Born For This: How to Find the Work that You Were Meant to Do
There is one book that I can pinpoint as instrumental in giving me the confidence to quit my job 2 years ago. It is the book that I lend or recommend on a regular basis. I have multiple copies, keeping them in reserve to gift to friends who are in the throes of a career change and in need of a little courage. And I’ve reread it four times. Born For This by Chris Guillebeau absolutely changed my mindset, which in turn enabled me to change my life.
ONE LINE PITCH ~
A practical guide to self-styling your own career, be it striking out on your own and turning a passion project into a profitable business or by hacking a humdrum job into a role that you love.
SWOT ANALYSIS ~
Where do I start? I’m looking through my battered old copy and practically every page is dog-eared. But I think perhaps the most impressive element of the book is that it’s action-orientated, and provides you with ideas that you can immediately implement.
There are a number of quizzes to guide your thinking beyond the parameters that you might find yourself currently confined to, considering elements such as: what are the working conditions you need to be happy? And what’s your optimum combination of joy, money, and flow? (Flow is the condition of getting lost in a task, of losing track of time, because you’re doing something that comes naturally. Something we often forget about). Chris advises you to create a future CV, asking yourself what skills, experiences, and job titles would you want to see on there? And what would the first step be to getting there? Or, do you have an interview for your dream role? Chris equips you with clever questions to ask your interviewer. If you’re ready to take the leap to do something different, but have no clue where to start, then there’s a brilliant quiz on the accompanying site.
It’s not only Chris’ experiences outlined in the book; he uses countless case studies to reinforce his ideas and ethos. For example, the story of the personal trainer who wanted to add yoga to his repertoire. Lacking the time to do a 200-hour course, instead he watched every yoga DVD he could get his hands on over the course of a week. He then threw himself into teaching. Years later, he has won awards and now trains other aspiring teachers himself.
Zero. I’m a total fan girl.
Chris is big advocate of the side-hustle: a micro-business, he says, can help you to make more money, and offers a creative outlet to explore other interests, alongside your day job. You also never know what might become of your side-hustle. COR, of course, began as a fun project; never did we imagine that Helena would leave her job to manage the partnership full time! So, what would your side-hustle be? Would you sell something or provide a service or consultancy of some sort? Chris even provides a 19-day timeline to launching your micro business, so if there’s an idea you’ve been sitting on, why not follow this framework and give it a shot? For inspiration, buy his latest book Side Hustle School or listen to his podcast of the same name.
Or perhaps you’re ready to go full time self-employed? If that’s the case, Chris says that there’s four areas to consider. Firstly, improve your skills, both soft skills and the more technical. Upskill yourself regularly. Why not set aside £50 and challenge yourself to do several courses on a training platform such as Udemy? Secondly, strengthen connections. Network and meet people wherever you can; mention what you do, your side hustle, your ambitions, and you never know what serendipitous connections might arise. Also, don’t be nervous to approach people. Everyone I’ve ever asked to meet me for career advice and a coffee has said yes. Even Chris Guillebeau himself! Finally, experiment by trying new things and exposing yourself to new ideas, and say yes to opportunities that come your way.
And why stop there when you can have lots of different careers at the same time? Workshifting is where “you navigate multiple projects and interests by focusing fully on something for a while, and shifting to focus fully on something else”. This might be time-based, spending a day on one project, the next on another; or changing project hour by hour. Alternatively, Chris references the story of an owner of a landscaping business in Canada. In spring, summer and autumn he had plenty of business, but come winter his work slowed to a halt. Fortunately, he had a side hustle: he spent the summer months writing screenplays!
Before you begin re-creating your career, make a list of all the things that you do well. These could be the skills you acquired throughout your education, things you’ve picked up from a parent or role model, capabilities you’ve mastered throughout the course of your career to date, or even skills you’ve obtained on your own by reading or taking classes. Following on from this, write down a couple of things that you’re not good at or hate doing. Address the areas you might need to seek help in. For example, I’m not confident with numbers so I’m happy to take the hit financially to have an accountant; this also saves me a great deal of time and worry.
Identify the hazards of going at it alone. List everything that could go wrong and in many cases you’ll realise that your worries aren’t life-threatening and are in fact irrational.
If you want to get out of your current job situation, have a D-day. Put pressure on yourself to follow through by marking the day you plan to hand in your notice in your diary.
STANDOUT QUOTES ~
“Sometimes the job you want doesn’t exist - and usually when that happens it’s because you don’t actually want a job, you want full control of your income and career. Many people who work for themselves believe this is actually the safest and most secure career path.”
Chapter 8, Build a Small Empire
“Somewhere along the way, you were given some terrible advice: you have to choose a niche. You can safely place this advice in the paper shredder underneath your desk. There may come a time in your career when you need (and want) to focus on one thing, but until it arrives, you can craft the work you were meant to do around all your passions and interests.”
Chapter 12, How to Do Everything You Want
KEY LESSONS ~
I guess, above all, Born For This teaches you that there isn’t only one way to work. Chris gives you an entire menu of options. At the end of the day, it’s our assumptions and fears that keep us locked in a career that ultimately makes us unhappy.
My life has changed dramatically since working for myself and on my own terms: being able to take time off when I need to has meant my anxiety levels have dropped and my productivity has shot up. I never work on Mondays - it's my day of self-care and I tend to spend the day at the climbing wall. I work the times that I know I work best (I’m a 5am freak!), and use the afternoons for meetings or reading. I work from cafes around where I live, working on one project here and another there, using the different spaces to influence my focus. It's also allowed me to build relationships with local members of the community resulting in many partnerships and new business.
COR wouldn’t be around if we hadn’t had the courage to just go for it and do something we love on the side. And I’m so glad we did. For me, being able to shift between the two jobs has contributed greatly to my work happiness and flow as each brings its own rewards and lessons. I refuse to choose one career. I'm the busiest I've ever been but every minute feels like my own.
So welcome to the world of self-employment, Helena. I, for one, categorically believe you were born to do this.
Lots of love, N x