Moving from Scribbled Directions to Legitimate Map
This week we’re going to take that rough blueprint and test the hell out of it.
The Most Important Thing You’ll Do This Month
Before we begin, it’s time to have a short talk about testing.
We’re going to do this because, frankly, I understand the natural inclination to jump in feet first and work it out as you go. Especially when excited, or embarrassed, or passionate about a topic.
However, its time to face some real facts here. In the real world you can’t get by with guessing, hoping, and working really hard.
In fact, even if you do somehow manage to get by and get ahead, I guarantee you it will take longer if you run off and work based only on your assumptions.
Unless you happen to know everything right now with complete certainty, including where you fall on the skill scale and how, exactly how, to get to your end goal it’s going to take at least twice as long. (And if you do know all these things, why haven’t you followed through yet?)
Right now you’re sitting on some rough information, mostly made up from your own perception and what information you can find within a short amount of time online. You have a vague idea of where you want to go. You have an equally vague idea of where you are right now. And you have an extremely cloudy version of what you need to do to get from A to B.
In short, you have the equivalent of a child’s treasure map; A squiggly island, some random trees, a zig-zagging path and an X at where you think the treasure will be.
Is that enough to pack up and start traveling?
Two Types of Validation
When validating your information and plans, two types of answers are important. Qualitative and Quantitative.
Qualitative answers are more likely to be based on the opinion and knowledge base of someone relevant. For our purposes this is someone in the role you’re aiming for or who would hire such a person. These answers often provide insight you wouldn’t have thought of or identified in your earlier research, and can highlight new directions and resources. These are the answers that will tell you ‘By the way, you’re missing this entire section of information over here’ or ‘If you’re trying to get to this place, you might want to start over here and move later’.
Quantitative answers, on the flip side, are used for getting specifics. This is especially useful in verifying a list of basic requirements, finding out whether certain types of tasks are common to a role or just to a company, and other binary or simple questions. We’ll be using this to confirm the information we’ve already gathered from looking at various job roles online.
Best Practices (Ensuring you get the information you need, all of it)
The best way to handle this phase of testing is to pursue quality answers first, then use quantity to confirm details and finalize our information.
Qualitative answers are best found on a one to one basis. In this case you need to get on the phone, meet up for coffee, or email (if no other way to contact is available) people individually to have a friendly discussion with them. It’s best to use email for initial contact, particularly if you don’t already have a relationship with your targeted people, and then move the discussion to a more interactive method where you can listen and make notes.
Quantitative answers can be found in a group setting while talking to people online in relevant forums / surveying others in your position or individually by discussing with the people you’ll contact for quality answers. In the end, it matters less where you get this information and how so long as your sources are in a relevant field and you can average out the results to get to the truth.
Getting the Right Balance
Quality answers are a lot of work, and Quantity answers can seem less individually important – you still have to take both into account for a balanced, accurate view of what’s going on. If you’re not willing to commit to undertaking both parts of the research then there is ZERO point in doing it at all and you can go back to muddling around and not getting anywhere.
I’m going to avoid having a mini-rant here and accept that you’re smart, and will do this properly if you’re going to do it at all. Welcome aboard.
I’d recommend approaching between 5 and 10 people for your quality answers, making sure at least 3 of them are hiring managers. Bonus points if you talk to people that work somewhere you would eventually love to join. Also recommended are tutors, people already working in those roles and those one or two steps further on than you are. Don’t worry if you don’t already know these people, often they’re happy to help if you’ve done preliminary research and are pleasant. At this stage you’re looking to get a feel for the topic, share your initial findings, and plug any gaps in your understanding that you can.
From there, I’d ask some quantity questions of those people where appropriate, and then take the rest of the discussion online. If you have access to an audience a survey would work nicely. If not, then you’re still in luck because 3D forums are full of the people you can ask who would be happy to help (and relevant). I recommend CGHub and 3D Total myself, though there are others. The questions that lend themselves to this part of the discussion are those relating specifically to your current skill level (have examples of work to share), requirements for job roles, and anything else you feel needs verified.
Next Steps and a Plea
Once all this stuff is done and you have verified the three main components of your map, landmarks, and potential pitfalls then you’re ready to start planning next week. Please don’t phone this in, you’ll cause yourself so much stress and wasted effort.
It’s a cliche but any hour spent here will save about 3 hours in execution. I’m a fan of saving time and working hard on the right things. Are you?
For further support, insight into how I’m handling this particular step, and some awesome pep-talking you need to sign up here and follow along.