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Find the Right Career or Business – A 6-Step Guide
I'm publishing this on March 27, 2018, so I've just turned 50! And the funny thing is, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up…
Up until recently, this used to worry me. It doesn't anymore, though, and the reason is simple and somewhat revolutionary.
In adult years, I haven't hit the halfway mark, yet.
Clever, right? The idea came to me a few months back, and it instantly reframed my perception of ageing and put 18 years back into my lifespan account! Not bad for a few minutes of contemplation.
Here's how it works. Our first 18 years are spent scratching around in the dark, trying to figure out which way our arse is pointing. Personally, I could add another five or ten years to that clueless period. It isn't until we hit adulthood that the clock really starts.
My point is, as a 50-old, I've only been an adult for 32 of those years. If I live that long again (and I will), I'll only be 82. My dad is 81, and the old bastard is fitter than I am. Less stressed, too.
See? You're not as far along as you thought. There's still time to decide what you want to do with your life! If you're 43, you've only lived for 25 adult years. You're a baby! Hell, you'll probably live another two adult lifetimes!
Okay, so we've established that you haven't lived as long as you thought. The timeline has shifted back in your favour, and you're ready to figure this thing out.
But how exactly do you do that?
If you ‘follow your passion', as so many suggest, you might decide that watching football and drinking craft beer is your life's calling. Or shopping, or playing Minecraft. Maybe even decluttering wardrobes.
Ten years ago, those ideas would have been laughable. Today, people are making $10M a year posting videos of themselves playing computer games on YouTube.
‘Unboxing' videos are huge, product review blogs make serious money, and professional ‘declutterers' and life coaches are everywhere. I don't know about the football and beer thing, but I guarantee someone's cashing in on that, too.
So following your passion doesn't seem so stupid after all. But is it as simple as that? As you might expect, the answer is probably no. Chances are, there are other things to consider, and what might look easy on the surface for one person might well be impossible for you and your circumstances.
Options, options everywhere…
So how do you make sense of this and work through the variables? Indeed, what are the variables? And what if you're one of those multipotentialites – someone who has a dozen creative interests, and couldn't possibly settle on one, even for a year? I've found that the older I get, the more I struggle with this, too.
When I was young, dumb and full of beans, I wanted to be a banker, and for two years, I was. Then I wanted to be a journo and photographer, and for seven years, I was that, too. And this is how it went for about 25 years – layer upon layer. Today, I'm interested in a whole swag of different things. And that's a real problem, because unless you focus on the one thing – or one group of complimentary things – it's difficult to make headway.
Thankfully, finding the intersection between multiple interests can be our saviour. My years as a writer, photographer, and web designer support my mission to help mid-lifers reinvent themselves because all these skills are beneficial to the cause.
We'll come back to this later, but right now, let's go through the steps to choosing the right work – for you!
First up, I have to say I owe most of the framework for this to the guys at Fizzle, along with Steph Crowder and her podcast, Courage and Clarity.
For years, I thought my life's calling was rooted in my skills. More recently, I've focused more on things that ‘light me up' – the kind I'd do for free just because I enjoy them.
But what I've realised is it takes a combination of five elements to arrive at the sweet spot, where everything comes together and flows.
This was brought home to me again recently when I sat down with my (ex) brother-in-law and good mate, Bobi, who wants a career change.
We started by looking at how he would like to work. In other words, what environment was he seeking? This is so easy to overlook in favour of financial rewards, but I think it's the most important thing to consider.
You might score a high-paying job or build a cash cow business, but if it means fighting rush-hour traffic to sit in an office, or busting your arse on a building site come rain or shine, it might squeeze all the life out of you. And if it takes you away from your family all the time, it might just ruin your marriage, too.
So deciding how your life should look when you're working is critical, I think.
So for Bobi, we narrowed it down to a few things:
- No more factory work
- Something that doesn't involve coming home filthy and sore every day
- An at-home or on-the-road workplace would be brilliant
- Possibly something online
- An environment that exposes him to interesting people who might lead him to other, more interesting opportunities
Skills & Characteristics
Next, we considered what he's already good at. These include:
- He's not afraid of hard work
- He's easygoing and happy talking to anyone at any level
- He knows a lot about cars
- Weekend work is not a problem
- He's a fast learner and is keen to acquire new skills
We then talked about the things he loves doing and would be happy to do for very little money until his expertise grows and begins to pay off. The headline items were:
- He's loved cars for most of his life
- He wants to become his own boss
- He wants to determine his own value based on hard work and improved effectiveness over time
Skills and passion aren't enough to succeed at something, so we also discussed the presence of opportunities in potential roles or businesses.
For example, while the idea of becoming a sales rep on the road was appealing, we conceded that more and more of this is moving online, so it might be a diminishing opportunity over time.
Conversely, the Australian retail car industry continues to grow, and dealerships are always looking for hardworking sales professionals who are prepared to adapt to this rapidly changing business.
Also, with online business opportunities popping up every day, we also agreed that, though he may lack specific skills right now, there's no shortage of opportunities to stake a claim online.
Finally, we considered where he might have some leverage. Who did he know and what unique skill, experience or attribute could he use to amplify his chances?
After a few minutes, we arrived at the following:
- He is prepared to work for free for a few days so a potential suitor can ‘test drive' him first to see if they're a good fit for each other.
- He's given himself a five-year window to create his ideal work situation, so skilling up along the way is something he fully embraces.
- His expenses are meagre, so he doesn't need to hit his ideal income next week.
- I can help him with the skills he'll need to start an online business if that's where he wants to go.
- I have some trusted contacts in the car industry, so introductions should be easy.
- He's extremely good at problem-solving. We've worked on a few projects in the past, and he has an uncanny ability to come at a problem from a new angle and solve it.
Making Sense of it All
Once we had all this on paper, we talked about possible job roles and solo businesses he might pursue. Then, to wrap some metrics around all this, we used Fizzle's brilliant weighted decision matrix to score each of the ideas against its six criterion (which are very similar to the five outlined here).
It's essential that weighting is applied because having, say, personal expertise in a topic is more valuable than having inside connections. Likewise, a passion for something usually outguns something else that's a fast and growing topic. Weighting takes care of these variables.
We narrowed the opportunities down to three ideas:
- Selling cars
- Representing an automotive-related business on the road as an account manager
- Selling products online (eBay and own website)
Here are the scores:
- Sell cars – 375 pts
- Account Manager – 289 pts
- Sell stuff online – 349 pts
Two of the scores were close, so Bobi has decided to pursue the idea of selling cars, and learn how to build an online business on the side. It's perfect.
This is a more pragmatic way of ‘finding your passion' because it shines a light on the areas where you're most likely to come unstuck.
When I did this exercise myself, I looked at seven different ideas, resulting in scores that ranged from 224 to 423. In the end, the idea that scored highest was to build a business around teaching people how to reinvent themselves and wrest back control of their lives. On its own, it's not unique – a lot of people are talking about this these days.
What made it unique for me, though, was my age, and all the baggage and stress that comes with being middle-aged. That's my USP. Midlife reinvention, as a topic, is something that hits all the right notes for me.
- I'm passionate about
- It speaks to a niche I understand
- It suits my personality
- It has a growing audience of potential clients
For me, it's ideal. And this is where finding intersections between multiple skills, interests and ideas start to make sense. But here's the thing, if I hadn't tackled this using a structured process, I may well have ended up trying to build a business about marketing and branding, or photography – both topics with which I have decades of experience.
Without a scoring process, I might have gotten two years down the track only to realise I wasn't unique enough to rise above the noise, or that the passion just wasn't there anymore.
I'm still trying to figure out who I want to be when I grow up, but right now, I feel like I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. And it feels pretty damn good.
I still have plenty of time to grow up.
For more info about Fizzle and to try out their excellent decision matrix, you can road test them for free for a month by clicking the link below.
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Also published on Medium.