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How to use your passion to change the world (and maybe your job)


Vivian Nunez Pin It
Photo: Vivian Nunez
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Passion: It’s what pushes you through a tough workout or inspires you to take up reiki. And, if there’s been a silver lining to the current political climate, it’s that many people are looking for ways to channel their passion into activism.

Defeatism has given way to an uncontainable energy to change the world for the better. And women across the country, worried what the next four years will mean for reproductive rights, racial equality, and climate change, among other political issues, are committing to taking action—big or small. (Look no further than the record-setting turnout at the Women’s Marches across the country this past weekend.)

But how exactly do you have an impact? Or what if you want to make the leap from full-time paying gig to branching out into the great unknown on your own…without going broke? Here, two women who’ve been there, done that, share their best tips.

Keep reading to learn how to use your passion to change the world. (Warning: major motivation ahead!)

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Blair Imani of Equality for HER
Photo: Blair Imani

How to change the world while holding down your day job

Not everyone wants—or needs—to quit their full-time job to pursue an interest in a big way. Blair Imani works full-time for Planned Parenthood while also serving as executive director of Equality for Her, a nonprofit creating an awareness about health, education, and rights for all people.

“Right now I’m going to work at Planned Parenthood and then spending time doing Equality for Her stuff on my lunch break—as well as in the evening,” she explains.

Here, she gives the low-down on how she balances both.

1. Learn to delegate

“When I first launched Equality for Her, I was doing everything myself—traveling to different cities to give speeches at rallies and lead in-person events like discussions about HIV—even though there were other people in those cities who could do it. This was my baby!” Imani says. “But I started to feel burnt out, so I learned the importance of building a strong network of people who can help me.”

2. Tell your boss about your side hustle

Instead of trying to hide what you’re doing, Imani advises being open about your passion project with your boss—and providing reassurance that you’re still 100 percent committed to your job. Her colleagues at Planned Parenthood know all about Equality for Her, and even when Imani worked at Heineken (so a place totally unrelated to women’s rights), she was upfront and honest—and only received support.

3. Create boundaries so you aren’t working all the time

Imani freely admits this is something she’s still working on, but one of her goals for 2017 is to make Sunday her no-work-at-all day. Remember that you can’t do your best if you’re not taking care of yourself.

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Photo: Tyler Babin
Photo: Tyler Babin

How to follow your passion and turn it into a full-time gig

Vivian Nunez went the traditional route through college, scoring top-notch publishing internships every semester. But in the spring of her senior year, something earth-shattering happened: her grandmother died.

“I learned that there were a lot of people under the age of 20 who had lost a close friend or family member,” she says. It inspired Nunez to found Too Damn Young, a platform for young adults to grieve together. When graduation rolled around, she turned down an on-staff magazine position (AKA her long-time “dream” position) to focus on her startup full-time.

How is she doing it while paying the bills? Nunez shares her playbook here.

1. Hit up your mentors

Nunez’s first tip: Don’t keep your desires a secret. “I asked my two mentors for advice and they both told me to go for it, saying I could always go back to a 9-to-5 later,” she says. True mentors and experts in your field will tell you if your plan is actually viable.

2. Don’t wait until you quit your job to start your passion project

“If I had been working a 9-to-5, I wouldn’t have quit everything one day and started Too Damn Young the next,” Nunez explains. “I started it in college, making the website, writing one post a day, and testing it out to see if it would be successful first. Start little by little, one weekend at a time, and map out how you want to get closer to the bigger goal.”

3. Have a plan for supplementing your income, just in case

The fear of not having a steady paycheck is real, and Nunez splits her time between working on Too Damn Young while pursuing other paying, part-time gigs (for her, that includes helping companies with social media). “When you follow your passion, you start getting offers for things you never thought people would pay you for—which is cool,” she says. Her other pro tip: have a credit card just for business-related expenses—it will make things way easier come tax time. “I also had a one-hour call with a tax accountant to figure out what I should be expensing throughout the year,” says Nunez. “If you work from a cafe, you can write off your coffee!” Talk about job perks.

Fun fact: Investing in your passions will always pay off. And no matter what you end up doing, you could probably use this productivity hack.