Passion, Work and Career Paths

creative-working

Most people who know me professionally know me as a Business Analyst who is fanatical about managing her time and stubbornly determined to fulfill promises. With nearly a decade of defining problems and delivering solutions, my work history is filled with projects I’ve turned around and efficiencies gained despite diminishing resources.

I’ve recently had conversations with people who are re-evaluating or starting on their career paths. They were surprised to learn that once upon a time, I wanted to be a sculptor. Or a screenwriter. Or a movie director. Or work in the field of gerontology. Or work in the field of clinical psychology. Or become a copyright lawyer.

So how on earth did I end up as a Business Analyst and remain dedicated to the practice for so long?

There is a school of thought that one can do what you love and the rest will follow. In many stories, this is typically something creative or altruistic: an artist, a chef, a teacher, a researcher. While these stories are wildly romantic, to me they aren’t pragmatic and leave out the fact that most people aren’t one-dimensional characters with merely one interest in life.

A Girl’s Gotta Eat

Throughout and after university, I set myself on a path to becoming a sculptor. I rented studio space in an old warehouse until I could afford to buy a home with a basement to convert into a studio. I applied to every show that I could travel to and could be a fit for my style of sculpting. I sought and courted galleries that represented art similar to mine.

And I got an office job to pay for my sculpting and necessities. Because a girl’s gotta eat.

As I navigated the world of art, I learned about market appetite, the spending habits of consumers and the psychology of art collectors. I studied the income sources of professional sculptors who were able to sustain themselves through art alone. I analysed the career trajectories of these sculptors, and quickly realized that the time and effort I would need to earn a living wage as a sculptor was greater than what I had to offer. As much as I wanted to be a professional sculptor, my skills, resources and the appetite of the market simply couldn’t sustain my dream.

I continued sculpting to feed my soul, while starting to look for another way to feed my body.

Passion vs Passions

At first glance, the smorgasbord of career paths I have explored may seem like a disjointed result of someone who lacks drive or focus. How could someone progress from creative arts to social sciences to business analysis?

By embracing a wide variety of interests, I found not my one passion, but the underlying motivations that drive me. I began to appreciate a career not only for its job description, but the day to day aspects of it that kept me coming back for more.

While most of the career paths in the creative arts and social sciences require passion intrinsically, Business Analysis kept my attention because it has all of the elements of the other career options I have explored:

Playwriting/ Screenwriting Journalism Sculpting Teaching Gerontology Website Design Business Analysis
Tell a story Yes Yes Yes
Create something Yes Yes Yes Yes
Work alone and collaboratively Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Learn about people Yes Yes Yes Yes
Requires intense focus Yes Yes
Sufficiently challenging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Develop others Yes Yes
Help others Yes Yes Yes Yes

So while no one would ever make a biopic of a BA, everything that is needed to be a BA are the reason why it’s the career path that has endured for me.

Work Passion vs Life Passion

So if you do what you love, will the rest really follow? I agree with it because, as boring as it sounds, I love being a Business Analyst. Even when I’m frustrated that I can’t get consensus from my stakeholders or that we have missed a deadline, I am driven to move through those challenges to the end goal.

But business analysis isn’t my only passion, nor is it the only thing that defines me. I still love to read anything I can get my hands on, appreciate a beautifully crafted work of art, take in a well orchestrated movie, and appreciate the efforts of teachers and those in eldercare. I’ve also continued to expand my interests, refining my appreciation of music and coming to enjoy live sporting events.

I can now appreciate that I can be passionate about my work and passionate about a variety of other interests without them being in conflict. I can be a patron of the arts and support causes that are dear to me. Being passionate about one thing at work doesn’t have to take away from being passionate about other things in life.

There can be more than one answer to: What are you passionate about?