Have you ever wondered, “what am I doing with my life?” Or do you crave meaningful relationships and a sense of community, but feel alone? If you’re not sure what your purpose is, or who you are, you’re not alone.
Side Hustles & Faith: An Interview with Jennifer Baugh, Founder of YCP
Jennifer Baugh is proof that you can have a meaningful life and career that impacts the world. She left a job as a consultant, and founded Young Catholic Professionals, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that encourages young professionals to embrace their faith.
YCP now has 18 chapters nationwide and hosts Executive Speaker Series, networking events, and retreats that have been attended by thousands of 20-30 something Catholics across the country.
In this interview with Jennifer, you’ll find out how faith was the missing piece in her life, how she took her side hustle to a full-time job, and what to do if you’re experiencing a quarter-life crisis. Plus of course, you’ll find out her tips for managing money.
How faith was the missing piece for Jennifer.
Jennifer completed her MBA at the start of the recession and was fortunate to land a high paying job as a consultant in Dallas. Her job offer had a start date of eight months after graduation. She found herself alone in a new city with time on her hands. Everything lined up according to her plan, but something was missing.
“I had eight months of silence. This was the first time in my life to figure out who I was, and I realized I didn’t have a prayer life,” said Jennifer.
She started questioning if consulting and working crazy hours was the real path for her.
Getting settled into a new city she felt alone and wanted to connect with people to have deep meaningful relationships. She then put herself out there and started going to networking events.
What she found surprised her: everyone was restless.
At young professional networking events she was sensing people were lonely, restless, and living surface level. She wanted to figure out where she fit in the world, and others also wanted to go deeper.
Jennifer grew up going to church, but during her time off she grew deep in her faith. She was restless for an authentic relationship with God, not a fancy car or job.
“By learning who God was, the more I realized who I was,” said Jennifer.
This was when the idea for Young Catholic Professionals was born. There are young adult church groups, but they were often poorly attended and poorly run. Many were organized by pastors and would fade over time, especially if the pastor moved churches. During her time off she analyzed the need for a faith-based professional networking group.
“We used to have a country where faith was part of the conversation: we trust in God. Now people are afraid to talk about what was the foundation of our country,” said Jennifer.
YCP’s mission is to Work in Witness for Christ.
YCP is open to all 20-30 somethings: even those who aren’t Catholic.
“The goal is to be witness to the faith. To perform our work excellently to the world with a high standard for God,” said Jennifer.
She explained that someone who might be the most lonely is the person sitting next to us in the cubicle. Her gut feeling that people craved having an authentic relationship with God was right. The first YCP event was attended by over 100 people.
How exactly YCP went from a side hustle to a full-time job.
Jennifer started her consulting job and used her skills from earning an MBA to setup YCP. She researched, held focus group studies, sought council from mentors, and wrote a 50-page business plan.
She had a dashboard and analyzed each event. More YCP events were held in Dallas. She found, “there is a sense of joy that we are here together, and we need each other.”
Jennifer took a calculated risk and quit her job as a consultant.
After working as a consultant for eight months, it became clear that YCP wasn’t a fad. She quit her job and waited tables during the early testing phase of YCP. “I wasn’t going to wait tables indefinitely. It was humbling, but it added structure to my day,” she said.
Not long after, a generous philanthropist read the business plan and wrote a check. She eventually stopped working as a waitress and YCP became her full-time job.
Jennifer’s advice about side hustles.
It’s easy to daydream about quitting your job, but most people aren’t taking the leap to starting their own business. Studies show that 66% of millennials want to start a business, however only 3.6% of businesses are owned by someone under the age of 30.
“There is such a huge thing in our generation with analysis paralysis. We discern things to death and never move forward,” said Jennifer.
Her advice is to be inquisitive, seek to learn about people, and trends. If you have 75% of an idea that is going to work based on research and facts Jennifer encourages people to try it out. Do it to see if your idea is fruitful, and if not reroute.
Here’s more on how to turn your hobby into a business.
What to do if you’re experiencing a quarter-life crisis.
If you’re wondering what your path is, YCP events encourage you to take the time to look inside. “Too often we compare ourselves to other people. It isn’t about that. Strive for excellence, and it is about your potential,” said Jennifer.
Instead of trying to force a certain career path, take time to ask, what does God have planned for me? If you feel stuck, then discern what your life purpose is through prayer, deliberation, and seeking counsel. Here’s two tips if you feel like you have no direction in life.
When it comes to searching for a job or changing career paths, Jennifer said, “You have to detach yourself with the outcome. Put less of your self-worth in the outcome. Let go if something doesn’t go according to plan.”
Tips for managing money from Jennifer.
When it comes to personal finance Jennifer said, “Get a handle on your debt as soon as possible. Too many people are overextending themselves.”
She believes in the importance of setting money aside and saving for a rainy day. She takes a lean approach to finances in her personal life, and as founder of YCP she didn’t take a salary for two years. The organization always has donors and strong financial backing.
“You’ve got to have a balanced life. It requires a real intentional plan,” said Jennifer.
Also, for the money conscious young adults, the YCP monthly Executive Speaker Series have free appetizers and drinks (yes free wine and beer!) with a keynote speaker at the executive level.
In addition, for anyone experiencing a quarter-life crisis and needs guidance, a good value is the YCP membership program. You can get access to life coaching, executive mentorship, career counseling, spiritual direction, and more for a low-cost.
YCP is bringing our generation together in a powerful way.