Become an explorer to reevaluate your job goals and create a new career map.
A while back when I was asked to provide advice to recent college graduates, I recommended that they become explorers in the workforce. However, exploration shouldn’t be restricted to the entry-level professional. In fact, I think it’s healthy to reevaluate your career goals every few years. What you desired in your twenties may not hold true a decade or two later. With Columbus Day just around the corner, there’s no better time to talk about career exploration. Maybe you will also start down one path just to land on another far greater career, finding your own “America.”
Here are five ways to explore new paths:
Tap into your childhood dreams.
Nothing beats finding a way to turn your passion into a paycheck. If money didn’t matter, what would you do with your life? Brainstorm ten different dream jobs and look for themes among these ideal jobs. For instance, you may realize that your love of the arts or your entrepreneurial spirit keeps surfacing. If you’re having trouble with this exercise, think back to when you were a child. What did you want to do when you grew up? Click on the following link for more job-goal exercises.
Research career fields online.
Luckily, there are a number of online resources available to help you explore various career tracks. While they’re mostly geared towards college students and entry-level professionals, they can also be helpful when you’re considering a career change. My two favorite resources are WetFeet’s industry and career guidesand The Daily Muse’s career path exploration section. Use these online tools to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly side to any industry and to understand the various career paths available within each field.
Leverage your existing skill sets.
In some instances, you may not be able to pursue your dream job as a career. It may be a little too late in life to suddenly become a prima ballerina. Or perhaps you were never blessed with the natural skill required for such a role. In these cases, search for a position that leverages your existing skill set and experience within an industry that interests you. For example, if you have a finance background, pursue corporate finance opportunities within the fine arts industry for organizations such as the American Ballet Theater (ABT) or Pointe Magazine.
Seek outside counsel.
I often advise clients making a career transition to highlight their transferrable skills. However, not everyone knows which skills to highlight. If you’re struggling to understand where your strengths can be applied in a different industry, talk to someone in that field. This is when informational interviews become useful. Leverage your network to find someone in your target industry and take them out for a cup of coffee to pick their brain. After explaining your work background, ask the person where your skills might fit within their field. This will help you understand which roles are most realistic for you to transition into and what skills you may first need to acquire before you can pursue such a role.
Test-drive a career.
Before you commit to making a career transition, take a career for a test drive. If you know someone who works in the industry, ask if you can shadow someone at their company for a day or longer to get a better understanding of the role and its daily responsibilities. Look for internships or volunteer opportunities related to your target field so you can build networking ties and practice your relevant skill sets. Alternatively, look for part-time work you can do in the evenings or on weekends so you can learn more about your desired field while maintaining your regular paycheck. Not only will these tactics make you a more attractive candidate, but it will help you decide if this path is right for you.
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Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.