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Trying Out a New Career

By Randi Bussin

In the past few articles (see "More on Career Change" below), I talked about a variety of self-assessment exercises and questions you could answer to get clarity on what is essential to you at this important juncture of career reinvention. In this article, I will address different ways to get your feet wet in a new field.

When thinking about reinventing and changing your career, there is no perfect approach for everyone. There are many routes to take and more than one might work for you.

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Finding and Testing a New Career

The key in this step of the process is to "craft some experiments" and try out different possibilities to see how they feel to you. By implementing these low-cost, low-risk projects, you'll be able to get greater clarity without necessarily quitting your job.

Here are some of the benefits of crafting experiments:

  • Confirming whether a career is appealing to you.
  • Allowing you to try different skills, and see if you get satisfaction from using them.
  • Enabling you to assess any themes or patterns that emerge from your experiments.
  • Getting you to move forward.

As you go about crafting these experiments to try out different fields, here are some questions you should keep in mind:

  • Would I enjoy this field and the people who work in it?
  • Does it come easily and would I be good at it?
  • Could I make a living doing this work? ("a living" is different for everyone)
  • Is there room for promotion/growth in this career?
  • How stressful is the work? Will it fit with my family/personal commitments?

Different Ways to Change Careers and Reinvent

Once you have completed the self-exploration phase (analyzing your motivated skills, interests, values, motivators, and behavioral style), you'll be ready to move forward toward your goal. Here are several different ways to craft experiments and reinvent:

  1. Volunteer.

    One way to try out a new career or field is to engage in volunteer work in the new arena, by finding an organization that intrigues you. It will provide you with an unlimited view into how this type of work fits your interests, passions, and goals. And, it will provide you with insight as to whether your skills match up to this type of work. At the same time, volunteering can open up new networking avenues/contacts for you, which may be useful later if you decide to pursue this field on a more permanent basis.
  2. Work Part Time.

    A similar approach would be to keep your current job (or a reduced hour version of your current job), and then start working part time for a company you are interested in or in a job that you desire. So much work is contracted out that you can get experience working in a prospective career through freelance and/or temporary work.
  3. Transfer.

    If you like your company but just don't like your job (i.e. the skills you are using on a daily basis), think about transferring within your company. You could first start out by volunteering to work on a project or task force in a different area of the company. This option will of course involve getting buy-in from your manager and perhaps other senior individuals in your organization.
  4. Start Studying.

    Another method of reinventing involves formal education and or additional training. If you know your future direction and can afford it, you can go back to college full time, pick up your new graduate degree, and move on to your new career. If, like the rest of us, you can't afford that option, you can enroll in a part-time graduate program, while networking to craft experiments. Also, taking extra individual professional courses, classes, and seminars, or working toward the completion of short-term certification programs will help you advance your efforts to change your career.
  5. Rebrand.

    Yourself. If you have identified your future career goals and know how you want to transition, then you might be able to repackage and rebrand yourself to better meet the required skills and competencies for the new position. In addition to the basic functional skills that you possess to do your job well, you also may have communications, collaboration, leadership, and team-building capabilities that are transferable to almost any profession. Rebrand by highlighting what is UNIQUE, differentiated, and compelling about you to your target audience, so they know what makes you STAND OUT!

About the author...

Job-Hunt's Career Change Expert, Randi Bussin, founder and president of Aspire!, is a career coach and counselor with more than 25 years of business, entrepreneurial, and career counseling experience, including DISC assessments. Randi has experienced several major career transitions (from corporate to small business owner to career counselor to coach) and personally understands the effort and commitment involved. She has appeared on public television's "Job Doctor," and is a frequent contributor to Bridgestar's Leadership Matters newsletter, The Ladders job-search Web site (www.theladders.com) and her own blog, which offers advice on career transition, job search, and labor market trends. Follow Randi on Twitter @Aspire4Success.


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