Podcast: Neil Prem | Seven Steps to Purpose
There are many times in our lives when we might find ourselves at crossroads looking for purpose and direction. At these times, we might feel stuck and confused and perhaps we don’t know what to do. And if we do have a sense of what we need to do, we might find ourselves lacking the courage to make it happen. In short, we’re heading down the wrong path.
If this is you, then you’re not alone. Today we’re talking to Neil Prem, an old friend and career coach who helps people create and develop meaningful careers. And he’s just about to publish a book, “Seven Steps to Purpose”. In this special episode of the podcast he’ll help you to get unstuck, discover your dream job and do what matters most.
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NEIL: So my name is Neil Prem and I’m the author of soon-to-be-released “Seven Steps to Purpose”, how to get unstuck, discover your gift and do what matters most. And the funny thing is, when I sat down to write the book, I wanted to write this book called “The World Needs Your Passion”, as an anthem call to inspire younger people, graduates in their 20s, to believe that they have a gift and a message that the world desperately needs, which has been my life’s work for 25 years. But as I began to write the book, that just didn’t come out. And what began to come out as I interviewed lots of people, clients past and present, was this real sense that there are hundreds, probably tens of thousands of people all over the planet, you know, a good number are gonna be listening to this podcast who are possibly mid-career who have just woken up one day and said, you know what? What I’m doing isn’t what I want to do, I’m unhappy, the work that I’m doing isn’t taking me in the direction of my dreams, I’m not making the contribution I want to make and I don’t know how to change. And as I began talking to more and more people around the world, this theme just kept coming through stronger and stronger and I thought, this is what I need to write about. So yes, a younger audience, students in their 20s will get a ton out of it, as will people in later career who are saying, how can I bring more of my gifts and my message to what I do? But hopefully this book is written to those people, that career-changer who’s saying where now, what next?
NICK: That’s really interesting. Why do you think people get stuck in their careers, why are there people in their 30s and 40s who are just feeling unhappy, feeling that things aren’t quite connecting with their passion? You know, where do people tend to get slightly derailed, do you think?
NEIL: That’s a great question. I’m not sure there is one reason, there’s often many. A friend of mine is an airline pilot and he says to me, a plane is always off-course all the time and you have to keep bringing it back on course. He flies out of Hong Kong and he said, you know, if I was to fly out of Hong Kong and be 1o off at that point, in eight hours I’ll be several thousand miles off-course. And I think if that metaphor is true and he’s not just exaggerating to impress me in his pilot’s uniform and everything, I think the same thing applied that when we’re in our teenage years, and we’re not sure what we’re good at, what we enjoy, we look at others, we look to our parents and our carers, we look to teachers, and everybody teaches us to look outside of ourselves for the answers, and very quickly we get off-course. And then, you know, having looked outside of us, often our parents have dreams and plans for our lives. I remember years ago, this lady once saying to me, Neil would you please coach my daughter, I’ll pay you whatever you want to coach her. And I thought, fantastic. But I’ve learnt to ask the questions, what would you like me to coach her on? And she said, well she wants to be an actress and I want you to coach her to be an accountant. (laughter) And at that point I could see the cheque for £1,000 just disintegrating in front of me, and I said, well I can’t. But we are taught from an early age that the answers are to be found outside of ourselves and as we do that, all the literature, all the websites reinforce that. We look on Google and we’re told the 10 hottest careers, the skills of tomorrow and we can begin to follow that, and everybody else has an opinion and before we know it, we can then wake up mid-career and realise we’re quite a way off-course.
NICK: I mean just reflecting on myself and many of my friends also, I feel like careers are often a bit like the airline pilot – direction’s set very early in your career at school, even earlier possibly, you know, here in the UK you get to GCSEs, you choose five, six, seven, eight, nine GCSEs, whatever it might be, they in some ways then determine you’re A-levels, they in some ways then determine possibly a degree you might go on to do, and that then determines a job and I think people, sleep-walking is totally the wrong word but I think it’s very easy just to kind of keep on the trajectory that doesn’t quite suit who it is and where you want to be, and people at some point then realise that and feel, ah this isn’t quite right, I’m an accountant and I wanted to be an actress, you know. What do you think is holding people back? If people even have the clarity, like that young lady you were just talking about who wanted to be an actress and perhaps she didn’t get to where she wanted to be, I hope she did, but, you know, what holds people back from getting there beyond just parents’ pressure? Are there other things that, maybe internal things, that stop people from making those switches?
NEIL: Very much so, and this is one of the core premises early on in the book. So the book opens up with a chapter which is really about this kind of life that most of us are wanting. And without getting sort of all romantic and unicorns about it, but we do, you know, we want a life of meaning and purpose, we want to love what we do and feel that it’s making a difference, we want a life of connection, we want to be known, we want to be seen, heard and valued for who we are, and we want to be… have those kind of people in our lives as well, and then we want to make a contribution. And you know I’ve lived, worked and travelled in over 36, 37 countries and everywhere I’ve gone, people are saying the same thing, this is what they want. But often the reason that they are not living that life is that there is a disconnect between what I loosely call their heart and their head. Their heart being a metaphor for what it is that they really want out of life, the life they want to live, the person they want to be, the work they want to do, the things they want to have, own and achieve, maybe these are our dreams, our goals, our visions. But there’s a disconnect between a heart and a head, and a head being a metaphor for what we believe is possible and for what we believe we deserve. I’m not saying that’s universally true for everybody, of course it wouldn’t be. But I find increasingly in the work that I do and the people that I talk about, there is this disconnect. The heart says, I want to be a conservationist, I want to be working on a project with gorillas in Rwanda or I want to be in south America, I want to be in China, I want to be measuring, you know, pollution, there’s a number of things I want to do. But then this belief system kicks in that may often say, but who do you think you are? Are you good enough? You don’t have a PhD, you don’t have enough experience, you haven’t done all these internships. So we get the sense of belief and then we get the sense of identity, and we often come up with the sense, well I don’t deserve it, I’m not good enough. And all of that can self-sabotage us.
NICK: So you get these sort of fears and insecurities that are coming from a misalignment within. What would you recommend, how do people overcome those sorts of thoughts, you know, if you’re clear, you know, in terms of what your purpose and what it is you want to do, but there are these insecurities about what you feel is achievable. Is it achievable to try and overcome them? What sort of strategies can people use to do so?
NEIL: Well I guess the first thing is, we’ve all been told that we can be, do and have anything we want to. And I think for all of my life, I would have preached that unreservedly. But as I get a bit older, I’m less inclined to do so. I think our gifts, our talents, our passions, point quite uniquely to sort of a type of work that we would excel at and less so in others. So being 5’6” and overweight, you know, my gift mix was never going to point to being a dancer, a ballerina so no matter how much I may desire that, it’s not a realistic thing for me to do.
NICK: Or a high jump.
NEIL: Uh, well yeah, no, I remember giving up high jumping at 1m at school as I crashed into this bar, sent the two things going down and my gamesmaster was like, Prem, you stick to discus (laughter). So he shattered my dreams at the age of 10 when I was just… So I’ll come back to the question, but there is another dynamic at play. As I said, not for everybody, but for many people, there is this disconnect between what it is we want and desire and dream and dare to believe for ourselves, and then secondly, what we believe is possible and what we believe is permissible. Well, how on earth could that happen to someone like me? You know, I was talking to a lady the other day and she said to me, I’m a Muslim woman of colour who’s grown up in poverty, how am I gonna get into law? And I said, well you may or not get into law, but if you’re starting off with this belief that I can’t, it’s gonna become something like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we imagine this as two sides of a coin. So we have that side, the second side of the coin becomes there is often a misalignment between our gifts, values, personality and passions, there’s a misalignment between what we’re naturally wired to do and what we do on a daily basis. And I imagine all of your listeners will have experienced that to one degree or another at some point in their life. You take the job, the job description, list these 10 things, of which eight of them you can do but don’t do really well, but you’re drawn to the two but as ever your job descriptions evolve and then before you know it, you’re doing 20 things, of which only two you like, and there’s this misalignment. So the secret is to get the head and the heart talking the same language, and to continue the metaphor of our hands and our feet, the hands being what we do and our feet being the path we’re walking on, when we get those right, when we get all those four talking to each other in the same language, nothing is impossible for us.
NICK: Fabulous. Now your book’s called “Seven Steps to Purpose”, and we’ve talked in the past about purpose, you know, at various times. What do you mean by purpose and why is purpose important in one’s career?
NEIL: Thank you, that’s a really good question. I mean, at different times in my life, I have seen purpose as different things. I think early on in my life, sort of in my twenties, I would have taken more of a spiritual, religious sort of sense of calling, of a heavenly figure stood on a mountain, pointing in a direction and telling me, Neil go and do that, and I think that is still a very, very popular view of purpose. But I think it denies our humanity, it denies our dreams, it denies our free will and our free choice, and it feels, at the risk of being trolled, that it feels like it’s not fair that my life is mapped out before me, I have nothing that I can’t choose, and I can’t learn and seize opportunities. So I think that’s a starting point for purpose but it’s not the whole enchilada. Then there are other people that talk about purpose being this sense of just any goal that you give yourself, and that you’re working towards that. And again, I don’t think that’s an incorrect sort of sense of what purpose is, but a bit like the first view, it’s not the full view. Because I think all of us would have pursued goals in our life, but once we achieve them, there wasn’t the sense of purpose there that we were hoping that would be. So for me, I think purpose is a sense of calling but for me, calling if you look at it from… if you go back to the Latin and the Greek, you end up with these words vocation and vocare, which is the sense to call but it has far more of an internal thing and the ancient Greeks would talk about a calling was that voice that speaks to you that says, this is the way walking is that nobody else hears. They would say, it’s when your head hits the pillow and you close your eyes, you dream of what it is you really want to do in life and so that, for me, is the deepest sense of calling for me. It’s who I am on my greatest day. It’s the cup that I choose to pour all of my time, talent, energy, experience into. It’s that thing that keeps me going, that gets me up in the morning, that gets me spending all my free time and, you’ll understand as a father, we don’t have a lot of excess money but on those rare days that I do, you know, what I spend it on. And so, I don’t know if that’s a useful definition but that’s what purpose means for me.
NICK: No, it definitely helps, thank you. Something I’ve heard you say before that still kind of sits quite squarely with me when it comes to purpose, which is a mantra I’ve heard you say a number of times, which is where your deepest joy meets the world’s greatest need, there you’ll find your purpose.
NEIL: Yes. And having said that, you know, I find that there are kind of four elements that are nearly always present in the life of someone that’s living on purpose. And the number one is, they are fully expressing their values. Our values are our deepest-held beliefs about what’s most important in their life. And there is always the argument of nature and nurture around values, the latest thinking on it, building on Hyrum Smith’s work, is that we are all born with the capacity to have values, and then it is in our early years that those values get shaped. It’s like we’re born with empty cupboard and we fill that. But when they’re in there, they really become the part of who we are, what’s most important to us. So for me, my values are around adventure, belonging, spirit and service. So when I worked in a bank in IT, service delivery, I was doing work that was a good fit for my gifts, but I never felt my values were being expressed. Every day I just felt empty, I felt a disconnect. The first piece of the jigsaw is values. The second piece is talent. But I would like to say, you move a little bit beyond talent to using language like motivational abilities. So a talent is something that we are good at and enjoy, but a motivational ability is that but it’s those things we choose to do. And so not only do I have… do you and I and everybody listening have values, but we also have motivational abilities. They are things that we love to do, we are good at, we are naturally wired towards, and so for me, I have four very strong motivational abilities. The first is what I would call learning and teaching, I love to learn, I love to structure what I learn and share it with others. The second is the gift that I call encouragement, which is the ability to speak, to inspire people through words, to work with people. Then I have motivational gifting of perception, which is the ability to work with my intuition. And lastly, administration. I really don’t like that word but I know in the book I changed it… but it’s that sense of being able to bring, manage people and projects together. So those are the things that I’m wired to do, and they really come together in the sense when I work with people, that intuition is able to kind of look behind the curtains in the Wizard of Oz kind of thing, and I see what’s going on, and I see how people are wired, what’s important to them, how their personality and then from that, I can see which bits aren’t being expressed. So I can see that, my research learning gifting is that thing that just makes me read three to five books every month, read websites, talk to people like you and others all the time, I’m just building this storehouse of knowledge, and I’m like, oh yeah my goodness, they need to read this book and this person said this and if I just share that with them, and then the encouragement then finds a way of explaining that that someone feels like, wow he gets me. And then the administration bit is then sometimes being able to bring people together, workshops and programmes. So we see my values and my talents combining together. But then there is the sense of personality and we’re all wired differently, so I’m really unstructured, if I work in a micromanaged office, it doesn’t end well for me or my boss. It really doesn’t. I’m highly creative, but I have a kind of real push-pull that I’m 60% extroverted and 40% introverted. So what it means is, if I spend more than 60% of my time with people, I’m exhausted. If I don’t spend more than 40% of my time with people, I find it hard to get going. So we’re all different, and I’ve discovered as part of my personality, over the last year I’ve been working with this thing called geography of the soul. There are some cities and countries that make me come alive. So when I go in the UK to places like Exeter, Oxford, Bath, York in particular, and there’s this sense of ancient history, architecture, cathedrals, universities, if you add a kind of hipster vibe and an art scene, it’s like someone plugs me into the mains and no matter what’s going on, I’m alive… I come alive. But when I go to big metropolises like London, I find it overwhelming. Not Brick Lane, clearly, everybody loves Brick Lane, but once I’m outside of that I find it overwhelming. So we have our values, our talents, our personality. And then we have this fourth one which I’m just gonna call passion. Again, how do you define passion? But passion is those things that you long to pour your time, talent and energy into. I’ve realised with my passion it’s around a number of things. So the first thing I’m passionate about is solving human problems. And then I discovered that I love to work with certain types of people. And those people would be leaders, emerging leaders like you and I would work with people starting out in their career, that they’re clearly leaders but they’re emerging as leaders. And then I work with senior leaders, and leaders in the middle. So I like to work with human problem, and the human problem I like to work with is purpose and direction. And then the people I like to work with are graduates, particularly those from top universities. I don’t mean that to be any sense of any exclusivity about it, but I’ve just discovered when you work with students from some of the best universities in the world, they have a profound ability to think and to wrestle and to want to engage with things, and I’m not saying other universities don’t, I just happen to have been very blessed and fortunate to work with some of the best universities in the world. So I love to work with post-graduates, I love to work with senior leaders, all around purpose and direction and then really, the other part of that passion is around creativity. So I love to be creative, I love to tell stories, I love to create powerful exercises around metaphors. All the things I hate being made to do in a workshop I love to do to others. (laughter) And so that’s really my passion. And then I think my wife and I are really fortunate that we share a passion for particularly working in developing nations. I don’t know where that really came from but early in our married life we got the opportunity to work in a few developing nations and again, just came alive. So we end up with these four elements that are always present in purpose.
NICK: I think more than anyone I know or have met, you know yourself really, really well. You’ve obviously self-reflected, you’ve worked through those exercises, you’ve made it, in some ways, your life’s purpose to understand how the mechanics of how understanding others works and how you can apply that to have an impactful, happy career and life. So if there are people listening and thinking, oh gosh I’d like to be able to know myself as well as Neil, where do people start? Obviously buy the book I would assume (laughter) but what practical steps can someone listen to the podcast right now, go away and actually start to kind of implement? Are there any kind of small steps that actually make, you know, a significant difference for them?
NEIL: I’m gonna answer that in two ways, is… one is, how do we get that revelation? And then secondly, how do we engage with it? And I’m gonna start with the second bit because actually knowing your purpose is not as important as engaging with it. That may sound self-explanatory or even contradictory, but I know enough people who have enough revelation right now but they’re not engaging with it out of a fear of, well what if I’m wrong? And I totally get that. So the first thing I would say is, all of us have some sense of our purpose. We already know that there are some things that we love to do and some things we hate to do. There are some things that are really important to us, certain people, problems. And so the first thing I would say is, take the revelation that you already have and engage with it. No matter where you are in your career, I encourage everybody to have a side hustle, a side project. It doesn’t have to make money, it’s not about that. It’s about engaging with those things that make you come alive and give you that great, deep sense of satisfaction. Engage with those as much as you can, because the thing I’ve discovered is if you will be faithful in that little bit… I’ll just step back from that, if you start where you are, use what you have and do what you can, if you’re faithful in that little and you don’t despise that small beginning, the universe will reward you with more. The business will reward you with more, your company will reward you with more. And if I could use you as an example, you were working for a charity that you enjoyed in a role that you enjoyed but you had deeper dreams. And I remember you just put up a simple website and you began to engage with it. And it was in the engaging that you began to get the feedback from the world that, hey Nick, we need you. We love your passion, your energy, your gift and then people began engaging with it more. And you responded and you responded, so you may never have done an exercise, you may never have bought my book to figure out your purpose, but you engaged with what was available to you at the time. So that’s the first thing I would say. Don’t worry about trying to figure out your purpose, begin to engage with what’s most important, what you love to do, the people and problems that matter the most to you, find some crazy idea, get other people involved and have a go. I remember 2018, I began to awaken to a sense of calling of wanting to work to improve mental health, particularly amongst men. And I began to engage with that, I did half a dozen talks, evenings, you know, if you were to say was it successful, the people attending said it was and we had about six or seven men say they were no longer suicidal. So I engaged with it, it was successful, but I stopped it. And the reason why I stopped it was, because I started getting phone calls from people saying, I’m suicidal, can you help me? And I’m not wired that way and I found it incredibly overwhelming, I stopped sleeping, I started worrying about it. But I could have engaged with a workbook and it would have said, work with people, help them with their problems, I’ll go with men with mental health but it was only in engaging with it did I realise that this is not really the work for me. And so therefore I could step out of it with a degree of comfort and without any guilt. The first bit is then saying, well ok Neil I’m doing that but I’d like to go a bit deeper. And so we got one website coming up now called 7stepstopurpose.co.uk where people can get a free chapter of the book, and then we’re now building the second website called routesuk.com for the new social venture, and on that anyone would be able to download a free workbook that I’ve… it’s being updated now, I’ve got an editor updating it and we’re building a new cover for it, wherein there I freely give away 20 exercises that I’ve taken 25 years to develop to anybody that wants to go and download it, they can unsubscribe immediately afterwards, and they can work through that. So I think there’s a ton of stuff in there. But let me give you the skinny on it, let me give you the quick way to do it. I would argue that there are many times in your life when you have been living your purpose, where how you’re wired, what’s important and what you’re passionate about all collide in glorious colour. You just didn’t know it, you were having a good day at the office. And you came home, kissed the wife, made dinner and carried on. And there’s a book called “What Colour Is Your Parachute”, Dick Bolles, the author of that, talks about this exercise in there. And as I paraphrase it, and I did get the chance to talk to him before he died, told him what I was doing, and he cheekily asked for royalties (laughter), I said, I’ll give you credit, I’ll give you credit. But the essence of that work was to identify a bunch of times in your life when you felt you were flowing like you on your best day. I deliberately keep the language broad but we all kind of get a sense of what that was, when we enjoyed, we looked forward to what we were doing, we enjoyed it, we felt energised afterwards, we really felt it was important, we were engaging with the right people problems, you know, we may not be able to articulate it but we need to think back at these moments. I’ve done this exercise many times with people and many times with myself and my first time always goes back to 14 years of age in an area public speaking competition. I need new teeth. And mine always goes back to that and actually then when I begin to look at all my other times, I’m speaking, I’m engaging with people, I’m solving problems. So I encourage people to think back throughout their life, where they lived, where they worked, teams they were a part of, hobbies they were engaged with, places they worked, places they studied. Put the kettle on, have a glass of wine, whatever it takes, and just let your mind wander and think about those times. Of the time I was walking the dogs. The time I was on holiday and I visited this conservation project. When I was at school this speaker came in and talked about something. Whatever it is, just identify those times, don’t try and police them. If you end up with a list of 30, that’s fine. Most people really struggle, and they get one or two but if they then just sort of lean into it a bit more, put it down, come back, more will flow. Seven’s the ideal number. And then, when you’ve got your seven, just be… play detectives. Whoever your favourite detective is, my wife is Hercule Poirot, you know, just get your magnifying glass and look at it and ask yourself, what was most important to me about those things? That’ll give you a sense of your values. Then think, what was I doing? What task was I working on? What skills was I using? You know, what was I actually doing? What was the situation? What was the setting? What was the problem? Who was I working with? Were they colleagues, were they clients? Did I enjoy the process, the task or did I get a better sense of the results? And again, in the book and in the free workbook, there is this exercise on steroids and it’s there but I would encourage everybody to start to do that. And then from that, you begin to curate a list of things you like to do, people you like to work with, people you like to help, problems you like to solve, subjects that are important to you, do you prefer, you know, task or results, and then from that we again offer a free… in the free workbook, a way of naming that. I would articulate my life’s purpose is releasing spirit. It used to be creating world changes, but I think as I’ve got older I want it to be less about me and more about you. The sense I believe that word spirit for me means potential. That everybody has incredible potential, incredible dreams, incredible talents. My life’s purpose is just to remove the dust, lift off the layers and just allow people’s potential to shine through. I’m a bit like a diamond guy, he doesn’t do anything, just [uncovers the diamond]. So you go through this exercise, then you begin to name it, and then you can begin to say, well how can I bring more of that to what I already do? How can I bring that to my relationships, to my projects, to my hobbies, to my sports, to my work, to my study? And then you can be even more present on a daily basis wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Am I being releasing spirit? Or am I being the opposite? And so that’s a great starting point. Then you begin to engage with that, you create intentional side projects that allow you to bring, in my case releasing spirit to it, as I did with the men’s mental health and mixed gender mental health. But I began to discover that wasn’t for me. So I began to change things a little bit. And then through that engaging, trial and error, feedback you’re able to go deeper. And then you may get to a point, like you did and I did, where you say, I’d like my life’s work to be this. And then you can begin to ask the question, well what jobs and settings would allow me to bring as much of who I am to that every day? Because nearly all career happiness is cause there’s a part of you, and a key essential part of you, that doesn’t come to work every day. That talent, that passion, that calling. So yeah, a long-winded answer, Nick, but hopefully that’s the sense that can really help people and that’s what I’ve found works best with everyone.
NICK: When people have the clarity that you’ve explained, this releasing spirit that you’ve found in yourself, and people are thinking about identifying the right job for them. Within conservation we describe 15 or so different kind of pillars, different job types if you like, and within that there’s thousands of different job types actually that sit within marketing, communications, fundraising, whatever it is, project/programme management, so on and so forth, science and research. It is bewildering the number of different jobs that are out there, but once you have clarity on self, on purpose, how can you then translate that into working environment to try and find, identify the jobs that are actually going to suit you and give you that career happiness that we’re all looking for?
NEIL: Here are some random thoughts on that. So one is, you first of all have to find job titles that you think may be appealing to you. So that’s the first step, and that’s normally done online and you can begin to look at that. So you can start either by looking at conservation organisations and seeing what jobs they have, it doesn’t mean that they’re available but I mean, first thing I’d say is go to your site, look at all the kind of jobs that are there. Just think, you know, very broadly, which of those inspire me? And then begin to dive in a little bit. Go and look online, figure out, well how do I get this job, what qualifications do I need, what does it involve? And that list then becomes a little bit narrower. So maybe I’ve gone to your website, come away with 20 titles that I think I’d love to do. But as I dive in and do some secondary research, I discover there’s probably only ten of them [I can do] realistically, cause that other one needs another four years of training, or needs this and I don’t have those things and nor do I want to invest the time to get there. When you’ve got that smaller list, I would then encourage everyone to engage in primary research, which is you’ve got to get on the phone, and talk to the people doing the job. So you’ve got to phone up that lady and say to her, or email her, arrange the phone call, and just say, look I am looking for a career in conservation, I am particularly interested in your job, I would love to know more about it. The questions that are most important are not ‘how did you get in’ but ‘what keeps you in’. You know, if you’ve been in that 20 years, you know, there would have been many times when you thought, I wish I’d gone to the supermarket and worked there. Or worked for a large London consultancy. So what keeps you in there? Where’s this industry going? What are the trends? Where are the jobs, where are not the jobs? So you do that. The third step then, which I imagine all of your listeners have probably done to some degree, is to then go and get some work experience in that role. And that’s often easier now. So we’ve gone from just looking at random job titles, to understanding what’s involved and recognising that looks like a good fit for my gifts and talents, then you talk to people to find out more, and then you go and test the job. So that hopefully leads you to the place of saying, you know what, I want to be a marine biologist, I want to work off the coast of Taiwan and that’s what I want to do. The harder bit, as you and I know, then is how do you build a bridge to that dream? You know more than I do about that and clearly the expert in that. What I would say from my experience in that, the first thing I always encourage people to do is to build a brand, a personal brand, around that. And so I remember, I won’t mention the young lady, but I remember a young lady a few years ago that you and I knew, who was at a top university that was trying to get into conservation but couldn’t. And you sent her to me and first thing we did was look at her CV and say, well if I received this CV, it doesn’t say hypothetically marine biologist, it says something else. So we’ve got to rewrite that. Then I go on to LinkedIn, I don’t see anything about you. I go on to Facebook, and I see you enjoy tequila slammers on a Friday night, as we all do. So what we had to do was over a few week period was begin to clean all that up, and begin to create a personal brand that says, I’m a marine biologist despite the fact I’ve never been in the sea, but beginning to build that around that. Beginning to pay her dues to the community, joining the groups, liking people’s… other people’s content. Beginning to add neutral content, hey I saw this article on the BBC website, thought it might be interesting to the group. And then eventually voicing your own opinions. And none of that needs to take long but it’s not a magic wand, but I increasingly feel that it’s hard in some fields, and I think conservation may be one of them if you agree, you need that. So I think I would encourage that. Then the second thing is, and this is always the case, am I a long jumper or am I a triple jumper? So if my goal is to be a marine biologist off Papua New Guinea, can I get there in one jump? Can I join a conservation organisation in that role? Or do I have to do it as a triple jump? There may be, the first thing I get a job in conservation, and I have to stop talking about marine biologists because I know very little about it. Let’s say you wanted to be in marketing in a conservation organisation, you could probably look to get into marketing first, and then once you’ve got some credibility, then move into conservation. Or you do it the other way around, you move into conservation and do whatever job you can get, but it becomes a little harder then to move into marketing because you’re now known for something. So yeah, do I long jump, do I triple jump? And then I think the last thing is, understanding the industry and I think this is where you and your work are so profound, and I remember years ago at Cambridge University listening to you kind of doing a state-of-the-nation address, talking about the field of conservation, where the money was flowing, where the jobs were, what the obstacles, what the trends were. And I think it’s beholden on everybody to understand that, so once you’re in, you want to stay in but you want to progress and fulfil your potential rather than three years down the road find yourself stuck in a role that you never really wanted and… does that make sense?
NICK: It does, it makes perfect sense and really practical steps. And what I liked about what you suggested, you know, go long, find a long list, find the job titles, then talk to people doing those jobs, and things like LinkedIn nowadays is a great resource for connecting to people you already know or that someone can introduce you to, so you’re not just a random stranger, you can find those people. And then test-driving those jobs with volunteering and internships, things like that. Nowadays, you know, if you’ve already spoken to someone on the phone and built a relationship, you’ve actually got a bit of a chance of actually perhaps even helping them and seeking a volunteering opportunity with that person, because you just broaden your network into the area you want to kind of explore a bit more, so really practical steps. Thank you, Neil. And I think this is a pretty good time to say thank you so much for your time, I’ve really, really enjoyed this chat, it’s been quite a different podcast for us, it’s not been about you and your career, this is about everyone’s career and how they can kind of find more happiness and purpose and kind of move in the direction of more impact as well, I think, you know, within this world. So Neil, if people wanted to find out a little bit more about you and your work, your upcoming book “Seven Steps to Purpose”, where should we send them?
NEIL: Thank you. Please, if this is of interest to you, visit the book’s website which is 7stepstopurpose.co.uk, that’s a number 7 rather than the word in Seven Steps to Purpose, you can download a free chapter which is about the turning point, which will be really helpful for those people who feel that they’re at a crossroads, we’re not gonna spam you but you’ll get an email a couple of weeks before the book is out offering you a discount, being able to get it as Amazon to say thank you, and then in the book is the other website which is www.routesuk.com, it isn’t live yet but it will be by the time the book is out, which is where your listeners would be able to download that free workbook to find their purpose. So maybe what we could do, Nick is work on it a little bit together and if it’s of value, you can put it on your website for any of your people.
NICK: Let’s make that happen. Yeah, absolutely. We talk about purpose in our online course and our face-to-face courses but I think your workbook is gonna be a really valuable resource for people, so let’s make that available. Neil, we’ll put those links in the podcast description too and on our site so people can find them directly just by clicking below where they’re listening. Thank you so much for your time today, it’s been a real pleasure to talk to you.
NEIL: You’re welcome, thanks for having me.
NICK: Ok well I hope you enjoyed that everyone, if you did then please do hit that ‘subscribe’ button to get notified when new episodes are live and also give us a rating as it really helps us to get in front of more people. If you enjoy the interviews we’ve collated the best advice from over 400 professional conservationists into a free e-book, which you can download from the bottom of our website. And finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast, please tweet them to @ConserveCareers, we’d love to hear from you. Ok, till next time guys, this is Nick signing out.