Creating Passion While Making Yourself Useful

Mick Ukleja

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing leadership consultant Mick Ukleja, founder of both the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach and the management consulting nonprofit LeadershipTraq. Mr. Ukleja majored in philosophy at CSULB, my Alma Mater, and in our conversation offered insight on the challenges of generational equality in the workplace.

As a Millennial (Generation Y)  working for a Baby Boomer, I found it fascinating to hear Mr. Ukleja’s perspective on how the role of manager/supervisor has evolved with Millennials entering the workplace. In his blog, LeadershipFaq’s, he addresses the “imaginative orientation” of my generation that is comparatively much more experimental than that of the Boomer.

When I sat down with Mr. Ukleja, our interview led to a discussion on finding your passion and making yourself useful. In today’s economy, where nearly 11 percent of folks living in Los Angeles County are reportedly unemployed, I asked Mr. Ukleja what he thought people should do to get back on their feet; how to contribute again to the local community and economy. He responded

with a call to find out what is in demand.

Finding one’s passion fuels supply, but it doesn’t necessary translate to what is needed to get the economy moving forward, he explained. However, he didn’t knock on pursuing passion, instead insinuating that getting training for a job in a growing sector can actually lead to finding passion, that it could very well “just pop up.”

After college, I knew I had to jump at any journalism opportunity I could to get my career going. I had the training through my work at the Daily 49er, an internship with the Long Beach Press-Telegram and some freelance work for the Grunion Gazette. I had thought I would get into daily or weekly community newspaper work, a full-time job at the Long Beach Business Journal “just popped up.”

Business journalism? I was surprised myself. I mean, I had always considered journalism quasi-vocational, a skill I could take with me just about anywhere. And I did enjoy managing the newsroom at the Daily 49er, which I considered about as close to a professional publication as you could get in a college setting. But I had been trained as a journalist in a liberal setting and influenced by some some anti-business, staunch Democrats in both journalism and women’s studies classes.

Don’t get me wrong; I was so happy to have the job. At first, it was a challenge. I was left feeling defeated after a story got chopped to pieces. I felt stressed writing a huge amount of copy in a foreign two-week deadline. Oh, and I had to learn quite a bit about the business side of education, healthcare, the environment and politics. Four months into the job, I was really starting to get the hang of it; plus I had the help of two other writers who had a combined three years of experience at the Business Journal. And then they quit. Within weeks of each other. That’s when I had to kick it into high gear and make myself useful.

Today I’m involved in all sorts of elements of the Business Journal – from writing to social media marketing, video editing to posting articles to our content management system. And that’s just the editorial side. I was a member of the team that earned the winning bid for the Long Beach Airport Terminal Modernization, helping the Business Journal get its name on the news and gift shop inside the newly-designed terminal scheduled to open in December. I’m currently developing a video that will play on a monitor outside the shop, highlighting some of the businesses that have chosen to invest in Long Beach. I’ve also conducted interviews and helped hire staff writers, an administrative assistant, an editorial assistant and marketing and sales assistants.

It’s been three years and I can’t express how much I’ve grown at the Business Journal both personally and professionally. I have found passion for what I do, sharing the stories of the entrepreneurs and leaders I have met and interviewed on the job. At this juncture, I look forward to what opportunities lie ahead for me to become more useful in my work as a business journalist, a writer and a person.

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