I’m enjoying reading How Can I Change Careers? and I have a question. How do I know what jobs I want? A big part of your book is finding someone who already is doing the job you aspire to. But my knowledge is imperfect and I know I don’t know all the jobs people are already doing. How do I grow my awareness? Wishing you all the best for 2024!
Happy New Year to you, too! Thanks for purchasing How Can I Change Careers? I’m sure you’ve already read the section titled “The Library Vacation.” That’s a good plan for doing some blue-sky exploration to quickly identify a group of jobs you’re motivated to learn more about. But improving your awareness of jobs will always require talking to people!
How to explore jobs you want
Stated simply, my advice about how to learn about jobs you may be interested in is to go hang out with people who do the work you might want to do. Since you’re exploring, draw a circle big enough to encompass whatever range of work you’re considering. These questions should get you started.
- What industry are we talking about?
- Product type (or service type) you’d like to be involved with?
- Or is it some kind of technology you’re most interested in?
- A geographical preference?
- A bunch of specific companies that excite you? (Don’t worry whether they’re advertising open jobs. There are other ways for Getting in The Door.)
- A particular discipline? (Manufacturing, software development, finance, operations…)
Go where those workers hang out
Your answers to any of those questions can point you to places where people congregate to talk shop – that is, about their work, This may include bricks-and-mortar conferences, online gatherings, education programs, professional journals that include virtual or actual discussion forums, or even local hangouts (bars, restaurants, sports clubs) where such people get together. Start with one. Go there. Hang out. Participate. Figure out who the movers and shakers and opinion makers are – ask them well-thought-out questions about their work.
Here are some suggested questions, but take time to formulate some good ones of your own.
- What led you to work at your company?
- What are the biggest challenges you/your company/your industry face?
- What are you reading lately that influences your work?
- Can you recommend someone I should I talk to, to learn more?
- What advice or insight could you share with someone like me who’s interested in this industry/company/line of work?
Why am I suggesting this approach? Because I use similar questions to start conversations with people I need to get to know. And because people love to talk about their work and they love to talk about themselves. Make it easy for them — ask good (but not presumptuous or prying!) questions about their work. Then keep silent and listen.
Make new friends and more friends
The point is not to get an interview or to give them your resume. (That comes later.) It’s to make friends and to learn about their experience and views on their field of work, their specific jobs, their employer and their professional community.
The actual objective is to get referred to others in the field who can tell you more. As your web of new contacts grows, you will find your discussions start to narrow down to specific jobs and opportunities. This takes time, but there’s no magic dust to make it all happen quickly. The upside is, you can make a lot of new friends!
Friends refer friends for jobs
This article might give you some more ideas:
And here’s a brief lesson you can listen to about changing careers:
In a nutshell, to meet people who do the jobs you aspire to, learn where they hang out with their peers to discuss their work. Then go there. At first, listen, then participate. Never, ever, ever lead with “I’m looking for a job!” Just start by making some new friends and talking shop. (Please refer to “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends” in your copy of How Can I Change Careers?)
How do you find people who can educate you about jobs you’re interested in?