It's already been a month since I left my job as an academic advisor at the Art Institute of Houston. It was the best job I had before today. I had my own office, a great salary, and my colleagues appreciated my commitment to students, particularly because I was the only one at the school in that role. So why did I turn in my departure notice? Let me explain.
Find your passion
Since my early 20s my mother would say, "Do what you love and the money will follow." I always kept that advice with me and today, at age 29, it's becoming a reality. For contextual history, my first job out of college was in public relations. I did well at it but I didn't love it. Then I worked for Careerbuilder.com. Like many of my former co-workers, I performed terribly at selling online job advertisements in a struggling economy, so they fired me (this is the first time I'm sharing this with anyone other than my family, and it's quite liberating).
When my brother got me a job in higher education, it seemed like something I could stick with for the long haul. Yet five years in the advising role and a master's degree in higher education later, I was still wrong! Thus, I had to leave the Art Institute recently and take a different path.
In the second year of my graduate program, I realized I didn't want my boss's job, nor did I want to get a PhD to become a professor. As cheesy as it may sound, I found my greatest joy in helping people whom our society forgets about or simply ignores, so nonprofit opportunities got on my radar. In 2012, I became heavily involved in the nonprofit sector and did about a year's worth of research on how I could make the biggest impact. The answer I came up with is The Knoble, which is a play on being "in the know" of "noble" organizations, brands and people. I thought, I would be lucky to spend the rest of my career showcasing the great work nonprofits are doing to change the world.
Find the opportunity
Last August, I planned, promoted, and hosted a film premiere for another company I tried to start called ChairFund, which would help filmmakers present their movies and donate a portion of the profits to charity. It was a good enough idea but there were a lot of moving parts involved and I was only interested in the charity part (if anybody wants to take the idea, it's yours but just give me some of the credit!).
There was a silver lining in all the stress it caused me. As a result of the event's success, I was approached to do marketing work for a local business owner, who had built years of connections in the film industry. I figured, even if ChairFund didn't work out, I could learn from his insights and raise my status as a part-time consultant in the process.
My work with him led to a fashion client in Dallas, which led to architect client in Houston, which led to a media client in Austin. I'm not one to talk about money, but for the sake of the story, I was making more consulting part-time than I was at my full-time job. But I didn't love being a consultant! What I did love was that it afforded me the luxury to make a decision. I had saved up enough to take the leap towards working on The Knoble on a full-time basis.
To be clear, I will still be consulting, because I need the money to support basic living expenses. But as I sign of my intentions, I don't even have a website for this "consulting agency" and have never sought out any clients (I feel very blessed to say that). The fact is I put my all into the time I spend on client work, which is why they refer me to their friends and colleagues.
Find a mom like mine*
I titled this "First Day at My Dream Job" because I'm not into the romance of calling myself an "entrepreneur" or "CEO." I'm simply following my passion and seeing where it takes me. The idea of calling it "my job" keeps me grounded in the sense that I consider myself an employee. The cool thing is I'm the first employee at something I started.
I thank my friends for their support in the past, present, and future. I also thank my family for believing in me when I told them I'm starting a media company for nonprofits (as crazy as that may sound), most importantly my mom for continually professing the notion that loving what I do is more important than chasing dollars. Right again.
Originally featured on LinkedIn, where you can follow me or add me to your network.
*No, I won't share!
Follow Ahrif Sarumi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ahrifs