Life / Careers

More and more, people are risking it all for their passion projects

Many people forget the emotional toll pursuing passion projects can have, cautions a psychologist and career counsellor.

Leena Vadera and Chris Grant love fitness, and they're hoping to turn their passion into a business.

Contributed

Leena Vadera and Chris Grant love fitness, and they're hoping to turn their passion into a business.

Leena Vadera and Chris Grant love fitness.

The Toronto couple train together and go to the gym regularly. Grant, 37, even had a second job as a personal trainer.

But now the duo are hoping to turn their passion into a business, with plans to open a gym (an Australian high-intensity franchise called F45) next month.

It’s a big financial and emotional investment, they admit. The Yonge and Eglinton location wasn’t cheap and every spare moment since they signed the contracts in May has been spent setting up.

To mitigate the financial risk, Vadera, 36, is keeping her day job with the government as a childhood education and special needs policy writer (a job she also loves, she says), with plans to moonlight at the gym.

Meanwhile, Grant, 37, quit his well-paying job as a high voltage electrician so he could focus full-time on the budding business.

“My employer was awesome. People said, ‘Are you crazy? You have so much security and you’re going to give it away for something you don’t even know will work?’” Grant says. “I was petrified.”

Leena Vadera is hoping to turn her passion for fitness into a business.

Contributed

Leena Vadera is hoping to turn her passion for fitness into a business.

Risk or not, Grant and Vadera are not alone. Whether it’s selling crafts online, blogging in their off hours or working for some extra coin, 5.3 per cent of Canadians have two jobs, which has more than doubled in the past 40 years according to Statistics Canada. That number is likely to rise as people, particularly young adults, seek more emotional fulfillment from their careers, as well as financial prosperity.

One 2016 study from HR firm ADP Canada found 55 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds want to change careers, with 11 per cent wanting to pursue their own business. A second study from American Express found that when looking for a new gig, 30 per cent of millennial small-business owners turned to entrepreneurship because they wanted to follow their passion.

However, true career fulfilment means finding more than something you’re good at and enjoy, cautions Meghan Reid, a psychologist and career counsellor.

“Lots of people go in thinking they’ll love something, but the reality of that job isn’t what they thought,” she says. People who love to paint, for example, might not enjoy the hustle required to make a living off painting.  

Many people forget the emotional toll pursuing passion projects can have, she adds. Quitting a stable job to run a business or start a new career often means financial insecurity. Holding two jobs can lead to work-life balance issues and burnout, she says.

Brandon Carlos, a tech industry exec and wannabe chef, who for six months, unknown to his colleagues, spent his weekends interning at Eigensinn farm and restaurant.

Julia Zander photography

Brandon Carlos, a tech industry exec and wannabe chef, who for six months, unknown to his colleagues, spent his weekends interning at Eigensinn farm and restaurant.

That stress didn’t stop Brandon Carlos. The tech industry exec is also a wannabe chef, and for six months, unknown to his colleagues, he spent his weekends interning at Eigensinn farm and restaurant in Singhampton, Ont. After a two-hour commute from Toronto, he’d spend Saturdays and Sundays working on a farm, and the evenings preparing the food, before making the return drive Sunday night.

And though he felt burnt out when the internship ended in October, he’s undaunted in his quest for the kitchen, already eyeing another internship with a restaurant in the U.K., which he’d tackle using vacation time.

While he’s not ready to give up his day job, which he says provides more financial stability than being a chef might, he says he gets more fulfilment out of cooking and hopes to one day make it a full-time gig. “I think you get to a certain point in your career when you think ‘while making money is amazing, there has to be more.’”

Reviewing your decision

“Prior to turning a passion project into a career, pouring yourself into something, advanced prep is super important,” says Reid.

Step 1: Identify if your passion can even be your career. If you’re extroverted, a solo job as a writer might not be a fit.

Step 2: Be financially prepared. This might mean putting aside extra cash, speaking with a financial planner, or building up your side business while maintaining a full-time job.

Step 3: Track your happiness. Your passion pursuits should not make you miserable, and while stress is inevitable, people should track their happiness and stress levels over time to make sure things aren’t getting worse, Reid says.

Step 4: Identify an exit point. New businesses or careers don’t always work. Whether it’s financial (“I’ll make a profit by next year”) or emotional (“I’ll be happier in six months”), know when to step back.

Step 5: Know how to sell yourself back into the traditional work force. If you need to go back to the 9 to 5 grind, understand what skills you’ll need to brush back up on and how to sell your side-step back into something hiring managers might want to hear.

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