Before You Leap: Test Drive Your Dream Career

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Going through a career change? Trying to figure out what you can do that relates to your experience and passions? Something worth while, but do not know how to connect the dots? Have you ever considered trying to gain a quick sense of whether your new “career concept” is feasible? Test it out!

We often have hunches about what will fix our career woes. Maybe it’s going back to school or pivoting to a trendy industry. While these instincts might lead us in the right general direction, the nitty-gritty details can be a mystery until we dive deeper.

Remember that client who was dead set on becoming a video game developer? They were excited to start coding, but I suggested attending a game jam first. This turned out to be a game-changer. They quickly discovered the intensely collaborative nature of the work environment, which clashed with their preference for independent work.

Think about subtle assumptions you might have about your dream career. How can you test the waters in low-risk ways? This could involve volunteering, networking or setting up informational interviews, enrolling into role-specific certifications or training programs, shadowing professionals, conducting self-assessments to evaluate your personality, skills, and interests in relation to various career paths, or even simply reading industry-specific articles and blogs. The biggest move you can try is simulating the actual work environment. If possible, try to recreate aspects of your desired job in a safe and controlled environment. For example, if you’re interested in writing, dedicate time to writing daily under the same time constraints and workflow as professional writers. This can give you a sense of the workload, pace, and challenges involved. Don’t shy away from asking about the downside of these jobs. Look for negative evidence that might challenge your initial assumptions as well.

By taking these small steps, you can unveil the reality behind your desired career path, saving yourself from potential disappointment down the road. Remember, it’s always better to test the waters before taking the plunge.

Essentially, my best advice for career shifters is to deal with this transition by taking a mental break first…then internalize, realize, and visualize. Try to identify your relevance in terms of value to a prospective employer, internalize on what your passions are and some transferable skills and accomplishments to relay to hiring managers, a solid resume and some email communication templates (or cover letter), and a lot of patience and willpower. A good rule of thumb for the job hunter seeking a new role in a new industry is to identify your transferable skills and portray those first on your LinkedIn profile and resume. Reverse engineer your career path from your ideal job’s description and see what you have and what needs up-skilling.

Think the long game. Have a vision of your dream job. Think of your job drivers. What’s important to you? Time, money, benefits, 401(k), location, product offerings, company image, culture, values, progressive versus traditional setting, remote versus on-location, passionate project opportunities, etc. Each is different for each person. What motivates you? What’s your passion? What can you do that will make you happy in 2 weeks, 3 months, a year?

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