Testdrive Your Dream Job
Yes, you can try your hand at the business of your dreams without risking your present job or business, your next mortgage payment, or your kid’s future. In The Hero’s Journey – Testdrive Your Dream Job you will discover how meeting your rolemodels and spending a few days working with them – can be the first step toward making that dream come true
- Plan a “dream job” of your own;
- Build the skills and gather the knowledge you will need to embark on your new business;
- Overcome the fear of changing;
- Turn a layoff or other involuntary change into the opportunity of a lifetime;
- Design and create a dream business that doesn’t exist …yet;
- Manage a smooth, safe transition from your present job or business to your dream business.
- Minimize financial risk as you embark on your bold new life
Creative people have made a testdrive in their dream job or profession for centuries and many generations. Talking to or even working with somebody who does the creative work they would love to do or explore. For architects, artists, designers, writers, cooks, actors etcera it is quit normal. Mostly however something you do at the start of your creative career. You can do it any time in your career however. To sharpen the story you tell yourself about you, your work, your business, what you are capable of doing. In meeting a mentor, somebody who has a dream job in your eyes and makes money with it.
Years ago I started advising creative people who started their business to take a testdrive in their dream job. Speaking with a heroine or hero who has your dream job. It can save you years and a lot of money having direct feedback and stories of someone who does what you feel you would love to do. Almost everybody who has made a testdrive has come out of it with a more clear story and more determination than ever to make their dream business come true. They landed exciting projects, started an education or found other ways to further their dream business. After years of fantasizing their Meeting with their Heroines has given them in hours or days the strength to come into action.
Partly this was due to a learning effect – the concrete knowledge they gained about the business of their dreams. Partly it was the mentor who held their hand, gave their confidence a boost en offered them help. Partly it was the contacts they made, which made the next steps more simple.
But the most important of all, next to these practical matters, was something different. The Hero’s Journey awakened and gave energy to something deep inside of them, a part that once awakened, refused to be ignored. Know that when you consider a dream business it not only is about how you spend your hours at work. Het is about the connection between your work and the deepest feeling about yourself. It is about doing what you love, work that energizes you instead of exhausts you, work which has meaning for you.
Twelve reasons for The Hero’s Journey
1. To make a testdrive in your dream job before you commit yourself to a business or a career
2. To find a mentor
3. To learn about the ins and outs of a business
4. To make contacts in a profession or market
5. To raise your confidence level
6. To explore a passion
7. To satisfy your curiosity about ‘ the road not taken’
8. To test possible businesses when you don’t know yet what you want
9. To make an unusual, exciting journey
10. To try out something new and challenge yourself in new ways
11. To create a new story about yourself, your present company, job, lifestyle and future
12. To reconnect with some passion(s) inside of you
About Peter de Kuster
Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’s Journey & Hero’s Journey project, a storytelling firm which helps creative professionals to create careers and lives based on whatever story is most integral to their lives and careers (values, traits, skills and experiences). Peter’s approach combines in-depth storytelling and marketing expertise, and for over 20 years clients have found it effective with a wide range of creative business issues.
Peter is writer of the series The Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey books, he has an MBA in Marketing, MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.
Start Your Hero’s Journey Now!
Your Discovery Process
Read stories of people you admire. Not just their work though. You want to learn more about the pragmatic, human side of the business. What are the people like who work in the field you dream of? What has their experience been? How is this creative business a lifestyle? How do they really spend and earn? How long did it really take them to be up and running?
- Start with the Hero’s Journey questionnaire. Select the best questions.
- Make a list of extra questions you want to ask them. You won’t get to aks all those questions in a single visit or telephone call but listing them will help you organize your thoughts.
- Prioritize the questions. You want to ask your most important questions first; you don know how long you’ll get to talk.
- Go back to your research and pick out five or six people you would like to meet. It doesn’t matter who or where they are; they can be people who are doing exactly what you want to do, or simply people who are knowledgeable about the industry. That can be in your own country or somewhere else in the world. Ultimately you might want to reach out to many more; these are just to get you started. Having a target five or six will ensure that you don’t quit if the first one is unresponsive.
- Once you have met a mentor, be sure to ask your mentor who else you should talk to. Who else does she know who might be helpful to you?
Questions to Ask
Your research at this stage does not need to be exhaustive. You’ll be doing more research with your mentor and even more after your vocation. Right now you just want a basic level education in your prospective creative business. Here are some things you will want to know:
- What is the typical lifestyle of people in this field?
- Are there opportunities where I currently live or would have to move?
- What kind of money do people tend to make in this field initially and after several years?
- What kind of investment is necessary to get into this creative business?
- What kind of education or training do people need to succeed in this field? Are there exceptions?
- What are the current trends in the industry? Is it expanding, shrinking, saturated?
- Where are the new opportunities in the field?
- What are the biggest challenges facing businesses in the field?
This is just a starter batch of questions; you wiĺl think of many more as you ask them the more personal questions from the questionnaire: ‘What has your experience been? How do you think this applies to me? After your vocation you’ll focus on how to move into your dream business. But this is your chance to sit back and just immerse yourself in your dream. There is nothing you have to do right now except have fun learning.
You will be surprised at how fast the meetings with heroines and ideas build up. Each meeting will lead to others and will suggest ideas you hadn’t thought of, and soon your desk will be cluttered with notes and folders. It won’t be long before the meetings will become easy, your questions become more targeted, and you find yourself actually enjoying the process.
Telling your Story
Part of what makes it scary to tell people you are thinking of trying something new is that it raises ‘exposure fear’: What if they don’t approve? What if they laugh at me? What if they think I can’t succeed? But the fact is, until you talk about it, you won’t succeed! You need the info and contacts that come from talking, and you need the support that talking can bring.
Just as important, you need to hear yourself describe your vision over and over again – because each time you hear yourself say it, something magical happens: you believe a little more it will happen. The first time you say it, it sounds like fantasy – me a banker, becoming a movie director? By the twentieth time, though, with all you’ve learned, the vision will have evolved. Details will be added; the vision will be more concrete. With other people’s stories under your belt, you may even be imagining the bridge from here to there. What once sounded like a fantasy is starting to sound more like the beginning of a plan.
But until you start believing in that plan, it will never come to pass. At root, we are all a set of self – fulfilling prophecies: we accomplish what we believe we will accomplish in our lives and nothing more. So practice believing in your dream career. Talk it up in glowing, confident terms, because the more clearly and often you describe it, the more you enable yourself to make it real.
Of course, some people will be naysayers. It’s unavoidable. Some people just naturally leap to the negative, some will be jealous that you are making a switch that they themselves are or were afraid to make, some will always value ‘practicality’ over passion. That’s okay. Once you find out who your naysayers are, just don’t talk to them about your plan. If they bring it up, gently change the subject. Fortunately, for every naysayer you will find multiple supporters: friends, family, colleagues and new people you meet will rally around to prompt you on. Some will root for you because they love you, some because they wish they could do such a courageous thing themselves, some because they can’t wait to become customers of your business! The support you get from the people you talk to can be so valuable that you won’t be able to proceed without it. Every creative professional who tells their story in the Hero’s Journey and Heroine’s Journey project has said the exact same thing — I could not have done this without the support of and then they mentioned names of family and friends who urged them on, who encouraged them when they felt down, who continued to believe in them and their vision all the way through the process.
When is “Enough” Enough?
How do you know when you’ve done enough research? There is no hard-and-fast rule. Some people love researching and won’t stop ever. Others just want to jump in and get in action with their dream business. Both are fine. You will do more research after your testdrive. For now, the time to stop is when you know enough that you just can’t wait to move on to the next step, contacting potential mentors.
If you’re not getting to that point – if you reached ‘analysis paralysis’ and, despite information overload, are still resisting shopping for a mentor – perhaps there’s something else going on beyond a need for more data. It’s likely that you’re afraid. If that is the case go back to the step about ‘Fear’ and rewrite your story about it. Adressing that fear head on will probable free you to move forward.
Or it is possible that your resistance holds another message: maybe the career you’re researching is not your dream career after all. That can create its own form of paralysis. How can you walk away from that career after all the time and energy you’ve already invested? What will your friends, family and associates think after everything you have told them? And if that isn’t your dream career, what is? There’s comfort in knowing what we want to do with our lives, in sensing what the next chapter holds, and releasing that comfort can be scarier than never having a dream to begin with. No wonder we feel paralyzed if research shows us that our ‘dream career’ isn’t.
If that is the case, try to relax and accept it. Another dream will come – just as this one did – but it can’t come until you release the old one. In fact, having had this dream sets you up perfectly for finding the next one. You’ve already done the hard work of reinquishing the hold of the status quo. You had the courage to publicize a dream. Who says the first dream has to be the ‘real’ dream? Dream job seeking is a processs. It isn’t linear, it isn’t left brained. It is a circuitous path of back and forth, left and right, exploring options. The goal isn’t to do or become a certain thing; it’s to find out who you are and what kind of work meshes with your deepest self. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve had a dream and learned through research that it isn’t the proper fit, you have taken a giant leap in self – knowledge. You are primed to pursue your next idea. Relax and it will come.
Finding Your Mentor
Why are busy working people so eager to help strangers enter their business? Why are they willing to take time away from their work? To disclose trade secrets? To train their own possible competition? They do it for a number of reasons:
- They love what they do and they love sharing it with others. (Don’t you get jazzed talking about the things you love, especially to people who also love them?)
- They want to give back for all the help they received when they were getting started.
- They want to give to others what they didn’t received when they were getting started.
- They like the energy that a passionate newcomer brings.
- They enjoy the act of teaching and the pride that comes from being asked for advice.
- They believe in their occupation and want to see the industry grow.
- They are reminded that they have dream jobs themselves, and appreciate with fresh eyes how much they have learned and accomplished.
Finding a mentor of your very own
So, mentors are out there, ready to cooperate with you. But how do you go about finding one? Here are some things to look for:
- Passion. First and foremost, look for people who are passionate about their work. Look and listen for signs that they genuinely love the field. Who wants to learn form someone who’s bored or burned out?
- Expertise. Look for someone who is an expert in the field. Perhaps you have already heard about someone with a sterling reputation. If not, once you narrow your search to one or two prospects, ask others in the field about them. How are they regarded?
- Teaching ability. Look for people who are good teachers. It is not enough to be an expert in the field; your mentor needs to know how to transmit knowledge to you.
- Longevity. If possible, pick someone who has been working in the dreamjob for five years or more. By that time the mentor will have worked out most of the bugs in the job or business, will have demonstrated staying power, ad will have a longer term perspective to pass on.
- Connection. Most important, pick someone with whom you ‘click’. You want to be able to ask all your questions, be entirely honest, share your fear and your excitement, feel comfortable and have fun. In short, you want someone who makes you feel at home. If you have a choice between a more experienced mentor who is a litlle standoffish and a less experienced one who treats you like an old friend, go with the latter. You can always do a second testdrive with the more experienced mentor later. Make your first one as comfortable and fun as possible.
Nowhere is it written that you have to have only one mentor. Once you have found your first mentor and made your Heroine’s Journey, you may decide there are things you like to learn or experience with someone else. A different mentor in the same field can give you another perspective on the dream job or a chance to practice what you have just learned. A mentor in a related field can give you experience that complements and extends what you have already done.
Even more than you bargained for: forming a long term relationship with your mentor
A Mentor of your Own
Most people go into their mentor relationships hoping for advice, encouragement and maybe a few contacts, and sometimes they come away with more: long term business partnerships. Whether in formal working relationships or informal, ad hoc arrangements, travellers and mentors often continue their relationships in ways that are mutually beneficial.
So – mentors are out there, ready to cooperate. The trick now is to figure out which of the potential mentors is right for you. Here are some things to look for:
- Passion. First and foremost, look for people who are passionate about their work. As you visit people to interview them, look and listen for signs that they genuinely love their profession. Who wants to learn from someone who is bored and burned out?
- Expertise. Look for someone who is an expert in the profession. Perhaps you have already heard about someone with a great reputation. If not, once you narrow your search to one or two prospects, ask others in the field about them. How are they regarded?
- Teaching ability. Look for people who are good teachers. It’s not enough to be an expert in the field; your mentor needs to know how to transmit knowledge to you.
- Longevity. If possible, pick someone who has been working in the dreamjob for five years or more. By that time the menor will have worked out most of the bugs in the job or business. Will have demonstrated staying power, and will have a longer – term perspective to pass on.
- Connection. Most important, pick someone with whom you ‘click’. You want to be able to ask all your questions, be entirely honest, share your fear and your excitement, feel comfortable, and have fun. In short, you want someone who makes you feel at home. If you have a choie between a more experiencedmentor who is a little distant and a less experienced one who treats you like an old friend, go with the latter. You can always do a second vocation with the more experienced mentor later. Make your first one as comfortable and fun as possible.
Nowhere is it written that you have to have only one mentor. Once you’ve found your first mentor, and done your testdrive, you may decide there are things you’d like to learn or experience with someone else. A different mentor in the same profession can give you another perspective on the dream job or a chance to practice what you’ve just learned. A mentor in a related profession can give you experience that complements and extends what you’ve already done.
Most people go into their mentor relationships hoping for advice, encouragement, and maybe a few contacts, and sometimes they come away with more, long term business partnerships. Whether in formal working relationships or informal, ad hoc arrangements, dream job travellers and mentors often continue their relationships in ways that are mutually beneficial.
Doing the Testdrive
Start by thinking seriously about what’s important to you. You’re pursuing a dream career because you want to live from your heart. What exactly does that entail? Does it mean working fewer hours? Or working closer at home? Does it mean making a difference in the world, or working with a particular population? Do you want to be indoors or outdoors? In the city or in the country? What are the elements that HAVE to exist in your new career in order to make it your dream? Make a list of them – because after your testdrive in your dreamjob you’ll compare what you have learned to what you said you really want. In your dreamjob euphoria, you may be inclined to overlook the fact that you said you wanted to work fewer hours yet your dream job requires round the clock attention. Stay grounded. You might decide later to forgo some of those ‘essentials’ but at least do it with your eyes wide open.
So think concretely about what you need to leave your testdrive with.
Questions for the Mentor
Here are some of the things you’ll want to ask your mentor. Your own list will grow as you prepare for your visit.
- What skills do I need in order to succeed in this profession. Which do i need to learn or strengthen? Can I master them enough to truly succeed?
- You’ve talked to me and watched me work; do you think I’ll be able to p;erform this work well enough to succeed? (hard as it is, ask your mentor to be honest; there’s no point pumping time, energy and heart into something for which you’re not well suited).
- How will I spend a typical day? How many hours will I have to work? Will that change with time? Will this job afford me the lifestyle that I want?
- How do you balance your work and nonwork life?
- How much money does it cost to become qualified for my dream job or to set up my own business if that’s part of the dream? How much can I expect to earn initially and down the road?
- Do you have advice about getting a loan or working with bankers?
- What are the biggest expenses? The most unpredictable expenses? The hardest to control expenses?
- Which expenses can I defray and which are essential at start up?
- What can I expect to earn at first? Down the road?
- How long did it take you to break even? Earn a profit?
- What did you earn at first? What do you earn now?
- What were your biggest money mistakes?
- What has helped you maximize revenue and reduce expenses?
- Would you be willing to let me see your business plan? Your annual budget?
- What do I need to know about equipment, purchasing, location, suppliers, processes, etc?
- What ongoing training do you recommend?
- Are there any mistakes you have made that I can learn from?
- How do you attract customers? What works well? Less well?
- How do you determine prices?
- What were your biggest marketing mistakes?
- What was your biggest marketing success?
- What were your biggest surprises?
- What was your hardest time?
- What is hardest for you on an ongoing basis?
- What would you do differently if you were starting over?
- What is the biggest obstacle you think I’ll face?
- How would pursuing this job affect my spouse or partner? Our kids? Our extended family?
- What should I absolutely do?
- What should I absolutely not do?
- What else should I ask you?
- How did you get into the profession?
- How can i break into the profession? What can I expect my path and timeline to be?
- What are the next steps I need to make to move forward?
- Do you have contacts who can help me?
- Are there other people you recommend I speak to?
- Are there organizations in this profession that I should join (or stay away from)
Choose a Cheerleader
One of the most intimidating aspects of pursuing a dream career is the sense that you’re doing it all alone. Behind you is the security of the existing job and company, paycheck and lifestyle; in front of you is …. who knows? You feel as if you’re standing at the edge of a cliff and all the people with safety nets are behind you.
Well, that isn’t really true. As you move forward through the process, numerous people will come forward to support you. You’ll find mentors who can help you learn th eins and outs of the business. As you pinpoint each new need you will find people to help you meet it, and those people will come to feel like trusted advisers. One day you’ll look around and realize that you’ve created an entire support network to guide you forward. You will not be doing it alone.
But that’s all in the future. For right now you need to choose one person – just one carefully selected person – to be your main cheerleader. This person will be your primary support through the entire process – the person you lean on when things get tough, the person whose judgment you know you can trust, the person whose vision of your future will remain unclouded even when yours starts to blur. Your cheerleader will set deadlines for you when you procrastinate; she will remind you why you’re doing this when you start to waver, she will ask probing questions that help you see the forest as well as the trees.
In fact one of the biggest reasons to have a cheerleader is that that person will be able to see things that you are too close to see yourself. You don’t need a professional coach to play that role. Nor do you need someone with knowledge of your dream field. What you need is someone who is a good, intuitive listener, who can be objective, and who genuinely cares about you. You need someone who will set aside time to meet with you periodically throughout your transition and who will see this as a ‘job’ that goes beyond the parameters of an ordinary relationship. You should think of it as a job, too, and when you choose someone to fill it, you should evaluate candidates in your mind just as if you were hiring someone for a paid position. Don’t consider just family and friends; go through your adress book. Look for someone who has the right personality and skills.
When you’ve identified your candidate, describe the ‘job’ to her and ask if you can ‘hire’ her to do it. You won’t literally hire her or offer her money; you just want to let her know how seriously you take this, and that, by agreeing, she’s making a commitment. Tell her why she was selected; ask if she’ll be able to give you time (perhaps monthly half hour conversations) over the next year. If it feels awkward or difficult to ask for this kind of attention, consider it from her point of view: she’ll probably be honored that you asked.
Qualities to Look For in a Cheerleader
When you ‘hire’ a cheerleader, pick someone who:
- you can talk to openly and easily about your feelings;
- has a positive, ‘can do’ attitude and will encourage you to find ways past your hurdles, not become overwhelmed by them;
- believes in you;
- listens well and understands that this part of your relationship is strictly about you
- is intuitive and can listen past your words to hear the deeper feelings and issues underneath
- lives from both her head and heart; who can help you organize and pursue yuour action steps, but also understands the emotional importance of this change;
- will not be afraid to challenge you when you get discouraged or when you lose your vision and focus; and
- is not threatened by your determination to make a significant change.
Before you go on your testdrive, talk openly with your cheerleader:
- let her look over your list of questions. Brainstorm together to see if you can think of others.
- tell her your concers. Her job is not to answer them but rather to validate them simply by listening.
- encourage her to ask you questions as you talk about your dreams. Her questions can help you clarify your thinkin.
Talking to your cheerleader should energize you and build your confidence. It should feel safe, supportive and constructively challenging.
Should I hire a Coach?
Professional coaches specialize in helping people define and achieve their goals. If you’re considering a major career change, that kind of support can be very helpful. However, coaching is a relatively new career and certification is not yet required, as a result, people with varied backgrounds are free to call themselves coach. I have worked with excellent coaches, however, i met also coaches who would have been better in another line of work. So if you choose to work with a coach, be as diligent in researching, interviewing and confirming credentials as you would be with a mentor.
Before you hire a coach, consider the following:
- Select a coach who focuses on career coaching rather than life coaching. A good career coach will consider lifestyle; a life coach, however, may not focus on your career.
- Talk to references. Ask them if they actually made the changes they hoped to make. You want to hire a coach who gets the job done, not one who is simply likable.
- Hire someone who has been in business full-time for at least five years. Since anyone can call himself a coach, you want someone who has verifiable experience.
- Interview several potential coaches so you have a base of comparison. You want someone who is passionate about coaching, has concretely helped people in situations similar to yours, and with whom you feel an emotional rapport.
- Consider a coach who is certified by a reputable coaching organization, but do not disqualify someone who isn’t. A coach with decades of pragmatic career coaching experience may not have chosen to get certified. More important than certification is meeting the criteria above.
When you are There: Listening with Your Heart
So far, you’ve given a lot of thought to the information you hope to get before you leave your testdrive. But information is only half the story. The other half is how your dream job feels. After all, the whole point of doing a testdrive is to get into work you love, so a huge part of the testdrive is testing out the heart side of the package. Do you love being there? Do you feel that this is the work you are meant to do? Does some inner part of you sing while you’re doing even the drudgiest part of the job.
That is what you need to monitor while you’re there. And then you need to use your imagination. You need to imagine that you’re doing those things every day – day in, day out – for years…. How does the job feel now? Talk honestly with your mentor about the ‘yucky’ sides of the job. Got a good handle on how much time she spends on tasks you would find distasteful. As how she deals with the parts of the job she doesn’t love – or even like – and how she maintains her passion regardless. Then think deeply and honestly about how you would fare in the same situation.
Ask your mentor to play devil’s advocate. Have her describe several common ‘nightmare’ situations and ask you what you would do in each. Encourage her to challenge your responses to make sure you see each situation in the most realistic light. Do you still think you want this job?
Evaluate the Testdrive
A week or so after your testdrive is the time to start doing serious evaluation. Your feet will be nearing the ground, your head will be clearer, you’ll be back in the real world, where you can make more calculated decisions. This is the time for asking yourself hard questions – and giving yourself honest answers.
The purpose of the evaluation is to determine if this is, indeed, your dream career. Perhaps you already know in your gut that it is or isn’t. Do a formal evaluation anyway. Asking yourself the targeted questions below will help you look closely and honestly at everything you learned and will give you important information for going forward.
The hardest thing about evaluating your vocation may be being brutally honest. By the time you’ve done your research, found a mentor, talked it up with friends and family and done your dreamjob, you’ve invested a lot of time, energy and hope in this career. Consciously or unconsciously, you’ve created a vision of your future, and a big part of you is now counting on that vision coming true. That creates a lot of pressure to bend the career to what you want it to be – or to bend yourself to fit the career. This is a great time to get your cheerleader involved. Her job can be to help you resist that pressure.
As you think through the questions, ask your cheerleader to discuss them with you. Encourage her to push you beyond your initial answers, to probe the feelings underneath. She may hear things in your replies that you don’t hear yourself and encourage you to be more honest than you might be on your own. If your cheerleader can’t talk through the questions with you, write down the answers. Writing enforces a mental discipline that may make you consider your feelings more carefully.
A word of caution. As you do your evaluation, focus solely on how you FELT about your dreamjob. DO NOT – i repeat – DO NOT – consider the impact on your family or your finances, or the steps required to realize your dream career. Unless you’re single and independently wealthy; pursuing a dreamjob is going to be fraught with family and financial implications, and there will be dozens of steps to take that seem all but impossible. Your ‘yeah, but’ voice will be all over that crying ‘You can’t do that! What about your family? What will you live on? But you don’t know the first thing about running a business? Those are excellent concerns. They need to be adressed. But they don’t need to be adressed right now. They don’t need to get in the way of deciding if this is really the job for you. If this is the perfect job, you can work on finding a way past those hurdles; if it’s not your dreamjob, there’s no point wasting energy on them now. So do yourself a favor; don’t sideline yourself before you even get started. Figure out how you felt about your dreamjob before you tackle the practical concerns, because often, when we really, truly want something, we find a way to make it happen.
Evaluating the Testdrive: Ask Yourself….
- What did I love about this dreamjob?
- What surprised me the most during my testdrive? Does that change my feelings about the dreamjob?
- What did I not like about this dreamjob?
- What did I not like about this dreamjob?
- Do I find myself thinking, if only X were not part of the package…? Is X so problematic that it reduces my desire or ability to do the dreamjob?
- Can I do this dreamjob day in, day out?
- What parts of the dreamjob are apt to get ‘old’ after six months or a year? How will I feel about the job then?
- How does this dreamjob match up with my list of ‘essentials’. If I sacrified essentials to pursue this dreamjob, would the sacrifice be permanent or temporary? Is the trade-off worth it?
If It is Not Your Dreamjob After All
It is possible that your dream job was everything you’d hoped it would be. Start formulating an action plan to turn it into a career. But what if you found that your dreamjob wasn’t as dreamy as you’d expected? Perhaps there were too many aspects of the job that you found unappealing. Perhaps the rigors of the job preclude the balance you want in your life. Perhaps you found that you don’t want to own your own business after all, or you want to dabble in that area but not turn it into a career.
That is fine! That is all good news. It was precisely to get that kind of feedback that you went on your testdrive. The point was to learn those things now, risk free, before you invested years and money in a career you didn’t love. Your goal, remember, was not necessarily to make this job your career, but rather to make yourself happy, to find work that serves your heart. Your testdrive has taken you a long way down that path. You learned how to research a career and find a mentor; you examined your values and lifestyle and determined what you want in a new career; you proved that you can stay true to yourself in evaluating future prospects. Most important, you’ve opened the door to change. This was not your dream career – but now you’re a lot closer than you were before.
Acknowledging that your dreamjob wasn’t your dream can be painful though. Not only is it disappointing, but it opens up a troubling question: Now What? If this isn’t my dream career, what is? One of the pleasures of pinpointing and researching a dreamcareer is that it gives you the beginning of a vision for your future. As long as you hold that vision you feel reassured; this is where I am heading; this is what I want to do; this is who I am. When that vision crumbles, that reassurance disappears. You find yourself looking into a hole where you once saw solid ground.
If you find yourself facing that hole, you may be tempted to continue pursuing the career you have been focused on rather than admit that it isn’t right. But that would be penny wise and pound foolish. You began this process in order to make yourself happier and more fulfilled. Don’t detour from that long term goal because of discomfort at this moment. You’ve already taken one of the hardest steps – overcoming the inertia of the status quo. You hatched a dream and made concrete progress toward it. Everything you’ve learned in investigating this career will help you find the one that is your dream.
Consider a Related Career. Before you completely write off this career, however, consider another option: perhaps there is a related career that suits you better, a career that has many of the elements you do want and lacks some of the ones you don’t. So ask your mentor or others familiar with that field if they can recommend related jobs that may work better for your needs.
Reassessing Your Existing Job. Sometimes the best thing that comes out of a testdrive is not a new career but a new perspective on the old one. The greatest value of doing a testdrive is not the transition to a dream career, it is the insight you gain about yourself. Even people who never move to their dream careers find that the testdrive sparks a remarkable amount of growth and change. Simply going through the process requires you to assess your life, take stock of what’s important and create a vision for the life you want. It forces you to break out of your mold, meet new people, and learn new things. It gives you a chance to watch yourself in an unfamiliar setting, seeing how you respond and how others respond to you. It provides you a mentor and a cheerleader whose insight and honesty help you see things you might not otherwise see. The process of testdriving helps you reconnect with your deepest self, that place where dreams are kept, so that you can choose to live in a more whole way. So whether you decide to pursue the career you testdrove, or a different career, or make no career change, at all, consider your testdrive a success. You will have given yourself an experience that has the potential to change your life.
Moving Forward and where are you now?
Are you more motivated than ever to pursue that dream career? Or did you come away with reservations? Having done the testdrive and evaluation, do you have a clear sense of what you want to do, or do you feel as if you’ve taken the long route back to square one and you’re still wondering what your dream career might be? If that’s the case, it is time to research other careers. Keep in mind that researching other careers doesn’t mean that you’re going backward. Finding a dream career is an incremental process. It may take two or three testdrives to figure out what job is right for you. Each one will show you more of what you want and don’t want and take you closer to your goal. If the idea of doing multiple testdrives is daunting, relax. The first one was hard because you were learning as you went along. Future research and mentor visits will be easier.
If you have decided that you do want to pursue the job you test-drove, then it’s time to plan your path to get there.
Your Action Plan
Some people have a great startup to their dream business. Like going from conception to profit in a year and a half – every entrepreneur’s fantasy. Unfortunately, also the anomaly. Most people take way longer to get their dream jobs up and running. Whether they’re starting their own businesses or moving toward jobs in a different field, most people make a gradual transition as they work their way past the numerous constraints that stand in the way. Family obligations must be accommodated, debts must be repaid, money must be earned and set aside, classes must be taking.
Pursuing a dreamjob is less a leap than a series of incremental steps that move you closer and closer to your goal. What is critical to reaching the goal is making sure that the steps you’re following are the right ones. That means having an action plan: a clearly defined and timelined road map that will get you from here to there.
Start with a list of questions.
- Knowledge: things you need to learn in order to move forward
- Money: how you’ll finance your new career, and how will you support yourself and your family while you make the transition?
- Timeline: over what period of time you’ll transition to the new career
- Family: how to make your new career mesh with the needs and wishes of your family
Right now, all those questions may seem overwhelming – but that’s because you’re looking at them as a group. When you take them on one by one they become much more manageable. Many people tackle the money-related questions first: without having a financial game plan, it’s hard for them to take the rest of the planning seriously. Others find it hard to plan their financing when they haven’t yet figured out what their educational needs are, what their timeline will be, and how their family will be interested into the plan. You may find yourself working in all those areas at once since each area will inform the others.
Does Your Vision Match with the Market?
If you’re planning to start your own business, one element of your business plan will be a market analysis: are enough customers willing to pay enough money for your product or service to make your business profitable? That can be a hard thing to determine, especially if you’re starting an out of the ordinary business. It may be impossible to find sales figures to use as a reference. In that case you need to be as open-minded as possible. Don’t assume that everyone will love your product or service just because you do. Talk to people familiar with the profession and with people in your target market and try to gauge objectively if the market will support your business.
It’s a lot easier and cheaper to change your business model before you start than after you’re suffering losses! If research suggests that the business isn’t viable, get creative. How can you tweak the business and make it responsive to the market while still maintaining your passion?
The process of pursuing a dream job involves a host of difficult decisions: Should I cut back my hours? Should I spend the money to go to school? Should we move the children? Should we buy this property? Often in life we make decisions from our necks up, as if all that mattered was our thoughts. But career decisions are not purely rational; they affect how we and other people feel. And those feelings must be taken into account. Some people are able to monitor their emotions effortlessly; they feel a decision first and analyze it later. But for others the process is not so simple.
For many of us it’s surprisingly easy to hide our feelings from ourselves. We convince ourselves that what we have decided with our heads is also what we want in our hearts when, in fact, our hearts may want something entirely different. We may do that to please our family or because we grew up in a family where we learned, directly or indirectly, not to express our strongest feelings; or because we are afraid of what we might find if we look inside (those ‘dark’ feelings of unhappyness, fear, sadness, anger, and grief can seem particularly scary). But the hazard in not adressing our feelings when we make big decisions is that later, once we’re living with the decision, those feelings often come out to haunt us. You probably know people who chose a job, or a career, or even a spouse, because their heads propelled them into that decision, only to discover later that in their hearts they were unhappy.
You can consider four aspects of yourself when making career decisions; the rational story, the emotional story, the body and the deep self. When all four stories are considered, your decisions are much more likely to feel right over the long term. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Your rational story. Does this decision make sense logically, financially, logistically? Will it position me as well for the future? Do the risks outweigh the gains? Do I understand the consequences? Have I been able to get satisfying answers to my questions and reservations?
- Your emotional story: How do i feel as a result of this decision: Peaceful? Liberated? Fearful? Anxious? If I feel a mix of feelings, which predominate?
- Your body story: What physical sensations are awakened by this decision: a sense of energy? Relaxation? Tension? A lump in the throat? An inability to sleep?
- Your deep story: Does this decision honor who I am in my core? Does it make me feel whole?
You know you’ve made the right decision if:
- It feels right in your core;
- It meshes with your deep aspirations;
- You feel good about it (there may be elements you’re not crazy about but you know you can live with them); and
- You feel committed to it and can visualize yourself carrying it out
Dream Big, Start Small
Few people are able to leap in one move into a new career. More often, the obligations and concerns we discussed make the path slower and less direct than you’d like. But if you are patient and creative you can keep your career transition moving forward. If money, family and other considerations require you to take an incremental approach, consider some of the following options.
- Get a part time job in your new field
- Do your dreamjob at the side while keeping your existing job
- Volunteer in your new field
- Take a job that is a transition to your new career (getting paid to learn)
- Pursue your dream job as a hobby until you are ready to change career
Regardless of how you plan to transition to your dream job, one of the biggest challenges is keeping your expectations realistic. It is so easy to get carried away by our own enthusiasm, to believe the rest of the world will love your business as much as you do.
But in truth, things rarely turn out to be as rosy as you think they will – simply because so many factors other than your enthusiasm influence your rate of success. Consumer tastes, the state of the economy, unanticipated events, the performance of the company you have gone to work for: so many elements beyond your control can have an impact on your performance. That’s why, whether you’re going to work for someone else or starting your own business, you need to follow the career transition rule of thumb: Double the time, double the money.
Double the Time, Double the Money
Expect it to take twice as long to become successful as you think it will, and to cost twice what you expected to get there. If you’re starting a business from scratch, expect it to take twice as long as you initially projected to earn a profit, and expect to spend twice as much money as you projected before you turn a consistent profit. Line up financing that will carry you for three years. Finances is the number one cause of new business failures: by the time the owners realize they are in financial trouble, it’s too late to salvage the company. Avoid that by planning from the beginning to need double the money.
Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage about traveling: pack half the clothes and twice the money. Well, it applies to career transitions too. Pack half the expectations (of rapid success) and twice the money, and you’ll stand a much better chance of actually reaching your destination.
One of the great benefits of doing a testdrive and stepping incrementally toward your dream job is that it makes the process far less scary than it would be if you made a wholesale change. But that’s not to say it isn’t scary. Change is change and there aren’t many of us who can take it on without missing a couple of heartbeats. Especially when it comes to committing ourselves financially. The moment of quitting the current job, or signing the bank loan, or plunking down your hard – earned cash is a stomach churner, no matter how carefully you’ve made your plan. Even people who the day before were certain they were making the right decision find themselves having second thoughts when it comes time to seal the deal.
That’s when support is so essential. This is the time to call up that army of supporters you’ve acquired – your family, your friends, your cheerleader, your banker, your mentor and ask each one (yet again) to remind you why you’re making the right decision.
It’s also time to dig down into yourself and remember what this means at the deeper level: that you began this journey because you were unfulfilled, because important parts of you were buried, and that this is your chance to bring those parts to life. In truth, by the time you’re committing money you’ve probably already passed the point of no return. Those parts of you that were dormant have already awakened and are probably unwilling to go back to sleep. So along with your fear, congratulate yourself. You’re doing what most people never have the courage to do: step beyond the safe, the comfortable, the staus quo and dare to live your dream.
The Importance of an Absolute Financial Threshold
What is the single biggest factor that stops people from pursuing their dream jobs? I don’t have to tell you. It is the terror of losing it all: the fear of giving the job a go and then ending up worse than you were before. Whether you are taking a pay cut in the job of your dreams, cashing in all your assets to start a business, or borrowing against your mortgage to go to school, the fear of loosing everything is often the obstacle that sidelines the most wishful dreamer.
Indeed, those fears are very real; many of us have heard stories about people to whom that has happened. But here’s the good news: that kind of loss is entirely avoidable. Even if you are starting your own business, you never be in a position to lose everything. Many factors can cause a business to fail, including some beyond your control. You can avoid that by establishing an absolute financial threshold, a financial point you will not go beyond.
Passion AND Business
Having a firm financial threshold is essential if you don’t want to lose all your assets, but, of course, the best way to avoid losing assets is to keep your business running smoothly. And that means avoiding the hazards that are inherent in running a business that is also your passion. One of those is confusing your love for the work with your knowledge about running a business. It’s not uncommon for people to get into a career because it’s their dream and only later, when it starts to founder, realize that they were ill-prepared for the business.
Before you undertake your dream business:
- Make sure you know all aspects of the business, not just the part you love
- Bring in experts to help you with the parts you’re not strong in
- Avoid the ‘hobby trap’ by suspending disbelief that your business can be big and serious. Think BIG and let that infect everything you do. If you can’t summon that belief yourself, bring in advisers who can help you expand your thinking.
- Making a business plan that projects growth. If you don’t plan how you’ll reach your targets, you never will.
- Asking for help. Form a ‘board of advisors’ with no fiduciary or legal responsibility but with various areas of expertise who can ask tough questions and give sound advice about every area of your business. They may enjoy meeting each other as much as they enjoy helping you, but a nice dinner would be a way of paying them for their time and advice.
The Power of your Story
It may seem odd to talk about the end of your dream job when you’ve only just begun to find one, but thinking that far out is actually an important part of the process. That is because creating a dream job isn’t just about a job, it is about how you live your life. It’s about the attitude with which you live it. Taking the steps to create a dream job means giving up the idea that you will confirm your life to other people’s dreams. It means making the decision to create your own life story and be its hero or heroine. That isn’t an attitude that most of us inherit. Generally, we’re taught to take the safe route: to work a steady job, make a steady income, avoid unnecessary risk. Stepping outside the box is implicityly discouraged. But by pursuing a dream job, you’ve rejected that way of thinking.
The Five Attributes Of the Successful Testdriver
- Optimism. You believe you can do it. You know it is risky and there is a chance you will fail, but in your gut you believe you will succeed.
- Vision: You know where you want to go.
- Confidence: You know failure is survivable. You may lose time and money, but you will gain in knowledge, experience and self esteem.
- Determination: You would rather try and fail than not do it. You don’t want to wonder later, ‘what if?’
- External support: you have the key people in your life behind me.
You’ve already taken a step toward building the life you want. The next step is to create a long term visionary story.
In 2007 i wrote my story for the second part of my life (i was 43 at that moment:
- Be in a happy, loving, passionate, long term relationship
- Own my own The Heroine’s Journey/The Hero’s Journey company
- Live a ‘modern nomad’ life, traveling between homes in desirable locations
- Have my own magazine
- Have tens of my books published
- Write a monthly column in a worldwide known magazine or newspaper
- Co-create with Richard Branson and/or Jeff Bezos and/or David Gardner
- Travel to all 7 continents
- Trek the legendary bicycle races in Europe as tourist
- Establish a fund for more creativity in kid’s education
I wrote the list in a special ….. and it’s still with me wherever I go. No one but me has ever see it. But I pull it out once a month or so to review it …..rewrite my story … and dream. When I wrote it, those goals seemed pie in the sky. I had no idea how I would achieve them; i just knew they were important. But now, some ten years later, six of the ten shown here have already come to fruition and the others are in the works. That’s not because I’m luckier, or more capable or even more driven than other people; it is just because I wrote my story down. It’s because I had a clear story of what I wanted to achieve.
The power of your story is remarkable. When we tell ourselves a story for our future, we lay down neural pathways in our brain, essentially blazing a path for our actions to follow. Retelling ourselves stories in our minds is one of the best ways to encourage peak performance – and it is as true in achieving life goals as it is in exceeding a quarterly sales goal or acing a serve in tennis. When you clearly imagine your furture, you make it easier for yourself to live it. And enjoy the surprises life offers!
The key is to envision your future in a concrete story – not with a hazy feel good picture, but with specific goals you’d like to achieve. Do you want to live in Italy? Start a business? Own your own studio? Be home when the kids get home from school? Each one of those needs to be part of your quest story. Do you want to work from a sunlit office with a fabulous view? Put that in your story.
What Happens After “Testdrive in Your Dreamjob” Experience?
What happens after you have made your “Testdrive in Your Dreamjob”? You go, take the testdrive, meet your heroines and heroes, you fall in love with a profession; you leave, you had a great couple of days; sure, you know what you want to to – but there is a gaping chasm between wanting and making it happen.
And when you look down into that chasm it’s brimming with house payments, car payments, health care, food bills, utility bills.. How exactly do you take the next step?
The question is its own answer. You take the next STEP. The next small step. The biggest surprise for people who find or create their dream job is that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. It doesn’t have to be an all – or – nothing, hold your nose leap from security into the unknown. Instead, it can be a series of small steps that you take only as you feel ready. Sure, there are the few real bold people who cuth the ties to their previous careers and hurl themselves full time into new ones. But most people take it more slowly. They continue at their current jobs while transitioning gradually into the dream.
The path and the timeline vary from person to person; what they all have in common, though, is the passion and the story they tell themselves to move ahead.
Of course, after the Taste of Happiness, some people find that the dreamjob they tried was not the dreamjob they thought they wanted. Finding that you don’t love your dreamjob as much as you’d hoped can be disappointing; the dream is dashed, the ‘what next’ question is alarmingly reopened. But even people who have that experience usually consider their Taste of Happiness a success. They are thankful that it showed them what they did not want before they ventured further.
For most people – whether or not they find their dreamjob The Taste of Happiness is like opening a door to a long closed room. Sunlight and fresh air touch something that has long been in the dark, and the result is a renewed sense of self and a new sense of possibility.
Your Taste of Happiness
This journey in Paris will tell you how to test drive your dreamjob by creating a Taste of Happiness experience of your own. It will tell you how to find a mentor, how to prepare for the Taste of Happiness, and, most important, what to do when the Taste of Happiness is over. It will map out the small steps you can take to move from where you are now to where you really want to be. Along the way you will meet your mentors. You will learn from them and many other stories on the Heroine’s Journey website about the fears and challenges, the mistakes and lucky breaks, the surprises and accomplishments they experienced as they moved into their dream business.
You will see that few of these people consider themselves risk takers. Most are still surprised to find they have taken so bold an action. But after working in jobs that did not feed their passions they reached a point when they felt they had no choice, they had to push past their fears and make the switch.
What has helped many creative professionals in the past was realizing that the risks they needed to take wre not as overwhelming as the ones they had imagined. The scariest moments – quitting their jobs, purchasing property, signing a bank loan, moving across the word or country, did not occur until they were already up and running. It was still scary, it was still a risk but a calculated risk. By the time they took it, they felt they were likely to succeed.
What if you don’t know what your dream job is? What if you are itchy and unsatisfied in your current place but when you think about what’s next you draw a total blank? Well, you are not alone. There is very little in our society that encourages us to know what we really want to do. When we are children people ask us what we want to be when we grow up, but once we are teenagers we are taught what we should be; we are channeled into a narrow range of careers based on security and stability rahter than on passion.
The notion that we could follow our hearts when it comes to work is pretty much trained out of us by the time we come out of school. So who can blame us if, by the time we realize our ‘practical’ jobs don’t fulfill us, we have already forgotten how to find our own passions inside? That may be another reason considering The Taste of Happiness. It enables you to experiment, to test out all sorts of businesses that might be appealing.
How can you be inspired and stuck at the same time?
I was a long time impassionated but too scared to anything about it. Perhaps that’s how you are feeling now. I know that what I needed more than anything then was help getting past my fear; I needed someone to tell me that:
- Going after my dream business did not require the daredevil leap that I thought it did;
- what it did require was a series of small, incremental steps; and
- those steps could be fun rather than scary.
If someone had told me these things back then I might have been skeptical – but i also might have been willing to give it a try. I would have started six years sooner.
You are probably skeptical too. The idea of giving up the securities of a ‘real job’ with a real paycheck and real benefits, is pretty scary no matter how you cut it, and imagining even the most exciting dream business does not do much to mitigate that fear. The only way to do that is to adress those fears head on. So let’s do that right now – because the sooner you get unstuck, step by incremental step, the sooner you will make that dream business real.