Connecting Passion & Profession: why I’m letting the idea of a hobby go

If I introduced myself to you six months ago I’d have had a few answers to describe myself ready to go. If we were at a networking event, I’d tell you I’m that studying at the Foster School of Business and that I’m interested in nonprofit management. If you were an artist or we met in a gallery I’d say I’m a art student studying photomedia at UW. If we met in the mountains I’d say that I’m a climber and photographer.

I used to think these identities: business student, artist, climber, others – couldn’t easily coexist. I told myself that I would wait until I was forced to pick one to choose and leave the others behind. I’ve since realized that being passionate about one doesn’t have to be a detriment to the others.

A little over a year ago, I had my time in college all planned out. I knew what internships I wanted to apply for and when, where I wanted to work after graduation, even the classes I would take each quarter. Towards the end of my sophomore year, a professor emailed me about an opportunity to work as a photographer with the U.S. Forest Service. The position sounded too good to be true and I didn’t think I would get it, but I applied regardless. A few weeks later I was offered the position during the interview and found myself faced with a hard decision. While the job would allow me to explore my passions work independently, and take on a wide variety of assignments, it didn’t fit into my four-year plan.

A few days of thinking led me to realize that I was letting what I thought was a realistic vision for my future keep me a dream opportunity. I accepted the position and found for the first time I could combine my love of the mountains with my passion for art and photography. I was able to work independently in wilderness areas, backpack and camp regularly, and meet some of the best people I’ve ever gotten to know. Spending the summer doing something that I was so passionate about led me to consider how striving for a stable plan could leave me closed off from other opportunities.

I’ve started to consider these passions and interests as important and interactive components of my being. My ‘hobbies’ don’t have to live in a box.

Climber in a Crevasse on Mt. Rainier

Realizing that my study of art and my and my love of outdoor sports help me in practical ways has helped me to live gratified with a diversity of interests that previously left me insecure. Part of my change in thinking is due to the recognition that although they have vastly different and mostly unrelated applications, the skills that I learn in business school, mountain climbing, and in critiques are closely interconnected. From risk management in climbing to expression and creativity in photomedia, these practices make me stronger, happier, more willing to learn and step out of my comfort zone.

Hobby: 1. an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.

The mindset that a strong passion for a hobby exists in a box separate from profession pulls us from prioritizing these things despite the happiness they bring us and they way they can help us to develop. Sure, there’s a pretty small job market for wilderness photographers. But is there a job market for people who can work independently and creatively under stress, manage risk, and maintain a willingness to learn? I sure hope so.

Upon graduation I’m hoping to find a position in content creation or product management with an environmentally minded company. The rigid, step-by-step plan I used to cling to has given way to a set of goals for a future career and openness to any opportunities that could lead me there – even if I take an unexpected detour along the way.

Skykomish Wilderness Ranger in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

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By Daniel Briggs