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How to Pursue Your Passion Projects While Employed

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Like many 20-something college grads, I moved to New York City two years ago ready and eager to start my first real-life job and launch my career. From the outside looking in, I seemed to have it all: a fantastic job straight out of college at a world-renowned publication in the best city in the world. My friends and family kept telling me how lucky I was. But the truth was, as grateful as I was, I didn’t feel like I had it all. In fact, I felt like something was fundamentally missing from my life. I felt trapped, unmotivated and completely disenchanted. For about a year, I convinced myself that this was just a phase—just an adjustment from college life to the “real world.”

About a year into my job, I decided to start my own network marketing business with a holistic beauty and wellness company called Arbonne as a way to make some extra income alongside my full-time (poorly paid) job. My Arbonne business sparked a passion for entrepreneurship within me that I never before knew existed. I honestly never considered myself an entrepreneur until I experienced the true fulfillment that comes from owning your own business. I loved creating my own success. I loved having my own clients. I loved scheduling my work around my life and not the other way around.

Unfortunately, this entrepreneurship-fueled passion further emphasized how unhappy I was in my corporate job. I wanted more than anything to quit my job and focus all of my energy on my entrepreneurial dreams: starting my own blog, turned website, turned book, turned business. Sound familiar?

My extremely logical boyfriend graciously reminded me that my dreams would not turn into my reality overnight. There were many valuable skills and much experience to be learned in the corporate world before completely jumping ship. I didn’t quit my job, but I did change it by leaving the global business publication for a world-renowned fashion and beauty media company. I realized that having an “all-or-nothing” mentality is kind of dangerous. So many new entrepreneurs’ businesses fail, mainly due to inexperience, and I had the opportunity to learn valuable business skills and expand my professional network in my corporate job. It would be naïve to throw that all away. So I have become a professional, part-time passion-pursuer; I’m growing my blog and my personal brand outside of my day job. While I’m careful to separate the two, I’m definitely learning so much in my job that I know I will eventually be able to apply to my own business—when the time is right.

I won’t lie and say that it’s a perfect balance. It absolutely takes a ton of focus and determination to make it work, but by sticking to the following keys to true success, I know that you too can pursue your passion on the side and become your absolute best self, the one that the world needs you to be.

Don’t Settle

Decide to be your best self and create your best life. No matter what. Are you excited to go to work every day? Do you love what you do? Does it keep you up at night and make you jump out of bed in the morning? If you answered no to any of the above questions, decide to never settle for anything less than your heart desires. Give yourself permission to dream and get crystal clear on what your true purpose is.

Create and Grow Your Personal Brand

If, like me, you’ve discovered that your true self and true purpose lie not in the corporate world but as an entrepreneur, focus first on growing your personal brand before leaving and starting your own business. First, determine who you are, what your passion is, and what makes you unique. What do you have to give to the world that no one else can? Next, promote your personal brand through social media and blogging. Tap into and cultivate a community of like-minded individuals that you can learn from and grow with.

See the Silver Lining

Think of your full-time job not as a waste of time, but as a collaboration between your personal brand and the company you work for. As long as you’re financially dependent on your day job, you need to find a way to get as much out of it as you can. Make sure you’re interested in what you do, that you like the people you work with, and that you’re continuing to learn and grow, gaining new skills and experience that you can later apply to your own business venture. If you hate your job, change it! As trapped as you may feel, know that you are ultimately in control of your life. You have the choice to find another job that is more aligned with your interests and passions.

Make Time

The number one excuse to not pursue your passions alongside your full-time job is, “I don’t have enough time!” Sorry for the unpleasant wake-up call, but you do. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Decide how you spend each hour wisely. When you’re not at your job, are you watching a TV show? Or are you working on your blog?

You don’t have to always sacrifice fun and friends to pursue your passion project, but you may have to sometimes. Be diligent about scheduling your passion project time and sticking with it. For example, commit two hours Sunday through Thursday toward your passion project. You’ll be surprised how much time you have once you make your passion your number one priority.

Be a Proud Work in Progress

This tip comes from one of my role models, Adelaide Lancaster, co-founder of In Good Company. I’m a recovering perfectionist so I know how hard it is to strive for progress instead of perfection, but this is critical to pursuing your passion part time. Once you accept that you and your passion project are a beautiful work in progress, you will be able to fully enjoy working on your project each day and eliminate the poisonous feeling of “not enough.” Set attainable monthly, weekly, and daily goals for yourself and reward yourself. Maybe it’s a piece of chocolate (my personal favorite), a relaxing massage, or a night out with your girlfriends. Make the little things you love rewards for your progress. You so deserve it!

Decide to Never, Ever Give Up

We all experience the highs and lows of pursuing our passions. It’s not always easy, but when you keep your eye on the bigger picture—creating a life you love full of passion, love, beauty, and true success—and commit yourself to being consistently consistent, you won’t be able to help but turn your passion project into your life.

Do you have a side passion project? Tell us about it!

Watch Kim Keating’s office hours to learn about how she followed her passion in her career!

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#Find Your Passion Work-Life Balance Career Advice
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Wow Michela! Really insightful and great advice. This really resonated with me. You're definitely destined for even greater success, and one to watch for sure. Thank you!

This article is SO spot on, and I felt like it was speaking to me the entire time I was reading it. It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one feeling frustrated every now and again about pursuing my passion on top of working full-time! I know that one day my passion will turn into my business, but right now I am making a point to focus on new opportunities for growth, learning and mentoring, as well as earning money to invest in my future business. THANK YOU for writing this, Michela!

Money Jensen
Money Jensen

I'm still in school but I'm married and work full time. I have two great passions for writing and wanting to own my own boutique. Recently I have had the opportunity to make my writing dream a reality but it is taking a lot of time to get off the ground and it's a bit discouraging. I'm going to continue to pursue both ventures and hopefully excel on both levels. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

This definitely speaks to me!! Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Michela!

Tiffany Arrott
Tiffany Arrott

I think you nailed it with how to juggle a passion with your full time money maker! It seems like so many people are dealing with this right now so it was great hearing your tips about how to get the best out of both!

This is a wonderful article. Thanks for sharing! Personal passions and professional growth are not always mutually exclusive either. My company sees my pursuit of my personal interests outside of work as a clear growth indicator in my career as well. Sometimes you can hit two birds with one stone.

So glad the article spoke to you Lindsay! I know how hard it can be to stay focused on putting on foot in front of the other to turn your vision of your full-time business into your reality, but it sounds like you have a clear vision of exactly what you want are getting one step closer every day! I love what you are doing with That Working Girl! Would love to connect with you and collaborate in some way! XO

Thanks for your comment Money! Sounds like you have a lot on your plate Money! I know it can be challenging to juggle it all and to keep your eye on your big picture vision rather than what's right in front of you which can be discouraging at times, but I know that if you really want it you will find a way to make it happen!

So happy the article speaks to you Dali! Good luck with your passion project!

Totally! I think you can "have it all" as in a profession that you are passionate about AND supports you financially. Some people can find that in the corporate world, while others have to create that for themselves. Happy your company is helping you grow both professionally and personally!

This topic really resonated with me. As an avid writer with a passion to start my own consulting business and write a novel (yet working full time in another job), I struggle with feeling unfulfilled at my "day job". Thank you, Michela, for your practical advice in staying focused. As a 20 something it is sometimes easy to forget we are still young and have time to learn, grow, and figure it all out.

This post needs more love, what a great write-up. One of the biggest objections people have to the idea of doing their own thing is, "How am I supposed to pay the bills?" Making your blog a side-hustle is the perfect opportunity to cultivate a unique brand and business while working full-time or part-time.

I love the emphasis you put on making the most of your time outside of the office. As I tell my audience all the time, this is what's going to make the difference between being blogging as a hobby, and blogging for an income.

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