Have you been wrestling with the idea of changing careers, but aren’t sure what you’d like to do? Maybe you have some ideas or maybe you don’t. This month consider taking some steps to learn more about different fields.

Step 1:
If you’re not sure about what you’d like your next career to look like, here are a few things you can try this week:

1. Look through the Employment section of your newspaper. What jobs sound interesting? Why?
2. Surf the internet. Look at job postings on Craigslist.org, Monster.com, or even ‘Google’ a few words that you think you might like the job to include. For example try ‘outdoors’, ‘outside’, ‘fun’ and see what comes up.
3. Go to a bookstore. What sections are you drawn too? If it’s Hobbies – which hobbies in particular? If it’s Biographies, what jobs did those people hold? What is it about these, perhaps their character, which attracts you to them?
4. Check out a magazine rack. To which magazines are you drawn? What do the magazines have in common? What job possibilities do they spark? Perhaps writing, business savvy, creativity, or compassion for the environment.
5. Ask your family, friends and perhaps former colleagues to put on their ‘creative hat’ and brainstorm on what job(s) they think you’d be good at, and why. The more diverse their background, the better!

As you do this exercise, bring a notebook with you to jot down the answers to these questions as well as any other ideas/insights that reveal themselves.

As you scoured a variety of sources to think outside the box on what interests you, what are some possible new fields you can consider?

Step 2:
Think about your ‘needs’ and ‘values’. What do you need to have in place to be your best and do your best work? For example, do you work best with a lot of structure or do you prefer a hands-off boss? Think back to past work and life experiences. When were you distressed? What was at the root of the stress? Perhaps you felt isolated? Unsupported? Continue to jot these down in your notebook.

Next, what is most important to you? What do you find yourself doing even though it’s not necessary or part of your job? What’s at the core of what you enjoy doing? Perhaps it’s creativity. Do you find yourself straightening out the supply room at work? What is it in particular that is satisfying? Seeing visible results? Is it fun to create order out of chaos? The appreciation you hear from your colleagues?
Jot down these insights and observations in your notebook.

List your skills and interests. For easy reflection, put all of the above discoveries on a spreadsheet with a column for each, such as column 1. needs, 2. values, 3. skills, 4. interests, 5. ideas of possible jobs.

Spend some time observing yourself, particularly when you have heightened emotions of joy or frustration. The joy is often experienced when we are living our values, and frustration shows itself when our needs aren’t being met. Both joy and frustration are equally important when we consider possibilities and opportunities.

During the last two steps you explored a variety of sources both internally and externally, and jotted down observations, insights and ideas about what you do and don’t enjoy. As you look at your notes, what do you discover? What theme(s) do you find? Furthermore, what reaction do you find yourself having when you consider professions other than your current profession? It’s common to experience a mixture of fear and excitement. Excitement that it would be fun and perhaps not feel at all like work, and fear that maybe it’s not realistic. Isn’t it interesting how fear can creep in so quickly!

Step 3:
Narrow your list down to 1 or 2 areas to research (later you can always explore other areas). Identify 5 sources where you can learn more information about these 1 or 2 fields. Try researching websites, books, magazines, job boards, chat groups, professional associations, and schools where people would receive training in such fields– you get the idea.

In addition, perhaps from the research above, identify 3 or more people with whom you could speak to learn ‘what a day in the life of’ is really like. Feeling stuck? Remember the theory of ‘6 degrees of separation’. Ask friends and colleagues who they know in this field, or if they know someone who knows someone in this field, with whom you could interview to learn more about what this career is all about. Social media is also a great tool for identifying people to interview.

Step 4:
Now it is time to prepare for an ‘information interview’. That means interviewing someone who is in the field of your interest to learn more about it and see if you want to keep this job on your ‘radar’ or ‘dump it’. Perhaps you are looking for a job with a lot of adventure only to learn that it really requires a lot of schlepping and administrative work, thus you decide to ‘dump it’.

Most people are happy to share with you information and their experiences. The key to information interviewing is to be well prepared, prompt, and respectful of their time. Requesting 20 minutes for a phone or in-person conversation is usually acceptable. Bear in mind, 20 minutes only allows for asking 6-8 questions at the most, so put them in order of priority.

First, what specifically do you want to know from this person? Perhaps how to learn more about the field (associations, journals, etc)? What a ‘day in the life of’ is really like? How to find out about jobs in this field? Which particular skills and knowledge would make you a viable candidate? What kind of pay you could expect starting out and when you’re more ‘seasoned’?

If you’d like a sample list of questions, feel free to email me at gaf@PersonalJourneyCoaching.com and I’d be happy to email them to you.

After you’ve done some research, information interviews and have evaluated the results, on a scale of 1-10, how passionate are you about this new field? Is it something you’d like to pursue? If not, return to your notes. What the next area you’d like to explore more deeply? Then repeat this process, and continue narrowing your focus.

© 2011 Personal Journey Coaching

Author's Bio: 

Gwyneth Anne Freedman, founder of Personal Journey Coaching, has 20+ years of professional experience. She has worked in large, medium, and small, start-up level companies and held management positions, including Director, in the field of Human Resources and Coaching. Her industry experience includes defense, information, semiconductor and internet security. She has also experienced the joys and challenges of learning to live in a foreign culture.

Gwyneth Anne’s career coaching business focuses on corporate employees. She has coached executives to increase their leadership skills, manage their time, and develop and communicate the longer term vision. She’s coached technical employees to enhance their communication and time management skills. Her mid-level management clients often want to increase their scope of knowledge and thinking from department centric to division or even company-wide focus. She’s also coach new supervisors who are learning how to balance their own work while also developing their leadership and coaching skills to effectively supervise.

Gwyneth Anne is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC - issued by International Coach Federation), Coach U Certified Graduate and a member of International Coach Federation, and on the Board of Directors of Silicon Valley Coach Federation. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with dual degrees in Psychology and Sociology, is a certified Career and Diversity Trainer, and is certified to teach Zinger-Miller's Frontline Leadership program.

In her spare time Gwyneth Anne enjoys practicing martial arts and traveling both domestically and internationally.

408.246.7427 (Pacific)
Accelerating Career Excellence