3rd February, 2023
How starting a side project can help you when you feel lost in your career
“It's okay not to know exactly what you want to do in the long term if you're starting a side project. Sometimes just starting the project is a huge move in itself.”
Gaby was feeling stuck at the job she had been doing for almost 10 years. But she didn’t know where to go next. All she knew was that she was ready for something new.
This is the story of how she started a side project that allowed her to discover her passion in community and ultimately helped her get her first job in a completely new career!
If you’re in similar shoes, stuck at a job you no longer want, with no idea what to do next, Gaby’s story can inspire you to take action. It will help you understand how starting a side project can help you discover where you wanna go next and even open new doors for you.
“It was the only thing happening in Toronto like that at the time”
When Gaby was in the UK, she saw a strange culture of supper clubs - which are these cool underground events where you would go with a group of strangers and have a meal. This didn’t exist back in Toronto, where she was from. So, when she went back to Toronto, she started the city’s first supper club - as a side project with her full-time job.
This was a combination of 2 of her passions - food and cinema. So, she melded the two for her project and called it Supper Club Cinema!
The idea was to bring about 25 people over for a 4-course meal prepared by a local chef and pair each course with a short film. Since food and films were such a natural conversation starters strangers would strike up conversations with each other, having a good time.
The first time she did it, she invited her friends. Next time, those friends brought another set of friends with them. Soon, it was featured in Toronto’s local magazine and she started running a waitlist of people lining up to attend one of these events.
It would become evident to her only in hindsight how this side project would help her discover her passion for community building.
“It was the biggest indication for me that I wanted to work in community”
Supper Club Cinema gave Gaby a playground to nurture her community building instincts. She did several things to ensure that stranger talked to each other, building a communal experience:
- She had everyone sit at one long communal table instead of one small table for 4 people each, like at restaurents.
- She understood that the key to a successful event was communicating beforehand to let people know what they are walking into.
- Before each film, she would give people pointers to talk about so that they had those in mind when the film ended.
- As a host, she also played the role of a matchmaker, introducing people who she thought should meet.
At the time, she had no idea that she would have an entire career in building communities but it was the biggest indication to her that she wanted to work in communities. She fell in love with the power of bringing strangers together over some shared purpose. In fact, she still does some variation of these things at her current job as the Community Manager at Grapevine.
“It felt like so much work and I would often think, what am I doing this for?”
The biggest challenge with doing a side project is not the doing part but the part where you need to convince yourself to keep doing it.
When Gaby was doing Supper Club Cinema, she would have to drag the screen, projector and plates to all the different venues. It often felt like so much work and made her contemplate, what is she doing this for.
But in hindsight, it helped her discover her passion for building community. Not just that, it actually helped her break into the community industry by helping her get her first Community Manager role at Artery.
One day, the founder of Artery, a small startup that is best described as the Airbnb for local events - not unlike Supper Club Cinema, reached out to Gaby. She had heard of Supper Club Cinema, loved the idea and wanted to catch coffee.
2 years later, Gaby saw an opening for Community Manager role in their newsletter and got in. She believes that the connection she made with the founder and her credibility with Supper Club Cinema were a huge reason why she got this role!
These things that you're passionate about, they can lead to all these other exciting opportunities. But remember, that they have an incubation period. Even if it feels maybe like they're not getting traction or you're not fully sure what you're doing, they really lead places and you just need to be patient.
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Make a scary pivot in the Community Industry
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- one video interview with an awesome community professional discussing how they broke in
- one case study with actionable advice on breaking into the industry
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