It’s a career maxim that students hear when choosing a major: Do what you love. Diana Steffen’s (’03, bachelor’s in journalism) journey from junior reporter to successful entrepreneur shows that it is possible.
Early on, Diana Steffen knew she didn’t want to spend her entire career sitting in a tiny windowless room. She wanted something more. And she soon realized that by embracing her side pursuits, she could have it. Today she is a lifestyle blogger, photographer and graphic designer, and like many good stories, it all started in Hollywood.
After graduating from the University of Arizona, Steffen went to Los Angeles to become a television writer and red carpet reporter at E! Entertainment. From there, she moved to Phoenix, taking on a role as an editorial stylist with the Arizona Republic’s weekly fashion supplement, YES. She then made the switch to a corporate job as a marketing specialist at CRS Temporary Housing.
On the side, she dabbled in graphic design and photography through her boutique graphic design firm, Silver Spoon Studio, and her photography company, Diana Elizabeth Photography. As these two ventures gained momentum, Steffen made the brave leap out of the corporate world and into full-time entrepreneurship, giving herself a year to make it. Nearly a decade later, she’s still at it. Here, she shares what she learned along her journey.
Was your career trajectory always clear to you?
I thought I was focused on one career goal at a time, until I realized my goals evolved as I grew — not only creatively, but also as an individual. One passion can lead you to another, if you’re willing to be flexible and learn from each position.
What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?
Everything I do today may not reap rewards until months from now, so I work really hard and keep very long hours. But I genuinely enjoy it. I’ve learned to be patient and know where to invest my time.
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What is the single best aspect of what you do?
What I do provides me great freedom. Freedom to take vacations, a leisurely breakfast, a long lunch — my schedule is my own. I can dictate whom I want to work with, decide if I get a raise or choose to quit doing something and hire out.
What was the most important lesson you learned in college?
When you are young, you have so much time! Time to give back, explore, learn and serve others. These things not only create memories, but also give you an opportunity to connect with others outside of your peers and grow as an individual.
I have so much school spirit as a Wildcat because of my involvement in the Tucson community. I was a local titleholder in the Miss America Organization, a Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteered at local food shelters, did community service and was Fiesta Bowl Princess.
Name a pivotal professional moment.
Right after college I went through a quarter-life crisis. At my first job, I sat in a tiny room with no windows with other production assistants and thought to myself, “Is this the rest of my life, working like this?” It wasn’t. I was only there for three months. What you are doing today is not the rest of your life. Even if your job stinks right now, learn as much as you can before you move onto something else.
What advice do you have for students and young professionals?
Work incredibly hard, even if it’s discouraging. Always do the work, and do it well. Never stop networking — and realize that networking is not about what you can get from others but rather how you can help others.