They say to find something you love doing and you’ll never work a day in your life. But what about when you have multiple things you love to do? (Spoiler alert: it may involve slightly more work.)
I was about to graduate with a degree in Graphic Design when an #SApro suggested I consider Higher Education. After a little googling, I learned that all of my development in college was not an accident! Gasp! Like most SA professionals, I was thrilled to learn I could impact students’ college experiences, just as mine had been so powerfully molded. What an incredible job! Two weeks later I took the GRE and 2.5 months later I was accepted into grad school. It was quite the whirlwind and I couldn’t have been more excited. But I wasn’t sure what I would do with my undergrad degree –– I loved graphic design so I struggled to think that this part of my life might be disappearing. I’ve been surprised how often my students feel this way. When discussing their post-graduate plans, they consider each of their interests and then struggle to choose just one that they will devote the rest of their time and energy to… forever. As they should! But don’t we as professionals often forget to share with students the balance (or sometimes struggle) we have found between our day job and other things we love? I had found my perfect fit in Student Affairs, but that didn’t mean that art and the desire to create work that I love just suddenly disappeared.
In grad school, I was falling more in love with my work in Student Affairs, but I missed designing and began taking on small graphic design jobs. Graphically designing ideas was my usual thing. I found myself designing invitations, websites, and t-shirts for friends and family. But then suddenly their friends were hiring me. I did work for a bank, a candle shop, a bed and breakfast, and an immigration attorney. But it wasn’t until a year into my professional career that a friend dared me to make my side-gig official. I started my Etsy shop on that dare, with the understanding that when I didn’t sell anything in the first month I’d delete it. Well, here I am three years later with more design requests than I can accommodate and I couldn’t be happier.
For me, having the balance of my student affairs job during the day, and a hobby I love at night, allows me to feel like I am using the most of my strengths and gifting. Before I started, I worried that the extra work would divide my interest or drain my time and energy, but I’ve found that usually the opposite is true. I am pursuing two things that I love, and the energy and excitement from having a separate passion beyond my day job is so rewarding. I’ve had to learn how much design work I can handle and when to say no. Learning my personal limitations has been both a difficult and rewarding journey. There are days when it might be easier not to have additional timelines or work, but I suspect that even if I didn’t have design work to do, I would be bringing my Student Affairs work home with me. The art of the work/life balance will always be a challenge, but I’m thankful that I’ve found a way to turn both of my passions into productive pursuits.
Having a creative outlet, and allowing something I love to continue to be a part of my life does make me a better #SApro and hopefully it helps to paint a picture for my students of a professional who has many passions and interests. Just because something isn’t your day job does not mean that it isn’t an important part of your identity. I think it is easy to forget that both as a student and as a professional. Something you love can remain a part of your life through hobbies, side jobs, and volunteer work. It isn’t an all or nothing decision when it comes to choosing your career goals. You can have your cake, and make money for baking it too.
This post is part of our #SAsidehustles series, which focuses on the SA pros with a second passion. These Student Affairs Professionals transition their mental and physical energy into a project that acts as both an emotional release and some level of supplemental income. From Etsy shops to horse braiding, these stories are bound to make you want to find your “by night” side hustle. For more information, check out the intro post by Tom Krieglstein. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!