live the type of life we always dreamed of. Once we get out into the “real world,” however, we usually end up falling into one of two categories: 1) Having found our “dream job,” we feel totally happy and fulfilled in our careers, or [this is most of us] 2) We don’t.

Those who fall into the second, “unfulfilled” category, have two choices: 1) Keep doing what you’re doing and remain unfulfilled, or 2) Change course.

After graduating from college, I spent over a decade in the development industry, raising money for some of the top universities in the country. While this work was both challenging and important, the further along I got in my career, the more I felt myself being tugged in another direction. I found I had an interest and an aptitude for helping others navigate their careers. After years of helping students achieve their academic goals, following my own passion led me to helping women to achieve their career goals. When I finally started the work in building The Memo, things seemed to fit perfectly: all of the hard and soft skills I learned in my development work had prepared me to build a company that ultimately supported my passion.

I found other powerful women who also made a pivot in their careers and chose to take their passion to the next level.

When Passion Meets Purpose

Sometimes we must take a career detour that leads us to our passion.

Angelina Darrisaw, the CEO of C-Suite Coach -- a career coaching platform that helps employers retain and recruit employees -- did just that. Darrisaw left a successful career in corporate strategy to start her company, C-Suite Coach, because she saw a void in many businesses that needed to be filled. A 2016 study conducted by the Society for Human Resources found that only 37 percent of people were satisfied with their jobs. These low satisfaction levels had the potential to manifest in low employee retention and performance. “I had a bigger calling,” she says, “and when that calling came, it was time to move forward.” Darrisaw now helps employers create a strategy around finding and keeping diverse millennial talent. “[Doing this work] wasn’t something I just wanted to do for fun. It made a difference to me--to provide underrepresented groups sufficient resources to thrive in their careers.”

Patience is a Virtue

Suma Reddy worked in six different industries before finding her passion for entrepreneurship through her companies Go Waddle, an app company, and Circle Optics, a 360-degree camera start-up. At some point along the way, she also volunteered in Mali for the Peace Corps, and attended Wharton’s School of Business. Ultimately becoming an entrepreneur, she says, “was a combination of fear, boredom, naivety and intuition. I was deeply afraid of calling myself an entrepreneur. I was also bored and frustrated trying to launch a renewable energy project that wasn’t getting anywhere.”

Through Reddy’s path to entrepreneurship, she reminds us that building a sustainable career is not a sprint, but a marathon. “Your journey is your journey. Don’t compare yourself to friends who’ve had one career their entire lives.”

Taking A Chance

Regina Gwynn of Tressenoire, an on-location beauty service for women of color, recalls working during the day as a marketing executive, and working at night and on weekends starting up Tressenoire. Gwynn laughs when she recalls, “I was taking Tressenoire calls during my breaks in the bathroom.” So when the time came for her to consider her next career move, she’d already realized that her passion lay in building Tressenoire. She left her marketing executive role, began working on Tressenoire full-time, and hasn’t looked back since.

In 2015, Mellody Hobson gave the commencement speech at USC, and in it, she told the graduates to “just add bravery.” It takes a lot of bravery to make a new or different career choice, especially when you don’t know what’s down the road ahead. Whether you make a career transition in an established company, or start a company of your own, consider what you enjoy and what you’re good at. It’s passion that will hopefully lead each of us to careers we can feel good about when we wake up in the morning. It may take several roles before you find out what you’re good at (or what you like doing), but one thing is certain, if you can align your passion with your purpose, it can make for a long and fulfilling career path.