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What’s Your Passion? Turn it into a Career

Adriana Dakin's tree map

Find yourself heading in the right direction but not quite sure about next steps? Your work and your hobbies are two separate things? Don’t have much time to stop, assess, rethink, and restrategize? You need to talk and think it through with people who really listen?

Career visions sometimes go “astray”

Finding a livelihood that fills your passion can be a roundabout path that takes time to unfold.

And if you’ve ever been in a visioning workshop, you might know how hard it can be to steer your thoughts where you think they’re supposed to go. They go where they need to go. Then maybe later to where you want them to go.

In a visioning workshop I participated in with Young Women Social Entrepreneurs – San Francisco (where people really listen!), my thoughts kept straying from trying to envision my ultimate career path.

Instead what streamed into my mind on that sunshine-y afternoon while I lay on the floor in a retreat center was a home filled with light and laughter and knowledge, with friends and family running in and out.

That turned out to be an important vision for me, and I treasure the painting I created right afterward.

Now I realize this vision of personal happiness has been an important cornerstone of my life the last couple years. Then the communications career could fall into place like stones in the wall around my orchard. And I bet I’m far from alone in benefitting from guided visioning.

An exercise to plan and map out your career and life

Luckily there are more conscious processes that are great for planning one’s dream career. One of my favorites is TreeMapping, created by YWSE member Kao Yongvang. (See my tree map in this post's image.)

You might like it too if you’re visual. I’ve done it again and again since my first time in 2005, and I’m due for another drawing of my tree map. Sometimes I sketch them on a napkin, but a huge piece of paper is even better.

A tree form makes sense to me:

  1. The roots: my experiences and background — eg, family, school, travel.
  2. The trunk: my core values and strengths — eg, social good, fast thinking, strong motivation, health.
  3. The branches: my visions of where I want to go, one for each branch — eg, be a communication strategist and successful entrepreneur, a master potter, and a loving wife and mother.
  4. The leaves: my actions steps to reach those visions — eg, join a smart consulting team, have an art show, and spend relaxing evenings with family.

Taking inventory and setting intentions every year

At the end of every year (right now!), with the help of a life coach I go through an inventory of what’s happened the last year, and what I want to happen in the next year. You can write me (adriana [at] adrianadakin dot com) if you’re interested in seeing this exercise.

Because sometimes it’s like the cobbler’s children — you may provide professional development and communications consulting to clients, but you yourself get the short end of the stick. Lack of a clear life goal and how to get there, not the best website promoting your work, no Twitter strategy, etc.

A clear vision in mind helps you spot opportunities that lead to that vision.

In times when I need to build momentum back up, I like to take two action steps per day toward my goals. For example: 1) Contact EchoDitto about their projects, and 2) Queue up five Tweets in Hootsuite.

What makes your day shine?

My ultimate day includes doing an online tutorial, such as “Getting started with Search Engine Optimization” at Lynda.com, or a webinar on branding and media. Learning and sharing. Growing my useful skills. Having more to give.

What makes your day shine? When do you start losing track of time?

Ultimate success, I think, is when a person can develop her passion and interests into a career path. I do love pottery as a hobby, but it’s not a passion that I’d want to turn into a career. I’m fascinated by visual communication, online technology for communication, and storytelling that makes you cry. So that’s where I focus my career dreaming and skills building.

A successful woman who shines in her public speaking

Want to know who I think is a successful woman? Michelle Lapinski.

I know Michelle through YWSE, where she was a founding board member and is co-chair of the national board. She exudes her warmth, and has a contagious and shining passion. After working at least ten years in corporate social responsibility with companies like the Gap, she recently became Director of Corporate Practice at the Nature Conservancy. We're about to share a documentary video that features Michelle and you can find out when by signing up for the YWSE-SF blog.

At our gala debut of the movie, Michelle spoke in a way that still makes me see her, speaking without notes, from her heart, with life in here eyes and body, feeling good in her skin.

I write and strategize well, and now if I could speak publicly like Michelle … who knows how many hearts and minds I could help influence for the better. Now I know what’ll be top on my 2011 intention setting exercise!  

Adriana Dakin is a communication strategist, with expertise in social media strategy, website development, digital storytelling, and professional development for entrepreneurs. She works as an independent consultant and on the Fission Strategy team. Follow her on Twitter here and Like her on Facebook here.

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