How to Merge Your 9 to 5 and Your Passion


I am blessed to know ambitious, professional women in real life. I'm thankful that my friends have been able to help me get the spotlight series for Professional Bae on its feet with their unique stories and words of advice from their career experiences.  

I’ve known Mercedes for YEARS, since our early days at Catholic school to graduating from the same university. Check out her story below on creating a platform that incorporates her education AND her passion for interior design.

Mercy Shanelle, MPH

Mercy Shanelle, MPH


Let’s keep it real! We aren’t all working a job or advancing in a career that directly relates to the major we chose when we entered college.  I’ll be the first to say it, my 9 to 5 does not match my degree. I’m an entirely different person than I was when I chose to major in public health 12 years ago. I’ve acquired new skills, traveled more, and my goals are even bigger. 

My 9 to 5 does NOT match my degree

About me

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I was born and raised in Rochester, a small city in the middle of Upstate, New York, where most young Black women get a nursing degree and make a good, respectable living working in a clinic or home health agency. I’m not gonna lie, I thought about it, but I didn’t want to follow the path most traveled. Don’t get it twisted, I love my Black nurses! My best friends are Black nurses and so are the women who helped raise me, but I just wanted something different.

I wanted to advance healthcare for the masses and help my community. So, at 18, I decided to major in Public Health at U of R, and even went on to earn my Masters in Public Health at Montclair State University. I went on to accomplish a lot because of what I learned in school, but I still felt like I was missing something. This is where I began the process of merging my degrees with my passions.

Why I merged

The issue with choosing a major at 18 is…you’re 18! You don’t know much about the real world or what you really like because you’ve been in school your entire life. It’s often hard to tell if the major you choose will yield a high return on investment. I won’t get too deep into ROI, but in relation to a degree, you can think of it as your current income vs what you paid in tuition. This also includes sacrifices like:

  • Time
  • Work
  • Physical and mental stress
  • Social life and edges!

So yeah, I didn’t know what I wanted to do long-term. Even after I earned my Masters, I thought I would be able to jump right into my career and take off in the field. Of course, it didn’t happen this way. I actually ended up working jobs that were more geared toward social work, rather than public health although that wasn’t the plan- but let’s face it, you need a job, right?

Post grad school, once I finally started working in the field, I began to learn more about myself and what I was actually interested in. During this time, I managed a health education program in Newark, NJ. I loved the work I did and the impact I made on people’s lives! I truly felt I served a purpose and that my work was helping to advance public health. Be that as it may, I found myself designing spaces for the people I worked with and being more of a creative, when I was supposed to be helping people understand why “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Benj Frank.

At the time, I didn’t have a plan to be able to live my best life without totally neglecting my degree. What I did know was that I wasn’t in the business of “wasting” my degrees- so I decided to look for jobs in research. I thought this would give me a fresh start and open new doors and get me closer to achieving my goals. As a result, I accepted a state job in Texas on an IRB, analyzing and facilitating research with the entire University of Texas research community. I truly enjoy my job, but I still had that desire to design and create.  

The merge

Ultimately, I wanted to incorporate public health, research, and design into something that could become not just a movement, but a lifestyle. I founded Aurahive, a health buzz platform that relates credible research to pop culture, educating people about the relationship between health and the built environment.


Designed x MERCY

Keep in mind that Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day!

I started educating myself on the science of the built environment and how interiors impact overall health and mood. Once I realized that this was the perfect merge, I was all in. I knew it would take work for everything to fall into place, so I took months to plan. It’s easy to lose your purpose when money is your drive, so make your purpose your drive, and keep in mind that Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day!


How I was able to finesse a merge

I’m not saying I went from public health to rocket science. It would be difficult to finesse a merge where the required skill sets were night and day. Instead, I merged fields that have similar soft and hard skill requirements. The easiest way to do this is to:

  • Make a list of the things you’re good at.
  • Take that list and make a sub list of those things you’d do for FREE (because you love them THAT much). Big up Melody Ehsani for that tip.
  • Choose 1 or 2 things on that sub list that could potentially generate some income.
  • Figure out what those 1-2 things have in common with your degree(s).
  • Keep an open mind!

If you can’t find a commonality, create one. Once you figure out the commonalities, this is your brand. Build your brand up until it makes sense and takes up majority of your time.

On my lunch break, on the weekends, in the evenings after my 9 to 5, when I’m exhausted after the gym- I’m constantly working on my brand, staying current in my related fields, networking, and registering for conferences that will help me do ALL of thee above. You have to learn all you can in those fields, and stay current in the space! Take advantage of free learning resources like:

  • Youtube
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn Learning
  • iTunes U
  • Various podcasts

Youtube and Pinterest need to cut me a check the way I’m constantly promoting them!

To merge means to work. 

Let me reiterate- To merge is to WORK. 

You have to write down what speaks to you and what you’re actually good at, actively stay in the know and stay abreast. You’ll need to build, create, and network every chance you get.

It’s a whole job, sis!  The gag is, it’s YOURS.

Mrs. N6 Comments