“I have no idea what is even out there”….is something I hear time after time. Clients look to me for help with a career change plagued by the fear they might miss the “perfect thing” because they aren’t even aware it exists. It makes sense that someone who has worked for the same company or in the same field for a number of years might feel at a loss when it comes to the world of work outside of the nice, comfy bubble they occupied for most of their working life.
In a perfect world, we'd all stay on top of career trends and what’s going on in the labour market. We'd maintain a good grasp of the outlook of various employment sectors and industries, and be up to date on the impact of the latest technological advances and systems on the workforce.
Unless you're also a career counsellor, or have a particular interest in such things, you're likely to have a better grasp on what's happening with the Kardashians, or some other neighbour to the south, than the types of jobs that exist, or better yet, are in demand in your own geographic region.
If you are considering or are in the midst of a career change I’m going to share 3 small steps to take to learn about other careers. Even if you feel pretty happy and secure in your workplace, it’s important to stay informed about what’s happening in the labour market to help you plan your professional development, stay marketable, and in the know, in case your situation changes. Here they are:
1. Conduct Research Online
Careful not to go too deep down this rabbit hole. Stick to one or two sites for a quick overview, then move on to #2. Check out: Ontario Job Profiles, Career Girls, or Department of Employment & Social Development Canada Occupational Profiles. There are also plenty of business publications such as Macleans. Be sure to regularly peruse your local and regional newspapers as well. Hit up your friendly neighbourhood library for industry specific publications, for example, IT Professionals can check out Computer World, Redmond Magazine and The Next Web. There is something for everyone in the plethora of professional publications and journals available which are loaded with the latest trends and developments in various areas.
2. Network your arse off
Seriously. I know you hate the thought of this and you even hate me a tiny bit for suggesting it. People who work with me are always amazed at the process I have for making this a whole lot easier—it doesn’t have to be as awful as it sounds. You’ve heard it all before: Join a professional association, attend local meet-ups, volunteer. It doesn’t have to be all stuffy and formal though--challenge yourself to put away your phone and take 10 minutes every day to connect with other humans. In line at the coffee shop, while you’re getting your oil changed, just before or after yoga. Take an interest in other people, ask them what they do-- it’s amazing what you’ll learn.
3. Informational Interviews
Informational Interviewing is a powerful networking tool to help you learn about various career paths and build relationships for the future. Although an informational interview may lead to a job offer, that is not the primary goal. The focus is to learn about the person's organization, their role and the path they took to get there. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, informational interviews are the best way to get up to the minute information about the careers you might be interested in. Some of the information I come across on the Internet in terms of wage data and even job duties and qualifications for various positions appears to be less than accurate, at best. Whenever possible, try to get a nice cross section of feedback from more than one source for a balanced representation.
The biggest barrier to doing the work to stay relevant and on top of what’s going on outside of your current career/workplace is often just feeling like you don't have time to fit in the activities required, such as professional development. But you HAVE to. Think of it like brushing your teeth: It's so much easier to do a little each day, week or month than try to catch up and deal with the consequences after you neglect it for years. At a minimum, it’s a good idea to commit at least a few hours each month to this endeavour.
As relevance slips away from you, the biggest danger is that you slowly become less employable on the open market. It's possible you'll be able stick it out “safely” in a certain job for a while, but it's becoming less likely. Always try to keep your skills fresh, your network alive and engaged, and stay aware of what's going on outside of your own career bubble.
Ready to take the plunge and make a job or career change? I can offer some professional help to get you pointed in the right direction.