In my last blog post, entitled “What am I Living For?
“, I listed some attributes of my ideal existence. The list was rather abstract and the next step was always going to be to try to match some of the needs and wants from that list into some concrete, practical steps to take me a bit further down the road towards matching what I do to who I am – living MY life. If this strikes a chord with you; if you are the sort of person who has struggled with career choice; you may well find this interesting..
So here I am a few weeks further on in my mission, having spent a lot of time researching and reflecting. So how did I do my research? Well, actually this is a good point to mention the almost complete disdain I feel towards so-called career advisers. This may be unfair because I am only talking from my own personal experience, but I never had a career advisor who took the trouble or was able to really understand WHO I AM and WHAT I NEED. Like so many “advisors”, they may be of use when it comes to people of average ability, with the suburban-semi-and-2.4-children kind of needs. I am not knocking people with such needs – far from it – if that’s your thing, and you have found it – you are lucky indeed. And for you, career advisers are probably just fine. But for people with unusual needs or an unusual set of personal attributes, and statistically I am in that group whether I like it or not, bog-standard career advisors are frankly next to useless in my opinion. The point of that rant is this – I felt I had no option but to find my own way when it came to turning my personal needs and wants into real-world career choices.
So, what did I do?
Well, I used the internet. Let’s face it, the local library is just so last century now when it comes to any kind of serious research. Forget it. So I got on the internet and started looking for descriptions of jobs. Then I soon something even better – hundreds of videos of people talking about their jobs and what they liked about them. This was quite a revelation. Now THIS is career research for the 21st century. Instant access to people talking about the jobs that they do and what they like about them. OK some of it was promotional material, but it gave quite an insight nevertheless. Now, make no mistake, for my part I was not trying to actually find a job match, but rather to find strands of things that I could relate to, that would help me start to visualise elements of MY perfect vocation. For example, a girl working in the “hospitality industry” said of her job – “it’s about making people smile. When I make them smile, I know I have done a good job.” I liked that. That resonated. Not that I will necessarily end up working in the hospitality industry – but it resonated with me, that thing about making people smile; making them happier in some way – and stimulated me into visualising myself in various types of work where I could make that happen.
I backed up this research with a lot of reading about various jobs in various industries. Unfortunately, this involved reading 10 rubbish “career” websites to get to one decent one – such is the proliferation of old-style information on this subject. You know the sort of thing:
“If Maths is your best subject, how about a career in accounting, or a job in a bank?”
As I say, I have almost total disdain towards the careers industry. But, information is out there on the internet if you search long and smart enough. As with the videos, I was not looking for “jobs”, as I am determined to remain in charge of my own destiny, running my own business – so in my case it is inspiration for business ideas in line with what I am living for – that is what I was looking for.
Of course, one could carry out such research for a lifetime and get ever-closer to the perceived ideal vocation but never actually turn the ideas into reality. There has to be a balance between research, decision-making – and execution. Some would argue, and I agree with them, that you cannot analyse yourself and thence choose your career in isolation – you need to actually get into the real world and try things out; adjust your plans; retry etc. This is like making a series of tangible prototype models, each one of which teaches “real” lessons that cannot easily be learned from paper plans. So there is a balance and there comes a point at which you need to say “enough research for now, let’s pick something, or a few things, and have a go”.
With this in mind, here are a few embryonic ideas that are starting to crystallise out of the list of attributes from my previous article in the light of the research I have done to date – ideas that I can have a go at executing out there in the real world:
Marketing, demonstrating and selling a product that I believe in:
This one is interesting because if the product is something I believe in; something that really is in line with my values, then this really could work. To give an example, say the product was something like – I don’t know – mobility aids – that sort of thing. From my list above it matches several elements. There is the contact with people; the helping people to be happy, because maybe I would be matching devices to their individual needs and giving them more freedom; the tangible thing, because I would be out there in the real world with real products; the machine thing, because some of the machines I would be very interested in – interested even in experimenting with and developing on the side – cf. my website http://exoskeletonsuit.net
. So, I need to look into this. The product could be something different, but the concept of marketing, demonstrating and selling a product that I believe in, a product that will make people happier, is a very strong match to a number of things on the list in my previous article.
Helping disadvantaged children or young adults
This I know is close to my heart. Some young people have not had the chances that I had, through no fault of their own, and are now facing difficulties in making their way in life that maybe I can play a small part in helping them to overcome. To see someone smile because I helped them; to see someone learn something I have helped them to learn – this is something very much in line with what I am living for. Not having children of my own, and having a great affinity with kids, it would be a sin not to do something along the lines of helping young people – even if it is something as trivial as making them laugh. The thing about this one is that I am determined to be self-employed, and most of the occupations that involve this type of activity seem to be public, permanent jobs – although I am talking from a standpoint of not having researched this. But if this is so, I must still strive to work with disadvantaged children or young adults in some capacity – maybe in my spare time.
I have a Fred Dibnah-like need to work, hands-on, with machines – mechanical machines. I want to have access to a workshop where I can go and potter about making machine parts; building machines – experimenting; inventing. I have such a great affinity with machines but since my childhood Lego days I have wasted this talent completely. I must use it. Again, a cursory piece of research into careers in mechanical engineering did not lead me to anything that did not look like a trapping, full-time, permanent, career-style job – and you can’t just walk in and be an engineer – and in any case most of the jobs involve you playing a tiny spoke in a massive wheel. I need to invent, to have freedom to experiment. so maybe this is also a spare-time activity at first anyway, until I start making things that people want.
What’s Stopping Me?
So now that I have identified, tentatively, some of the things that I might explore, is there anything stopping me? Well, yes! This article is reporting a snapshot of my progress as of today – it is by no means an end result. These things are very tentative and actually do need significant further exploration before I can act. For each one, I need to ask – is it viable? What opportunities are there? Is it really “me”? I also need to find out whether there other things that I could do and should be considering at this point. I need to continue to research and reflect. But I also need to retain an inner confidence that I am indeed doing the right thing in trying to make progress towards the goal of “being” in tune with who I am, and not be deflected by fear. I also need to be mindful that I must enter the execution/prototyping phase quite soon..
Something else that occurs to me, however, is the need to be practical. I cannot be like the father out of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, the eccentric inventor who never produces anything of any value and never achieves financial break-even. I need to pay the bills – I live here in the developed world in the 21st century and there are rules and conventions that even I cannot escape. So an element of practicality in inevitable. I need to implement my ideas for a better career whilst generating enough cash throughout the process. How can I do this? Well, I need to consider what I can do now in order to earn money but not detract from my goals. This is a very important point, the thing about money-earning activity not detracting from my goals. For so many years I have not even known, let alone moved towards, what should have been my true goals; instead allowing myself to be distracted for decades by “careers” that paid the bills quite nicely but never had a hope in hell of satisfying someone like me.
So now, against the need to be practical and pay the bills, I have to balance the more important need to continue relentlessly and continuously, day by day, towards my goal of finding a vocation or mix of activities that is in line with my talents; values; character. How can I do this? Well, my recent economic activities were designed to allow me time and flexibility to move to Spain and work from there. Internet marketing was seen as a key part in this strategy, allowing me to build a partially passive income and allowing me to work seamlessly from wherever I happened to be. This did not work out because basically I spent too long doing work that was not in line with my goals in return for the low income it provided. But that principle of finding work to pay the bills, that may not be in line with my primary goals but fits around them, is indeed a good one. Nowadays, I don’t need to be able to work seamlessly from Spain or anywhere else – I am not planning to go there to live any more, so that requirement is dead. This means that I can do local work if it fits around my primary goals. Lately, I have been doing a small amount of web development work in Wordpress and also search engine optimisation work for a local customer, not to mention a promotional video for the same customer. I have my limited company, and also my I.T. websites offering my services in web-related work, database development and training, so the mechanisms are in place for a little push for some more work here and there in these areas – it is the sort of work that could well fit in with my wider plans, and yet also help to pay the bills.
Unlike my previous blog post here on ijumped.net
, this one seems to have a feel of moving towards some actual, practical, executable steps that have a very good chance of moving me in the right direction along the road towards my goal of a “career” that more closely reflects who I am. There is a long way to go, but this whole process is a journey, and anything that causes movement in the right direction is progress. Like most people, I need to earn some money, but I am trying hard not to be crowded by this pressure; trying to give myself as much space as I need so that I can get this right and avoid yet more career mistakes and wasted years.
Reading this, you may guess that I am far younger than I actually am. The fact is, it has taken me a long time to reach this stage of personal development. I am well into middle age, with decades of wasted working years behind me. Compared to many people of my age, with well-defined working lives and senior posts in conventional careers, I am somewhat of a maverick, and I suppose that some would describe me as immature, or more kindly as a “late developer”. Why do I feel the need to say this? Well, I am not immune from the temptation of comparing myself with others. But I am writing this to underline the importance of putting that all aside and pursuing YOUR life goals, relentlessly, irrespective of how it “looks” to anyone else or how the little people of this world will judge you for earning less; having a smaller house, car, whatever. Let them get on with their thing and make sure it does not deflect you for a second from getting on with your thing.
NB If you read this and think “how selfish” or words to that effect, you are right in a way. This is all about me finding my vocation. BUT, there are two ways in which this is not at all selfish. Firstly, I am trying to share how I made progress with my vocation search, my way, in the face of totally useless careers advice over the years. Perhaps you will identify with this and find some of my methods useful for your own search. Secondly, if I get my vocation more in line with my wants and needs; with who I am; I will be so in-tune that I will rocket ahead, giving off happiness, enthusiasm and energy to all those around me, giving of my best to the world – living MY life. Far from being selfish, I regard this as my duty.