Katy Dolan — Chooses Balance Over the Traditional Path


Photo Courtesy of Katy Dolan

So many people have had the experience. They graduate from college, eager to go into the world and pursue their dreams. Once they land that first job, they think they're off and running on the path to achieving their goals. But for some, that dream job can become a nightmare — or at least a major disappointment. Being the new kid on the block can often come with long hours, loads of pressure and a nagging feeling that maybe the real world is a little harsher than people had described. But most people believe their only option is to grin and bear it until they get their big break. That was not the case for Katy Dolan. Not long after graduating from Harvard and entering the work force, she decided to leave the traditional route behind and start her own consulting company. Katy leveraged her expertise in the varied fields of tech, venture capital, politics and nonprofits to launch Katy Dolan Consulting, strategizing and executing marketing campaigns and research projects to serve growing clients. Just 23 years old, Katy admits that becoming self-employed this soon out of college was not part of her master plan but she's on a mission to shine a light on the darker side of life as a young professional. Here is an excerpt from our interview with Katy. Passionistas: What is the one thing you're most passionate about? Katy: As you alluded to in my bio there, I became very passionate about work life balance and how to navigate your career as a young professional. After I graduated from college and found that, you know, I wasn't having the most fun time navigating the professional world myself as a 22 and early 23 year old. And so as I began to have those issues, I of course talked about them with my peers and my friends and discovered that those issues were actually very, very common. And we didn't feel like enough folks were talking about how difficult it can be to graduate college and enter the professional world and not really know the best decision to make or know whether the things that are making you unhappy are your fault or someone else's fault, or, you know, all sorts of things like that. And so I've become really passionate about talking about those first years out of college and your profession and what you can do to make that experience a little bit better for you both in terms of your professional success, but also more importantly, your mental health and your kind of sanity. Passionistas: If you will talk about how your passion relates to what you do for a living. Katy: To be honest, I'm still exploring the best way for my passion to relate to what I do for a living on the one hand, my passion relates to what I'm doing for a living, because what I'm doing for a living with my solution out of the problem that my passion relates to, if that makes sense. So I was very dissatisfied in my career in the first couple of years out of college. And so ultimately the best decision that I could make was to become self-employed and launched my consultancy and worked for myself. And, you know, that was my solution to the problem that I'm passionate about. But that solution has helped me to kind of enjoy professional satisfaction at this point, but it's not helping the many, many, many other young people who were in the same boat. And so I'm still working on that solution. It's maybe a book it's maybe a company it's maybe a blog series. I'm not quite sure, but I know that there is something there from all these conversations I've had with young people who are feeling the same things that I did right out of college. Passionistas: So what are the common threads? What are you hearing from these young people? Katy: On the one hand, there are issues with your manager or your boss, your supervisor at your workplace. So I think a lot of folks are trying to navigate, and many for the first time, working full time with a manager, with whom they do not necessarily get along on a day to day basis. And it's very difficult. I think to tell when you are shortly out of college, whether the challenges that you have with people in the workplace, particularly your manager, but also, you know, colleagues or other folks, whether those challenges are related to your attitude in the workplace to your contributions, or whether in some cases you are working in more of a dysfunctional workplace and your manager isn't really well equipped to manage folks. And so really where to put the blame is the question that I think haunts a lot of young people that I've spoken to. And I certainly felt that myself, right, when you come home after having a hard day where you had a bad interaction with your manager, it's very difficult to get in your head and wonder if that was your fault. And in some cases, it almost certainly is because you're a young professional and you don't know how to navigate that situation, but in other cases, it is your manager's fault, or it is your workplace's fault for not setting you up to be better prepared in that situation or whatever the issue may have been. And I think that anxiety about, you know, whether it's you all the time, whether it's other people, whether it's some blend of both can really cause you to spiral into wondering what's going on in your workplace and why it's affecting you so badly. So one thread is kind of managers. I think another big thread of course, is just satisfaction and feeling fulfilled with what you're doing. So, you know, so many people get their first job out of college. And I think it's a very common cultural trope that your first job is just supposed to suck and supposed to be bad. Even when you talk to family members or friends or people you meet at a cocktail party or whoever it might be. And you describe that, well, this is my first job out of college. The instant response is this sympathetic like, Oh yeah, first job out of college. Tough. Right? And I think so many people recognize that that first job is so often not particularly fulfilling. It's not really what you want to be doing. You haven't yet found what it is that you want to be doing. And so you're toiling every day doing often kind of menial junior level work sometimes in industries and fields that you're just not passionate about. You're not interested in, you've maybe realized through working there for the last one to two years, that it's not what you want to do for the rest of your life. And so that meaning is really not there in your day to day experience. And that is only worsened by working 10, 12 hour days, which a lot of people are doing in these junior level positions. And so particularly when you combine that kind of the trifecta of those bad experiences, you maybe have a bad boss or a bad manager. You're not doing work. That's fulfilling to you. And you're working 10, 12 hour days with very little time for a personal life that can be really oppressive as a 22 and 23 year old. And you're not sure where to go in terms of your career to make it feel less oppressive than it is. To find out more about Katy visit katydoland.com. Listen to her full interview here.

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