Aug 12

Friends to Learn From: Donna Kim

Finding and Following Your Passion

My dear friend Donna and I met while we were both working at Brides magazine. She was the social media manager and I was an editorial assistant/assistant to the Editor in Chief. We both have backgrounds in journalism, but have taken bits and pieces of what we’ve learned and have shaped them into what our careers are today. Donna has contributed to publications like Elle, Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Shape. Now, she’s a full-time branding consultant who’s following her passion of becoming a health coach on the side. Here, she opens up about finding your calling, making the most out of your job, and being true to yourself.

What’s your current position and what do you love most about your job?

As an entrepreneur, I wear many different hats and hold various roles. I’m a partner at a creative agency, a brand builder, digital strategist, journalist, TV lifestyle expert, and soon to be health coach. I think my favorite part about my job is how often I’m challenged. 

How has your background in journalism shaped your current career?

I wanted to give people the opportunity to tell their stories, and being in this digital age of marketing and journalism, there are so many brands, people, and messages to be heard. I’ve found that it’s really fun to take a brand or client and help them portray their story. That’s really the main thing I’ve been doing throughout my career—it’s just been in different forms—from being a TV host, editor, writer, and producer. It’s hard for me to say that I do one thing, because in the media world, you kind of have to be a jill of all trades. Journalism school taught me the importance of learning all sorts of different things, which is ultimately why I’m the business woman I am today.

Why did you become interested in becoming a health coach?

I’ve been through some pretty intense health experiences in the last few years, and when I began to share my healing journey on social media, people started reaching out with questions. I wanted to get my health coaching certification because I didn’t feel like I couldn’t legitimately give people advice about their health without having more authority. About a year ago, I made an announcement and told all of my Instagram followers that I was going to start changing my page. It used to be fashion and beauty focused, but I was going through a lot and wanted to show an accurate picture of my life.

As soon as I started talking about my health and sharing my tips and tricks, the engagement on my profile went up dramatically. I was getting a ton of direct messages, comments, and overall support. Followers were reaching out to tell me they were going through the same things and it really inspired me and made me feel so much more purposeful. Knowing that people were suffering and reaching out for help made me realize that true connection and the feeling of supporting one another was what’s truly important to me.

What does your Instagram account cover now?

I feel like my personal brand @DonnaDetox is all about achieving a holistic lifestyle, understanding your body, and being more mindful. Throughout my career, I want to be sure an emphasis is made on helping others become the best versions of themselves.

Was it difficult to work on your certification while balancing a full-time job?

My day-to-day schedule is busy and adding something else to my plate was hard, but working toward my goal has been really gratifying. The program I decided to do is a six-month online course offered by the Integrative Institute of Nutrition, which is one of the best health coaching programs out there. I’ve been really inspired by the alumni from the program and I’m just eager to learn as much as I can.

Do you have any advice for figuring out what your purpose or niche is?

I think everyone needs to ask themselves what makes them happy. Is it making coffee? Reading a book? Taking a walk? When you start from there, I think it can naturally turn into something that becomes your career or purpose. It’s when you don’t take time for yourself that you’re not harnessing the thing you need to be doing the most. As a society, we’ve replaced our hobbies with social media and I think that’s partly why people have a hard time figuring out what their purpose is. If you’re at all unsure of what you want to do with your career, I’d challenge you to take a break from social media for a bit and see how it impacts your personal interests. (Edit note from Catherine: To build on Donna’s point, I grew up in New Jersey spending time in malls with my grandmother. When I recently realized I made an hour-long drive to the Short Hills Mall because it’s my “happy place” and I wanted to feel better after something upset me, I realized I should be focusing some element of my career on retail real estate, because it truly makes me happy. Now I’m loving building out a national retail pop-up strategy for one of PDV Advisory’s clients, and it’s so energizing.)

What has helped you grow in your career?

I think staying curious and being humble helped me grow. No job wasn’t and still isn’t “too small.” Being open-minded and aware of the media industry was something that helped me thrive and get me to where I currently am in my career. I knew that traditional journalism was going to change at lightning speed and I needed to figure out how I was going make myself stand out.

What work outfit makes you feel powerful?

I feel the most powerful when I’m polished and comfortable. I love a flowy floral dress (my go-to brands are Zimmermann, Saloni, Reformation and Ulla Johnson) and a vintage blazer (I get them all tailored). My favorite heels are Stuart Weitzman.



What do you wish you knew earlier on in your career?

You don’t have to do everything. I did so much work early on in my career that I don’t remember a lot of it. I think that’s why so many people are striving for balance now. There are going to be days when you don’t like what you’re doing or the people you work with or report to, but you have to remember that everything’s not always going to be perfect. 

What’s one of your best tips for staying motivated?

I think staying motivated takes a lot of courage and hard work. It’s not easy to stay motivated when you live in a place like New York City where the energy is so insatiable. I try to focus on how I feel and what I can do to make myself happier. Something I do on a daily basis is practice gratitude and remind myself that I can shift my perspective on a situation in a quick second.

What do you recommend for people trying to unwind after a long stressful day?

I think everyone should have something to look forward to at the end of every day. Whether it’s making plans to see friends after work, signing up for a pottery class, playing with your kids, or watching a new movie on Netflix. Having a plan in place makes it feel like there’s a present waiting for you at the end of each day.

What’s next for you?

Once I finish the certification I want to see if I can find some clients to coach on a one-on-one basis. There’s so much to cover and I’m excited to see where this certification will take me. Overall, I think it will be a good extension to who I am as a professional.

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