Sunday, March 20, 2011

Find a Job: the Game

Upon our recent return from PAX East (aka "Bitch PAX", and no, Jerry does not ever get to live that down...) my beloved spousal unit and I came to the realization that he would be returning to his job and I would be returning to the monotonous grind and large chunks of unscheduled time that had been our existence pre-PAX. Frankly, it got me a bit depressed.
I'd fully intended by now to have a house with a garden plot to go get dirty in on weekends, from which I could harvest glorious bright red tomatoes and hot peppers and basil and so on and so forth. There'd be windchimes hanging from the eaves, and many different kinds of bird feeders to bring in the local wildlife. The dog would be running around happily in the backyard with his new puppy companion, since we now had the room, and Bob could grill me up something spectacular on the back porch since where we live now has banned the use of outdoor grills thanks to some idiot with too much lighter fluid setting his rental deck on fire.
But this was contingent upon me finding employment, and it has been well over a year at this point. I can see now why the state mental health services are becoming overloaded, because it is a depressing thing to not be able to generate income to help feed, clothe and house the ones you love. I sometimes wonder how staggering the numbers are on unemployment-related suicides. It just eats at you, the most horrible combination of doubt, frustration and "what if" that can be assembled against a man.
I am not fond of Despair. He wore his lanky welcome out with me long ago, and I was bound and determined that this time his narrow, snarky frame would not darken my doorstep. But how?
Well, we took inspiration from the lovely Jane McGonigal and talked about turning the job search in to a game. Everything, after all, is much more fun as a game, is it not? But how exactly does one go about turning the search for jobs and the honing of skills in to something to be played for fun?
Friday morning I arose from bed, triumphantly I guess, and marched downstairs with my hipster moleskine and smeary gel ink pen to start the process. First things first, it needed A NAME. And because I am a big fan of ironically bland things, I decided to K.I.S.S., and thus "Find a Job: The Game" (alternately refered to as Employment: The Game in some conversations) was born.
It's a simple thing really... anybody with so much unstructured time needs to set up a framework and reward themselves for what they get done within it. A setup of the game world, as it were. In this case I designated 8am-4pm the playable bounds of the game, with an hour off for lunch. Why an entire hour? Because it's my damned game and I said so...
There is a point system based on two things - finding and applying to jobs, and honing and perfecting my programming capabilities. In truth, yes, I could be hired to a tech support help desk again but I think they hear in my voice how much I don't want to do it and it kills me in the interviews. Therefore we MUST focus on developing our skills as a MAD LEET PROGRAMMER so that when the interview comes, we're feeling confident.
Oh look, accidentally slipped in to the royal "we". Heh. Oops.
The points can go toward rewards used during the day, such as the purchase of extra power-ups (you get one every day anyway to help "recharge your life meter", for 15 minutes) OR if you earn enough, to knock off up to a full hour early or add more time to the lunch hour. That way if I get a LOT done in the morning but really want to run out and get to the Indian grocery store -which is my current conundrum, finding time for that- I can do that. But it takes 30-50 pts to do that, and to earn that in 4 hours would take a LOT of hard work.
I'll put the points system in another post, as this one would become just enormously huge otherwise, but long story short, you earn points, you accrue an overall total, and after a certain amount -arbitrarily the amount of 200 pts. was chosen- you get to "level up". Leveling up gets you a reward of some kind, so there is always impetus to earn and keep these points.
There are also demerits to it, such as if I accidentally sleep in ( - 5pts), take too long on my lunch ( - 5pts) or screw around, and each of these things takes away from the overall total. This way there's pressure but still FUN reasons to stay on task every day, because screwing around now will hurt you later. IT's an immediate, mathematical way to make visible how the effort put in now will help later on.
Of course, if you gain employment then you've obtained the Big, Bad Goal and you get 100 pts, which means you'll probably level at that point AND you get to take the day off AND you get to reward yourself with something.
Given that Bob had tried to impress upon me how important it would be to treat getting a job and improving my skills like a job while looking for a job, I think this finally fleshes everything out and makes it apparent in a format that even a 3 year old could understand, why it's important and how it will help out. Plus it really does not hurt that when I finally get to Level 1, I am totally going down and treating myself to the biggest gelato that Rita's creates. Our house is currently on a snacks n' sweets moratorium as we both try to lose weight, and you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be gunning for that.
There are times when we (not the royal we, I mean Bob and I) come up with some truly awesome ideas that'll help subtly shift our mindset to Get Sh*t Done. I definitely think this will be one of those times. I'm also hoping that this experiment proves madly successful and that it'll encourage us to do more "gamifying" of things in the future. I, personally, am really proud of this creation and can't wait to see the results.

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