Saturday, 10 November 2012

Three Easy Ways to Research Different Jobs

Looking for a Career Change or Shift?  Overwhelmed by all the options when you start looking into jobs and sectors?  Don’t worry…. you’re not alone! 

Too often we think we’d like to change jobs or career paths yet once we start looking at all the choices, we quickly get overwhelmed and give up.  It’s hard to know where to start and it can take a lot of time to do this essential part of figuring out what you’d like to do and then how to go about getting there. 
So often, high school career counselling falls short in truly explaining all the different fields of work.  And a really important piece of the puzzle to help make sound career choices early (and later) on in our lives is often overlooked.  Primarily because people don’t know how to research.  And where to look to find the key pieces of info that will help them make a considered and informed decision.

As a Coach who specializes in Career Change Strategizing, I can narrow that research down significantly.  It still requires time and energy on your part, but these “go to” places for finding key information will help you avoid the often daunting task of networking (if I had a nickel for every time I’ve had a client say they HATE networking, I wouldn’t need to work!). So this is the easiest networking you’ll ever do… and some of it doesn’t even require you to talk to another human being.

First, you need to put on your Investigative Reporter Hat!  And leave the job seeker at home.  All the resources I’ve laid out here require you to be seeking information, not jobs.  Because, if you approach with a hidden agenda, you may find your reception becomes less than warm.   
Here are 3 resources through which you can access valuable, career-specific information easily and quickly without feeling like you’re imposing on someone’s time or to find people in the field to talk to.

1)      The disciplines/career paths’ designated Professional Association. This is always your first stop on your investigative process for the least biased information. Many associations will provide you oodles of excellent information about their profession and what courses/schools are required.  And, if you screw up your courage and call them after reviewing their website in depth, they will often provide members who are ready and willing to chat with you about the specifics of the industry and their personal experiences in the field.  They often also run conferences, workshops and regular networking events that you can attend (often for free for at least a couple of times).

2)      Training/educational institutions that are teaching the skill/discipline also are great resources for finding out important information about the industry/sector/career pathway.  They should know what (and if) companies are hiring and what salaries one might expect at various milestones down the road.  Some, of course, even offer co-op and internship opportunities as part of the training and this can be invaluable for getting much needed first-time experience with the profession.

FYI: Both Professional Associations and Educational Institutions “should” have and freely offer names/ contact info for members and/or past students who have taken their training and are currently working in the field.  These are people who have agreed to talk to people like you who want to know more details about what the courses are all about, how useful they were and what the credential will get them once completed.

3)      Read job postings related to that field.  You can learn a heckofalot from job postings as to what different job areas/sectors and actual positions will require of you.  You can also find people who are in that field of work on LinkedIn and, through joining Groups they are in, you can research their work history online through their profiles, then, if you see a match, reach out to them via email and ask them if they’re willing to share some of their knowledge with you.  They’ll also give you lots of valuable clues for preparing resumes for those types of positions!

These activities all fall under the heading of what we, in the career coaching biz, call Informational Interviews. Like job interviews they require preparation and professionalism.  And a polite awareness that these folks you’re asking questions of are busy people and probably can’t spend more than 20-30 minutes with you, max.  So be clear and direct and, when that time has passed, double check with them as to whether it’s okay to continue.  Also ask them for another referral so you can keep the ball rolling and dig deeper into your chosen career environment.   More information is good… one person’s job love can be another’s hate.  So take all info with a grain of salt and find a few more people in the field to make sure you’re not throwing out the idea after one less than stimulating interview.

Cardinal Rule #1:  DO NOT take your resume with you.  (This way if they ask to see it, it gives you an opening to send it after the fact, and get their email address, if you don’t already have it.)  And again, you’re doing RESEARCH here, not JOB search!

And always – always – send a thank you email. 

Hopefully, if you found their assistance helpful, and you’d like to keep in touch as you proceed forward, it’s always a nice idea to let them know when you’ve followed through with a suggestion/idea they gave you.  This way you start developing a very useful career support group, for now and the future.

If you’d like a copy of a really great e-workbook on how to conduct Informational Interviews, which includes a few scripts and a list of questions you might consider asking, email me, mention this blogpost and I’ll send it to you.

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