Sam Bowen: How to find your passion, and mentors to get you there


People often complain that they haven’t found their passion in life. They aren’t passionate about their job or what they do, but they have no idea how to find it. Sound familiar?

It’s easy to see how it happens. For many of us, we go straight to Uni or into our first jobs when we are 18, with little or no understanding of what we are getting into. We finish school and for the first time life opens up ahead of us.

So how do we find that passion?

Sam Bowen is a real go-getter. The type of person you naturally gravitate to because of her energy and enthusiasm for life. You can see she has found her purpose, her passion.

It hasn’t always been like this. When Sam finished High School she started a Sports Science degree and had one unit left when she decided she needed to leave her hometown Perth and make some changes. She moved to the East Coast of Australia and enrolled in a new degree, before she ran out of money and decided to join the navy.

Fast forward a few years, and Sam was again stuck in a reality that wasn’t for her.

I had signed up for six years as a communications specialist and half way through that I was really struggling: I hated it, and I wasn’t a right fit for the workplace, and the workplace wasn’t right for me either.

Sam returned home and spent a year working in admin, trying to work out what she wanted to do next. With a bit of encouragement from her Mum, Sam decided to give Occupational Therapy a shot. Luckily she loved it, and it wasn’t long before she really started to hone in on her purpose: Sam discovered her passion for aged care.

“If you haven’t found it yet, just keep looking” - Steve Jobs

For everyone else in her year, aged care was a backup plan to other more sought after areas, like paediatrics. After thinking about her own family and their eventual need for aged care services, Sam started to dig into this area further.

I started to think about whether the people there are the right people, were they being supported well, and what’s going to keep them there? The more I looked at it, I realised how limited the leadership can be. The more I dug into it, the more passionate I got about it.

How to find support to reach your goals

As a member of Gen Y passionate about the aged care industry, Sam certainly stands out from the crowd.

These days, Sam leads her business the Acorn Network, which she created to connect young leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, students - people who give a damn and are ready to turn their passion into leadership and action - in care organisations.

A trailblazer in this space, Sam looks to mentors to help her continue to grow and shake up the space. Having never had a formal mentor, I asked Sam how she goes approaching a new mentor, whether it’s someone she has crossed paths with, or someone she has heard of who she thinks can help her.

Developing mentor relationships

A lot of people (myself included) shy away from from asking someone to be their mentor, because they are concerned about taking up too much of a prospective mentor’s time.

To help clarify your thinking (and ensure that no-one’s time is wasted, including yours!) Sam

Recommends thinking about:

  • where do you want to be in the next two, five or 10 years? What information do you need to get there and how can a mentor help with this?
  • what’s the best mentoring relationship you have had in the past, whether it's a boss or teacher or someone who has helped you along the way. What did you enjoy about this relationship?

Building a mentor relationship is in continual pursuit of growth.

With this purpose in mind, start thinking about who you want to be your mentor and the best way to approach them. Perhaps you meet them at a networking event, start connecting with interesting people on LinkedIn (and ask them for coffee) or maybe you will approach someone that you already know.

Don’t be afraid of rejection. Sometimes no is simply “not right now”, and Sam encourages being persistent. She once approached a mentor who was too busy at the time, who told her to get in touch in a month’s time. So in a month’s time she emailed him to say “let’s go out for coffee now”.

Setting expectations and goals

Once you have started the mentoring relationship, the most important thing to do is set expectations and goals for the relationships.

Think about:

  • How often you should meet,
  • How they can help you, and
  • Setting goals that are challenging but achievable.

Sam notes that it’s important to not feel obliged to continue if the mentoring relationship doesn’t work for you. Remember, your mentor is there to help you on your path!

Finally, don’t forget to show appreciation to your mentor. After all, they’re invested in your journey too.

If you are interested in learning more about Sam and the Acorn Network, you can get in touch with her here.