Why You NEVER have to go back to square one

About this whole “entertainers, artists, and hospitality folk should retrain and look for better jobs” thing…

It’s all well and good coming up with a questionnaire and, believe me, I REALLY want to take the piss out of it, but…

… posting my results or pointing out the idiocy in the fact that photographers are being asked to retrain as photographers, isn’t much practical help.

The problem with asking a bunch of “I like…” questions is simple:

It doesn’t factor in what you can actually DO.

I LIKE sitting in my underpants, cannonballing Tunnocks Teacakes, and watching Sherlock Holmes…

… you got a well-suited job for that, Mr Sunak?

“I like…” veers dangerously close to that Insta-classic “follow your passion”, which is just terrible advice.

(for more on this, check out “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport – there are plenty of free book summaries out there)

Starting from square one is a terrifying prospect at the best of times.

When the world is losing is shit and millions of people are doing the same thing?

It’s even worse.

So, let’s put the piss-taking of the assessment to one side for a second and think about what we can do.

It’s easy to think…

“I’m a close up magician. All my gigs have vanished, so I’m gonna have to find a new career…”

Here’s the problem with that…

A close-up magician entertains drunk people at events, sure, but…

… when you boil it down, they do so much more than that.

What does a magician REALLY do?

Every Saturday night, they travel to a far-off hotel, attend a public event where they know no-one, and introduce themselves to EVERYBODY at that event, one small group at a time

Not only that, but they have to interrupt them, get their attention, be the life and soul of the party, AND win them over – in just 7-10 minutes…

… before buggering off and doing the same thing for another 20 groups.

Do you know how many people would KILL for the ability to do that without spoiling their Chinos?

Do you know how many business folks hide in the corner at networking events, nursing the same drink, missing out on making valuable connections because they’re petrified of approaching even one new person?

How many people would love the comedian’s ability to structure a collection of ideas and present them to an audience in a way that makes them want to put down their phones and pay attention?

Some agoraphobics haven’t left the house in YEARS.

Do you think that, as a singer who’s stood on hundreds of different stages, and been leered at by THOUSANDS of eyeballs…

… you might be able to share some stories that’ll give these people some hope?

Stories about how you started… how it got better… what worked… what didn’t.

Here’s the thing…

This is NOT about BS-ing your way through your CV.

“Actually, I think my 7 years on the mayo gun at the Dudley branch of McDonald’s DOES make qualify me for the role of Chief Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon…”

It’s about discovering the skills you take for granted – the skills you use every single day – and breaking them down to their timeless elements.

You don’t just do magic tricks…

… it’s about confidence, communication, and connection.

You got skills, baby – skills that other people will pay for.

So stop asking “I like…”, and start stating…

“I can…”, or “I know…”

“I can stand on a stage and communicate ideas.”

“I know how to get people to pay attention.”

“I know how to tap into people’s emotions.”

More: you don’t have to be the best in the world to be able to help.

There are people higher up than you, sure, but…

… there are people further down the ladder than you too. They could do with your help.

Focus on what you can do to help them.


Well, instead of taking the government test, spend time asking yourself these questions.

  • What tasks make up your job?
    (Run through your working week and write down everything you do)
  • For each job, ask “what skills do I use to do this?” (List them all)
  • What are the “timeless/fundamental” elements behind each of these skills?
    (For example, writing a blog post – could be “formulating and communicating ideas, researching and understanding your audience so you know what to talk about, being able to formulate an argument, persuasive writing, etc…)
  • What other markets/jobs are each of these skills appreciated?
    (This may be hard at first, for two reasons. First, we often don’t appreciate the skills we have, and second, we’re too focused on what we’re doing to notice what’s going on in everyone else’s world, but the more you keep asking this, the more you’ll start to notice situations where your skills would come in useful)
  • What benefits do each of these skills give you? What emotions do these tap into?
    (sticking with the blog post example, you might feel the confidence that you know your market, secure because you know how to write persuasively and make more sales whenever you need…)
  • Who else wants more of these benefits?
  • When you Google “how to get [benefits/skills]”, what comes up? Who’s looking for help?
  • What are all the possible results I could achieve, and for who?
    (think of “before and after”, or “I can help [PEOPLE] go from [WHERE THEY ARE] to [WHERE THEY WANT TO BE]”)

I know that’s a lot of questions.

Don’t feel pressured to vomit up everything in one quick session.

This ain’t a “once and done” thing.

Spend 5 minutes every morning thinking these questions over and let ‘em stew in your mind.

You’ll find that ideas will just pop into your head as you go about your day (often at weird moments, so have your favourite note-taking app ready!).

For example, you’ll be watching your favourite cop show and, when seeing the key witness brace herself for a court appearance, you’ll suddenly have a flash of inspiration…

… “I used to feel that anxious before gigs too. I don’t anymore because … OMG – I could use my performing skills to help people increase their confidence, so they feel confident testifying in court!”

Write everything down.

Do this for a week and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll come up with.

Instead of a meaningless answer generated by an even more meaningless government test, you’ll have a sheet of paper full of genuine opportunties you can explore.

Not only that, but you’ll also start to feel better about yourself, as you’ll have a physical record of just how bloody awesome you are…

… and how much value you can offer the world.

Will they all be million-dollar ideas?

Will they heckers like.

That’s not the point.

Once you start thinking about questions like these, you realise that you’re NEVER starting from square one.

You’ve not lost everything.

Nothing has gone to waste.

Yes, life is still a bit shit, but not quite as shit as you probably thought.

Hope that’s useful.

Any questions? Just ask.