(post by Andrew Thorp)
Hearing the rather poor results yesterday of the Coalition’s ‘Welfare to Work’ programme (less than 4% of those who took part had found full-time employment for 6 months or more), I was reminded of the early days of our company MojoLife. At that stage our focus was on helping people reinvent themselves, using some of the techniques we now apply to businesses to stand out and attract opportunities.
It shows that there is an alternative way, and I remembered a piece I wrote about an imaginary scenario involving a person called Geoff. The funny thing about this piece was that about 18 months after publishing it, I mentioned it to a business associate of ours and he exclaimed, “Wow, my dad did just that!” They say reality is often stranger than fiction, but in this case it was just the same.
Here’s the piece again…
Geoff is 53 years of age and has worked as an IT project manager in the financial services industry for 12 years. He was made redundant 6 months ago and has had very little success finding employment since. He’s received some guidance on putting together his CV and some help on job search/interview techniques, but to no avail. He’s fired off at least 350 CV’s, had 6 interviews and still no success. Needless to say, his confidence is low. His relationship with his wife and kids has suffered, he doesn’t go out with friends any more and he’s beginning to resign himself to a future of shelf-stacking and economizing.
Geoff comes along to a MojoLife group and meets other talented, but under-employed people. He’s introduced to a new way of thinking about creating opportunities rather than putting his life in the hands of others. He’s asked to put together a ‘manifesto’, rather than a CV. He starts to reflect on who he is, what he can do, how he’s helped people and the value he can bring. He’s asked to consider what he really loves doing…what he’s really interested in…can he recall a time was he at his best?
- Geoff is passionate about good wine
He remembers an occasion 8 years ago when he organised a wine-tasting trip for some friends to France. He’s always loved wine and he wrote up a diary of the trip at the time and shared it with his friends in the form of a short, self-published book. They loved it and to this day still talk about the experiences they had.
Geoff re-reads the book and gets in touch with those friends again.
They ask him if he’s still doing that kind of thing. “Not sure,” he says, explaining his predicament. They all encourage him to do it and it gets him thinking. His fellow MojoLife members encourage him too and he starts reading up on the wine industry – people who are making a living from it. (He never knew there were so many people involved in so many ways). He reads the Oz Clarke story, takes a greater interest in wine journalism and attends a few events in his region. It seems he’s not alone in having an interest in this area.
He attends a MojoLife workshop on personal branding and using social media, and starts writing a blog about wine. He enjoys writing, especially about something he’s interested in. His (middle-class) friends start asking him which wine they should serve at dinner parties. He starts to circulate and begins to enjoy himself. The editor of the local newspaper asks him if he’d write a short column about wine. A local restaurant opens and the owner asks Geoff if he’d like to come along as his guest, and talk about the wine list.
He discovers Meetup (an on-line platform for encouraging get-togethers for like-minded people) and forms a wine appreciation club. He attracts followers from throughout his region. He does the same on Facebook (more followers, some overseas), starts a YouTube channel and does a few videos, showing him and the same restaurant owner discussing what varietals are in or out this month. He starts to engage in on-line conversations about wine – on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. He writes more articles. He’s starting to get noticed.
Then, out of the blue he gets a call from one of his old friends, someone who came on the original wine trip he organised. It turns out his friend runs a corporate hospitality company. Wine trips are on the agenda and he asks Geoff if he’d consider running one to South Africa, and becoming the full-time wine guru/content manager for the company.
So this imaginary scenario wasn’t so imaginary after all! It’s what might be described as an entrepreneurial response to redundancy or some other unsatisfactory situation. You take charge.
That doesn’t necessarily mean starting a business. But in a way we ALL need to think like a self-employed person in the modern age. It’s a paradox that we live in an age where so many people feel disempowered, hopeless, lost and empty BUT because of the inter-connected nature of the modern world it’s never been more within people’s reach to create new opportunities.
And before the doubters say, “Ah yes, but Geoff’s from a middle class background and well educated,” consider the Lauren Luke story and the amazing William Kamkwamba – both hardly brought up in promising circumstances.
To my mind there’s a lack of knowledge, skills and confidence but people also need resources and, crucially, a supportive network. At MojoLife we’ve been developing a way of removing these barriers – we’ll launch in 2013!