Food for thought

How to cultivate your passion without quitting your day job.

In 2010, I decided to go vegan for 6 months as an attempt to eat healthier. No meat. No cheese. No dairy at all. I had already been a vegetarian for a few years, so I went into this experience with the false assumption that it would be a simple lifestyle change. After a week of eating vegan, I realized it was difficult going out to dinner and I had no idea how to cook. Clearly lost, I decided the best way to approach this challenge was to start a blog and publicly document my journey. And just like that, was born.

When I published my first blog post, I stumbled my way through vegan recipes in the kitchen while navigating how to build a blog. I wasn’t particularly good at cooking or writing, but I enjoyed the process of learning. I didn’t have a plan, half of my recipes were failures, and I was taking food photos on a phone that had a sliding keyboard–but I loved every minute of it.

On the weekends, I found myself browsing the aisles of health food stores, looking for new ingredients. The minute I came home from work, I would start creating recipes–I’d pick an unfamiliar ingredient and brainstorm how I could turn it into an edible dinner. Late at night, I’d write out my kitchen adventures on my blog and chat with readers in the comments section.

After six months of my vegan experiment, I decided I wasn’t ready to give up cheese for the rest of my life and transitioned back to my vegetarian lifestyle. But my love of blogging and recipe creation continued to grow, and my vegan experiment uncovered my passion for healthy ingredients and recipe creation. Every time a reader commented to tell me they had tried a recipe or convinced their significant other to eat a meatless dinner, I was over the moon with excitement and it motivated me to keep at it.

Last fall, a publishing agent found my blog and asked if I was interested in writing a cookbook. After pinching myself at least a dozen times, I decided to take my passion to the next level and develop 100+ healthy meatless recipes. I would come home from work, park myself in the kitchen, and spend hours recipe testing into the night. While it consumed nearly every moment of free time, I enjoyed the whole process.

What started as a little blog without much direction has turned into a passion project that is bigger than I ever imagined. I’ve created hundreds of healthy, vegetarian recipes that have been pinned, tweeted, and shared more times than I can count. Not only have I learned how to cook, but I also fell in love with the connections that happen on social media. A few years after my blogging pursuit began, it led me to a career on the social team here at Capital One.

When I started to see connections between my passion and my career, it fed my excitement for both. If you’re having trouble staying motivated in your day job or feeling burnt out on your side projects, here are a few tips that helped me along the way:

1. Find the connection between your personal passion and your professional responsibilities

I love creating healthy recipes, which obviously doesn’t have a lot of similarities with the financial services world, but I did find overlap between the technology and social media space. Thinking about the common ground allows me to hone my skills on both sides. If you love photography, maybe you can sharpen your skills by shooting new images for your company newsletter or website. If you’re an aspiring stand-up comedian, maybe you can perfect your joke delivery by giving more presentations to a crowd. It doesn’t have to be directly related for them to be connected.

2. Raise your hand to try new skills and experiences

I have said yes to plenty of opportunities that aren’t in my job description. Whether it’sparticipating in a photoshoot or writing a blog post, I’ve found that many of the opportunities I accepted have helped me grow both personally and professionally. Be open and honest with your team about what skills you’re looking to learn, and you might find yourself being tapped for the next big project.

3. Look for volunteer or pro bono projects

Capital One offers the opportunity to use professional skills to help non-profits and local businesses, which makes it a great chance to step outside your comfort zone. I’ve been able to help a local tech non-profit rethink their approach to social media, which in turn helped me think about how to build my own social media channels in a different way.

As my career has changed and my job responsibilities have evolved, I’ve been able to take on new and exciting work without sacrificing my passion projects. I spend my days focused on social media engagement with our customers, and I spend my evenings dreaming up new recipes, snapping photos of my latest creation, and editing my upcoming cookbook.

Having a job I love means I come home from work feeling energized rather than drained. Finding the connection between my profession and my passion motivates me to take on new work challenges, while the success I’ve found in my personal life has helped me grow as an employee.

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