On the Bookshelf: Test-Drive Your Dream Job
I have to say, I was fully prepared to resist the charms of Test-Drive Your Dream Job by Brian Kurth, fearing that it would be yet another narcissistic harangue about how you must find your passion OR ELSE live a rotten, boring, doomed worklife.
But Test-Drive ("A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating The Work You Love") strikes me as a refreshingly honest how-to book, with a lot of practical tips for anyone who wants to put a toe or two in the water of their fantasy job.
The refreshing honesty comes from Kurth's admissions about just how damned hard it is to leave the comfort of a well-paying job to do something else. He himself needed the boot-in-the-ass from the failed dot.com (which naturally failed before it made him rich) - and the concomitant boot-in-the-ass that his partner got the same day from his job - before he dared to try something new.
And he still didn't make an overnight transition, but worked on his idea - finding a way to help people find their dream jobs- while working at a job (sales for a small wine distributor) that put him closer to, and gave him time for, what he was more interested in than tech marketing.
What Kurth was interested in was Vocation Vacations, which connects job-dreamers with places where, and people with whom, they can pay to hang out for a few days to get a feel for the job they've been fantasizing about for the past couple of decades.
Again, in talking about what a vocation vacation will do for you, Kurth is refreshingly honest - there's no oversell, no "miracle occurs here," just the truth about what might happen, which is anything from finding the Mr. Right of vocations to deciding that, no, you'd really hate being a dog groomer. And, of course, all sorts of in between possibilities.
Taking a vocation vacation makes a ton of sense - certainly a lot more sense than sitting around romanticizing about how wonderful it would be to run a B&B in Vermont, then up and jettisoning everything you have in order to do so, only to find out you'd forgotten that running a B&B means washing a lot of someone else's dirty linen.
What I like about Kurth's approach is that, while he may well be a romantic at heart - and I'm guessing he is - he's also intensely practical.
For starters, he doesn't discount the fears that hold people back. He understands them, and acknowledges that they're real.
There's none of the preachy, dare to be great nonsense about brushing aside your fears, just common sense on what you're likely to go through when you decide you'd rather shoe horses than balance someone's books - including the "exposure fear" when you start talking out loud about what you'd really, really like to do. He doesn't sugar coat how wonderful everything's going to be, he gives some examples of failures - business and personal (including, by the way, his own painful break-up with his long-term partner).
Kurth is also a gradualist, outlining how to go about taking baby steps, if that's what will work better for you than gigantic leaps of faith.
Here are a few jobs from the quite broad and diverse range of vocation vacations listed on his web site.
Alpaca or Bison Rancher
Baseball: Announcer, GM, Marketer
B&B Owner (of course!)
Bookstore Owner (or course!)
Cheesemonger (gotta love that word)
Pro Wrestling Ringside Announcer
The ones I drilled down on all seemed to be in the $1,000 range (plus or minus) for two-days on-the-job with a mentor.
I think this is a really great idea. (Maybe I'll head to Tennessee to try out baseball announcing. But, hey, I'm already pretty much doing what I want to be doing: paying the bills through marketing consulting - which involves a ton of writing - and creative writing.)
There's a wonderful quote in the book:
"It's never too late to be who you might have been."
The quote if from George Eliot - and talk about someone who had to overcome to odds, eh? At least now, woman don't have to change their names to male names to find work. (I do have a friend, a short story writer, who no longer goes by her "real" first name, which pretty much ID's her as someone in her 50's. She changed her nom de plume to a peppier, more youthful version of her dated, somewhat clunky and out of fashion given name. She attributes the change to her work being taken more seriously in college literary mags where the readers are young - and where she now finds more acceptance.)
I don't 100% buy the George Eliot quote. There are plenty of things that someone might have been that they are, realistically speaking, too late for. Someone in his 60's is not going to be an NFL quarterback.
Which is not to say that people can't get closer to something that approximates what they might have been if they'd followed a different path.
Or they just might find themselves coming, in middle age, to an all new something or other that they never would have conceived of 20 or 30 years earlier. (Cheesemaker, anyone?)
In any case, the idea of Vocation Vacations is terrific, and it certainly looks - from the site - as if it's taking off.
And if you can't take off a couple of days, and plunk down the money for a paid outing doing something else/something fun, you can still plunk down a few bucks to buy the book, which is quite good. Anyone toying with the idea of remaking themselves by a lot or a little will get something out of the book.
The book is written by Brian Kurth, "with Robin Simons", and I'll bet some props go to Robin for the accessible, inviting tone and voice throughout.