LIFT Speaks Ep 29 with Fanny Dunagan: Three Tips on How to Evolve Your Career into Work You Love

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Fanny Dunagan, Co-Founder PathLynks, learned to lean into the discomfort of change and discover work she loves. What started as a volunteer opportunity to coordinate job training, turned into a business connecting job seekers with job opportunities, and helping them forge the change they want to create.

Today, Fanny’s work continues to evolve.  She is now focusing purely on video marketing and content creation for small and medium size businesses and experienced professionals.  Hear Fanny share her journey from corporate career to stay-at-home mom to entrepreneur and her three tips to get unstuck and find the work you desire.

 I started my business because . . . it was cosmic! My volunteer work doing job fairs & social media marketing grew into a business idea with two other mom friends who had also left their corporate careers. I used to think it was an accident that I stumbled into entrepreneurship but now I realize it was a journey I was meant to take.

The thing I enjoy most about my business is . . . meeting people, learning about their passions and helping them find their voice, authenticity, and value through video.

The biggest surprise for me as a business owner is . . . how I evolved from disliking networking to loving it! Some of the strangers that I met at events have become collaborators, partners, and great friends!

My advice to people considering starting a business is . . . be open to change. It’s ok if your original idea evolves and gets refined as you learn along the way. It’s ok if you take a side road and find something you love even more. I had to learn to stop beating myself up for changing and evolving. My path doesn’t have to be a straight line.

One question people should ask me is . . . how do I overcome the fear of putting myself out there on video?

My older self would coach my younger self to . . . lean into the discomfort. Do things that are creative and unknown. I can always work hard to find a solution, but it takes a leap of faith to try something new even if I don’t know the outcome.

One thing I wish I knew when I was younger is . . . trust my voice. We all have something to say that will be of value to someone else. Speak from the heart and the rest will follow.

Introduction 

Catherine Miller: Hi. I’m Catherine. If you’re feeling stuck or you’re looking for a bigger job, or maybe you’re happy with where you are in your job, in your life, but you’re looking for something with a bigger purpose and bigger impact on the world, well then you will want to stay tuned for today’s broadcast.

I’m visiting with Fanny Dunagan with PathLynks, and Fanny has gone on her own journey of recreating the work that she does. Now she shares her process with other people on how to get to the place that they want to get to, to rebuild who they are and rebrand the work that they do. So welcome.

Fanny Dunagan: Thank you, Catherine. Happy to be here.

Catherine Miller: Fanny tell us what PathLynks does.

Fanny Dunagan: OK. So PathLynks is a business event planning company as well as a video content marketing company. So those are the two things that we specialize in and we serve a lot of small and medium-sized companies.

Catherine Miller: One of the reasons I invited Fanny to be here today is because her business, PathLynks, and really her whole life, has evolved over the past five years. It has been a big change and some of the change has been intentional and some of the change has been intentionally watching the flow of life and being willing to step into it and maybe even push against that flow to create your flow.

Will you explain a little bit about your background and how you got to the position of owning and operating PathLynks?

Fanny Dunagan: Yes, I will. I guess for a good portion of my life, it was always very methodical. I had a goal to get into a certain college, and I took the steps to get that done – get the right marks and all the right things for the College of Admission. Then I had certain goals around getting into certain corporate jobs and took steps towards that.

So, everything always used to be very well-planned and meticulous. Then when I had my daughter, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and that was a wonderful period of my life and I’m still very involved with them. But I got to a point where they –they’re bigger now. They’re 12 and 8 and so I had more time on my hands and I started to feel restless and antsy almost. I was ready for change but I didn’t want to go back to corporate, and yet, I didn’t know what to do.

So that’s when I felt like I got to a point where I really had to like figure things out and one of the things that I decided to do is volunteer and see where that took me.

Catherine Miller: How did you pick that? The first volunteer, was it something you were really passionate about or was it – or did you just see an opening and say, “I will try that”?

Fanny Dunagan: Right. So, I looked at kind of like my past experience and my experience came from training. I had many years of training coordination and development. So, I just started looking around. At Tarrant County Council, they had opportunities for volunteers to help with GED or tutoring and helping local communities.

So, I applied and through a series of investments, I ended up at the Grapevine Community Outreach Center helping them with their GED and ESL training classes and coordinating for them.

So, in a way, I took my past corporate experience and applied it to my volunteer experience and created value from that.

Catherine Miller: OK. Were you the coordinator of that or did you actually go in and teach classes as well?

Fanny Dunagan: No, I did the coordination part. So, we ended up partnering with the Tarrant Community College and they delivered all the training and I kind of did the backend engagement with the community, doing all the attendance, coordination, advertising, marketing, and that created – that filled a need in the community and speeded things up.

The training created a need for jobs for the community and so from there, we decided to organize job fairs for them. For two years we did that and that ended up becoming really popular and filled a great need for the community and that’s when we decided to form PathLynks, our company, me and two other moms actually. We all partnered together. We all came from corporate worlds and we had all chosen to be stay-at-home moms.

But then we felt like this was a great way to kind of give back into the workforce but on our terms.

Catherine Miller: On your terms, yeah, which is really cool because you were able to use the skills that you had learned beforehand and you were able to apply them to really serve and help others.

Even when you started PathLynks, this was not really a paid position. But it was a lot of work, right?

Fanny Dunagan: It was. It was. Yes.

Catherine Miller: Did you know how much work you were getting yourself into?

Fanny Dunagan: I didn’t but at the same time, it didn’t feel like work because I was with people that I really enjoyed being with and that made it all the more special.

Catherine Miller: Yeah.

Fanny Dunagan: The outreach center coordinator was an amazing man by the name of Colby Mowery, and I was with my two partners that were also friends and we were serving the community. So, it never felt like work. It just felt like a lot of fun and collaboration.

Catherine Miller: When was your first job fair?

Fanny Dunagan: That was, oh gosh, 2014.

Catherine Miller: OK. It was four years ago.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: Not that long ago really.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: Because it has grown exponentially.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: Tell us about the first job fair and where you are today with your job fairs.

Fanny Dunagan: Oh my goodness. The first job fair was in the parking lot of the Grapevine Outreach Center under a bunch of tents that we had borrowed from the Parks and Rec department, and I still remember it was cold and rainy. But even then, we had 20 employers and about 300 job seekers that came through and then last week on Wednesday, we helped the Grapevine Chamber with their job fair and they had over 80 employers and about 400 job seekers that came through.

Catherine Miller: Wow.

Fanny Dunagan: So, it has really grown every single year because the word spread and we were filling a need not just from the employer perspective but also from the job seeker perspective.

Catherine Miller: Right.

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah.

Catherine Miller: Originally you started out with just a focus of job fairs. And you grew them twice a year. Is that correct?

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: You had them in the spring and in the fall.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: But then you noticed a gap and you decided to step in and fill this gap.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: Which I think is actually key in order to grow a business. As you push, you’ve got to watch for the gap and where those gaps are. So, tell us a little bit about that.

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah. So, the gap was around spreading the word in marketing. It’s one thing to have the event, but another thing to try to get the people to come to the event. In the early years, we did a lot of print, local newspapers, and some Facebook. But over the last few years, especially this year, we ended up pivoting all the way to digital marketing and especially LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram. These days, the algorithms around that, it all points towards video.

As scary as that was, we realized that in order to get the word out, we had to create videos, targeting employers and also targeting job seekers.

That was the only way that could get the crowds to come. We also realized that it wasn’t just about video to sell something or to sell the event. We also had to create value for people with the videos.

So, this year when we partnered with the Grapevine Chamber, we created videos around content. The Grapevine Chamber put out all kinds of great tips for employers on why job fairs would be beneficial to them and how that could help share their job roles, and then I put out a video around tips for job seekers and what kind of value that they can get from job fairs.

So, it has really kind of pivoted over the years from print ads and just simple messages to having to create content and value via video for our audiences.

Catherine Miller: So, with that, PathLynks has really evolved itself.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller:  You have evolved from being a business event planning job fairs and now you’re beginning to help other businesses create video content that has impact on their specific audience. Is that correct?

Fanny Dunagan: Yes, yes, especially around hiring and their employer brand. One thing I’ve been sharing with employers is that job seekers crave open and transparent communications. A lot of times they’re applying to these – what they call the big, black hole of online job applications.

Catherine Miller: Yeah.

Fanny Dunagan: They submit a resume and it just goes into the big black hole of the computer.

Catherine Miller: And it feels that way, doesn’t it?

Fanny Dunagan: Yes, right? And then if they’re not interested, you never hear back. But video is where I think it can change things. So, from the employer perspective, if you’re putting out videos, sharing the CEO message or sharing what it’s like to work there, behind-the-scenes tour of the offices or employee testimonials. Those are all great ways to share your employer brand with job seekers and help attract people that will want to work in those kinds of environments.

Similarly, with job seekers putting up content around their expertise. You know, if their expertise is around marketing or some kind of IT tool or IT software, sharing about that via video is a great way to create dialog and assist in career transition.

Catherine Miller: So, really the work that you do now is for anybody who is either feeling stuck in their current situations or who – maybe they’re happy with their current situation but they’re looking for a bigger picture, something with a greater purpose than what they’re currently involved in.

Fanny Dunagan: Are looking to give back.

Catherine Miller: Or looking to give back into the community or otherwise. Maybe they are asking themselves, “How do I find that spot? How do I make that happen?”

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah.

Catherine Miller: Right?  I happen to know you’re a tip girl.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes! I love tips.

Catherine Miller: Yeah, you do love tips.

Fanny Dunagan: It’s the engineer in me.

Catherine Miller: Yeah. I watch all those tips and they are good. It’s very succinct. So, if you were going to advise someone in the audience whether they are looking for a new career or are looking to rebrand themselves, what would be three tips that you could give someone to help them get unstuck and move in a new direction?

Fanny Dunagan: Yes. So, I think a lot of times those that I talk to, they’re in a certain part of their life where they’re already operating a certain way in their life, and it’s hard to get unstuck when you’re already on the train.

So, I always say, “Don’t do anything drastic.” Number one, I would just say find a way to volunteer and give back to the community. Pick something that you’re interested in, an organization. Maybe it’s with children. Volunteer to be a tutor somewhere or, if you’re into nature and the environment, maybe you can volunteer at a local park or those kinds of organizations.

Pick something that is of interest to you and just volunteer. Very little time – well, there is some time, but you don’t have to spend very much money-wise to do something like that.

Then from there, see where your interests take you. You might discover that you like something or you don’t like something and kind of use that to discover your passion and your interest. It might be something totally new that you never even knew about. I had no idea I was going to go into job fairs and be in career transition.

Catherine Miller: Right.

Fanny Dunagan: But that came from volunteering.

Catherine Miller: So, you watch where you find your energy and your creativity flowing in the process.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes. And be self-aware. Like, ask yourself, “Do I really enjoy this or do I not? Did that bring me joy?” I think that’s a key question to ask yourself. As I’m doing this, did that bring me joy?

Catherine Miller: Yeah.

Fanny Dunagan: So, number one, volunteer. Number two, discover those passions that you didn’t even know about. Then number three, just be open to it. Be open to trying paths that you don’t even know the destination. I didn’t know I would end up creating my own company. In fact, entrepreneurship still gives me some fear. But it’s also exciting, and I feel like it’s good to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Lean into those fears. Lean into those discomforts because I feel like that’s where growth is happening and that’s where new passions are coming along.

Catherine Miller: Yeah. I think that’s great advice. I think that’s great advice.

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah.

Catherine Miller: I think it’s really easy for us to get in a place where we feel dissatisfied, but we are unwilling or don’t even know how to make those steps to make that change. So, I think that’s really great advice.

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah.

Catherine Miller: Another question though. So those are three great tips. But for someone who’s in a job and they’re not really in a space to volunteer, they may be in a job and have a family and it’s all they can do to make life happen where it is. Yet they know they need to change. Do you have any tips for those people who are looking for a career change?

Fanny Dunagan: Yes. So, one thing that even I’ve discovered for myself is the importance of networking. So even if you’re in a job, maybe commit to once every two weeks or even once a month, attending a networking event that reflects your industry or your field or your passions.

I’m a bit of a geek. I started going to this IT networking group called “Geek Meet”.

Catherine Miller: Oh.

Fanny Dunagan: And it’s with other IT professionals and people that are enthusiastic about technology. From there, I met all kinds of great contacts, learned new things and as a result, one of the organizers asked me to help co-host with him, and so you never know where opportunities will take you.

But if you only have limited time, just commit to two, three hours a month to attend a networking event that ties in with your interest. That will open up a world for you that you didn’t even know existed and open up contacts for you that you wouldn’t even normally meet under your normal conditions and your normal day to day life.

Catherine Miller: Right. So really, it’s making the move. Sometimes getting unstuck just means you begin to make the move. You begin that first step. Even that first step feels like a misstep, but really it’s more about journeying and seeing where that goes.

Fanny Dunagan: For sure.

Catherine Miller: If nothing else, you might learn, “This is not it.” And, then you try another option.

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah, yeah. With the networking, if one group doesn’t fit with what you’re thinking it would be good to try another one.

Catherine Miller: Yeah.

Fanny Dunagan: There’s no commitment and two hours of your time for that month.

Catherine Miller: Yeah, yeah.

Fanny Dunagan: Yeah.

Catherine Miller: Fanny, that is great advice – great advice about getting unstuck, great advice about finding purpose or passion or a new direction in life, and really part of it is even just rebranding who you are and what you want to do in life.

Fanny Dunagan: Yes.

Catherine Miller: Thanks. I think you do a great job with your work, and I think Grapevine is a better place because you’ve invested in our city, in our community through those networks and the work that you do.

Fanny Dunagan: It has been rewarding. It has put joy in my life.

Catherine Miller: Yeah. Fanny, if someone wants to reach out to you and learn more about video content marketing or how they can build their business through that process or the work with PathLynks and job fairs, how could they connect with you?

Fanny Dunagan: I basically live on LinkedIn. So just find me on LinkedIn, Fanny Dunagan. Yeah.

So perfect example, I went to a networking event, met Catherine. We had a small chat and from there through a whole series of events …

Catherine Miller: We stayed connected.

Fanny Dunagan: Now we’re on a podcast together.

Catherine Miller: I know. I know. She comes in regularly to the LIFT Office and we love having her around. Thank you for being part of LIFT speaks and for your three tips on getting unstuck.

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About LIFT Office

The LIFT Office is a coworking/flex office/meeting space in the center of DFW in Grapevine, Texas just 3 miles from the DFW Airport. The LIFT Office is a dynamic community of influencers, entrepreneurs, independent professionals, consultants, and freelancers. Learn more at http://theliftoffice.com/

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