There are generally two periods in your life when you’re thinking about what sort of a career you’re going to pursue; what sort of job you want. The first is that wondrous last couple of years in high school where you feel that everything is possible. The clichéd ‘…world is your oyster’ applies to you totally. You have the confidence to have a crack at anything.
The second period is less concrete. It’s shadowy; it has uncertain form; it’s been, perhaps, niggling at you for years. Its time-frame can run from your early thirties until your late fifties. The spread can be even longer. Its genesis lies in the realization that you’re not doing the job you really want, but you continue to do what you’re doing because by now you are – perhaps – married, you have children and you have a mortgage. You feel trapped. Maybe you will do something about it, or maybe you won’t.
More than 30 years ago I read about a chemist in America who owned a thriving pharmacy but who had harboured an unrequited dream to become a doctor. He could have stayed where he was; he had provided a comfortable life-style for his family, redribbonlive he was accorded the respect due to a long-standing professional in his town and, in company with his wife, an exciting travelling and art-collecting retirement loomed not too many years down the track. But the pull of the stethoscope, the suture and the prescription pad was too great. With her total support, he sold the business and went back to university. He graduated at the age of 61 and found complete joy practising as a GP for the remaining 15 years of his life.
That’s a great story (I wish I could remember the reference), and an inspirational one. He knew what he wanted to do, and went and did it.
There’s a group of people, though, who are unhappy with their lot. They want to make changes to their working lives. But their task is made much more difficult because, unlike our chemist, they have no firm ideas in their heads about where they want to go, where they want to wind up. All they have is the yearning, but they don’t know for what.
I have a simple tool (the ‘Storming Matrix’) which I developed for a group of people who were undertaking a two-week long course in job-searching. The members of the group were ristomanager chronically unemployed. Many of them had been unable to find a job for more than a year, and two of them had been without work for more than two years. Their biggest problem was – by now – their motivation. Some of them had entered that dangerous phase where they might no longer care – of giving up hope, the key ingredient for survival under any circumstance. It’s tough to get somewhere if you don’t know where you want to go.
The tool is very simple to use and it’s fun – not in the ‘laughing’ sense, but because it can snap something up right in front of your eyes – something that you may MATRIX CRACK never have considered – and take you by surprise. You can sometimes expect the reaction, “Wow, I never even thought of that. Wo-ow!”
In one sentence, here’s how the Storming Matrix works: you’re going to take two bits of information many times and use them each time as a basis for brainstorming a possible job. And it can be as quick as you like or take hours.
If you’d like a hand to find yourself your ideal job, here’s the technique:
1. Take a sheet of paper and rule a vertical line down it making two columns of equal spacing. This will be your rough or ‘jotting’ sheet.
2. Label the first column, ‘What I’m Good At’ and the second column, ‘What I Love Doing’.
Let’s look at what we do:
1. What I’m good at. Write down as many things as possible that you are seriously good at. Be as wide ranging as possible, but BE TRUTHFUL. There’s no value in nominating something that you’d like to be good at, but – honestly speaking – you’re not. With a flawed ‘fact’ the end result will be skewed into time-wasting error and – perhaps – disappointment.
You might possess great skills such as being good at maths, or have the ability to fix mechanical things or being able to surely find your way around out in the bush. Your attitudes about always being punctual, being kind or having the ability to not judge too quickly might be an asset. Perhaps aspects of your character add to your strengths as in being a great team-member, or being loyal to your friends or having a cool head in a crisis.
Write down each item as a separate entry on the list. You might jot down only four things, or you might wind up with a list a foot long. Now comes some soul-searching, because you are going to prioritise the list. Take a strong look at yourself, maybe call in a couple of family members or friends who know you very, very well; people from whom you would not object to receiving an honest appraisal. You need to be brutal here; what are you really, really good at. Work them all through, then sort them into order of competence (best at the top) and number each entry.
Now for the next column…
2. What I love doing. Write down as many things as possible that you seriously love doing. It doesn’t matter whether you are good at the activities, subjects or topics that you nominate; you just have to love doing them or are very, very keen on them.
Again, evaluate your responses. You may not need the hired help here (family/friends) as the things you love are purely your own. Again, be as wide ranging as possible, and sort the list with the thing you love doing most at the top.
Now you’re ready for the fun part…
3. The ‘Storming Matrix’.
This storming (short for ‘brainstorming’) matrix (Matrix n. Place in which thing is developed. Concise Oxford Dictionary) is – dare I write it – ‘where it’s at’. The work begins.
i. Take another sheet of paper and rule it with two vertical lines thus making three equally-spaced columns.
ii. As for the rough sheet label the first column, ‘What I’m Good At’, the second column, ‘What I Love Doing’, and then label the third column, ‘The Matrix’.
iii. Just take the top five items from the first two columns on the jotting sheet and write them in the appropriate columns on the new sheet. Remember to number them, 1,2,3,4,and 5.
iv. Let’s say that your number 1 item under ‘What I’m good at’ is (borrowing from the possibilities above) fixing mechanical things. Your number 1 item under ‘What I love doing’ is, say, writing.
v. Now you start to think. Use your imagination. Use Google. This is where the brainstorming comes in. You’re going to try and find jobs that use both those elements. As I wrote earlier, you may be surprised by what you find. Here, for example, are five quick ideas: Writing technical manuals for engineering companies, writing advertising copy for machinery manufacturers or wholesales or for technical schools, writing a series of DIY pamphlets for the home repairer, working as an insurance assessor who has to write reports after examining damaged or otherwise unserviceable equipment, or write a novel about the adventures of a heavy equipment mechanic working on mine-sites in the Australian Outback or the icy valleys of Alaska.
vi. In sub-para v. you used the Matrix 1 x 1. Now go to the Matrix 1 x 2. Perhaps the number 2 thing under ‘What I love doing’ is sailing. Brainstorming cap on again. What combines the fixing mechanical things and sailing? Two for a start and then it’s over to you; for example, getting a job on a large yacht, starting an on-shore boat-repair business, et cetera, et cetera.
vii. Go down your list working through the combinations 1 x1, 1 x 2, 1 x 3, 1 x 4, 1 x 5, 2 x 1, 2 x 2, 2 x 3 … and so on.
With just the top five entries on your list, you’re going to wind up with – perhaps – dozens of possibilities. You really will be ‘brainstorming the matrix’. You can focus the effort a lot more sharply if you cut the entries to just three each, or even two. And each job possibility contains a percentage of what you’re good at and what you might love doing.
Don’t forget the Confucian quote, “Give a man a job he loves and he’ll never work another day in his life.” (That quote applied to my father exactly. He was a farmer, the bravest, strongest and hardest-working man I’ve ever known and he didn’t do a day’s work in his life. It was never work; he loved it too much.)
Can it work? Within twelve weeks, after being without jobs, decent money and – dare we admit it – failing self-esteem for far too long, everyone on that course had found work. One of the young women was in tears as she described the transformation to her life. Brainstorming ‘being good with animals’ and ‘loving being outside’ she found a job as a strapper with a horse-racing stable. She’d never considered ever working with horses, but the matrix technique threw them up as a possibility. She was loving it!
Go on! Boil the billy, make a cup of tea (or coffee), grab a pencil, a sheet of paper (rule the lines crookedly freehand if you have to), settle somewhere comfortably and storm the matrix.