Glenn Street entered the sports mascot industry by happenstance, but he got hooked by passion.
Street, now president of Calgary-based Street Characters, which supplies mascot costumes for hundreds of professional and college sports teams in the US, Canada and elsewhere, used to work in commercial real estate. He considers this career "a great 'paid' education," adding, "I learned a great deal about marketing, sales, negotiating, business law, contract law and other things."
Street's career direction changed when he was called into emergency service as a mascot during the 1984 Calgary Stampede. His committee chair asked him to substitute for the usual mascot, who was in the hospital.
"They figure the weight of the costume (85 pounds) has caused his rib cage to compress, and so they've had to remove one of his ribs, because it was pressing against his heart," Street remembers the chair telling him -- followed quickly by, "So, do you want to wear the costume this weekend?"
"Being young and foolish, I agreed," says Street.
Taking this risk not only helped Street spot a budding industry and grow a company to serve it, but it also showed him he could combine two seemingly divergent passions -- business and mascots -- into a rewarding career.
Career Fusion in Action
Thousands of others have combined their interests to find fulfilling careers. For example:
- Before Deena Hoagland's son suffered a stroke, he was a good swimmer who loved the water. So Hoagland, a therapist, took her son to a nearby marine mammal education facility to swim with the dolphins. Now, years later, she's executive director of Island Dolphin Care, a nonprofit that offers dolphin-assisted therapy to children with special needs.
- Lee Goff‘s career focus changed several times. His original undergraduate major was marine biology, but he wound up getting a master's degree in entomology. As an entomologist, one day Goff walked a mile from his hotel to a conference to attend a presentation on mites. When he got there and found out the talk was canceled, he didn't feel like traipsing all the way back to the hotel. So he went to a different session on forensic entomology -- the use of insects in crime scene investigation. "That was over 25 years ago now," says Goff, who today is chair of the forensic sciences program at Chaminade University in Hawaii and occasionally consults for television shows like "CSI."
According to Hoagland, "trailblazing -- cutting a new path -- is difficult, lonely at times and takes believing in yourself, tenacity and a great deal of patience. But anything is possible."
Fuse Your Interests into a Career
Would you like to be the next Street, Hoagland or Goff? It's not as outlandish as you may think, especially if you listen to the following advice from those who've successfully combined interests into their work:
- Ignore the Naysayers: "If you're passionate about your dream, don't expect others to understand it," says Street.
- Take Action Despite Uncertainty: If one theme is common to people who have melded two seemingly conflicting interests into a career, it's that they've been willing to jump without knowing where -- or even if -- they'd land. On the surface, their successes may look like pure chance, but it's really a result of taking chances. "We can't tell what will happen," Goff says. "So find out."
- Think About Your Assets, Not Liabilities: "Your diverse interests can oftentimes be beneficial to the seemingly unrelated career," says Kent Seko, a designer for S&S Power. Seko found a way to turn his architecture background into a career designing roller coasters. Your unique interests "give a perspective to a job that others in that field of work or those desiring to be in that field of work may not have," he says.
- Accept Sacrifice: "Be prepared to work hard, especially during the early years," says Street. "‘If you build it, they will come' only works in the movies."
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