Last week, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a career fair for Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro. I'll admit, when I was first asked to represent Photography as a career to this group of adolescent dreamers, I was both excited and intimidated.

My mind raced with doubt...

I've only just started my business - how can I be a good example of success?

There are a ton of more talented people in this field than me...surely they want someone else for this.

And yet I was urged by the prospect of stepping back into a school, (my masters degree of education diploma calling at me from behind its glass frame) and of sharing both the joy I get from photography and its career potential with youth (of which I was unaware at that age).

Middle school is hilarious. It was also Wacky Wednesday the day I was there which made it even more of a melting pot of awkwardness and extreme expression than usual. Some of the kids who came by my table were genuinely interested while others were just looking to fill out a worksheet. Regardless, their questions got me thinking about business and passion and decision-making from their eyes which was, to say the least, a new filter.

My Favorite Questions:

  1. Is this job easy?

Answer In short, no. There's a huge difference between photography as a hobby and photography as a career. When you are the boss, there's a lot of perks like no interview process to get hired, making your own schedule, getting to pick who you work with, and more. Those are perks on the surface, but they require skills of their own. I recently sat down and charted all of the tasks I'm responsible for on a regular basis and came up with this list within 5 minutes of brainstorming:

[Shooting develop skills & knowledge of gear | scout locations | develop portfolio | practice in unique situations | research and purchase gear Editing learn software | master a unique style Communicationgather and field inquiries | set expectations | lead generation | track clients | establish and track a target market | anticipate/solve client issues | contribute to community | participate in industry conversation | manage social media Graphic Designalbum design | social media templates | informational pamphlets and distribution materials | fine art displays | business cards | branding | marketing materials and copy Legal Issues contracts | banking | model releases | business structure | taxes - federal and state | backup methods Marketing website development | SEO | develop packaging | submit work to publications | network | blog | design seasonal and market sensitive promotions | foster connections with business and client relations Salesselect products | develop and update pricing and products | create/manage vendor relationships | track/ship products | research methods for efficiency and profitability | learn and utilize selling software and tools Logistics develop system of organization | manage expenses | bookkeeping | calculate cost of sales | make projections | create/manage budget]

For someone with a severe decision-making complex, figuring all that out is a process. It's many processes. The key is that it is possible with the three most important skills for this career: creativity, support, and passion.

  1. What do you wish you would have known before starting this career?

Answer That it included all of the above. And how to do it.

By the time I figured out all that was involved and how truly unprepared and unknowledgeable I was, my heart was already invested and I'd tasted the lifestyle of a creative industry entrepreneur. It tasted way too sweet to turn back.

  1. What's your favorite part about this job?

Answer Actually shooting - the 5% of the job that is my favorite adrenaline rush and makes everything else worth figuring out. I'm falling in love with the rest of it, too, but the best part is the shooting: improvising and playing and creating based on the energy and the nature surrounding me, connecting with a client who is enjoying the process of making memories, giving them a product that will live in their homes and their families for generations. THAT's the part that lights me up.

I was humbled by their simplistic questions-- as if finding a career was a finish line. They wanted simple answers they could summarize with 1-5 words on a worksheet, but those answers don't exist in a world past milk cartons and backpacks. I didn't know how to tell them that most of us behind those tables still don't know what we we're "doing with our lives." Most of us trained with intent for one thing only to stumble onto a different race track.

They'll trip a little and eventually find a path, hopefully a happy one, just like everyone else aspires to do with their one precious life. I've come to realize through my own journey, and constantly must remind myself, that happiness doesn't come from climbing to the top of a career ladder or finding the "right" answers. It's not a destination. Whatever stage you're in, if you approach it with integrity and love, taking each step with intention and surrounding yourself with good people, happiness is sure to find its home in your life.