If only settling on a career path were as easy as shopping for clothes: you go into a few places, try on a bunch of items, and make a commitment to the pieces that fit your style and needs.
The option of trying on a role for size is something that many of us wish was an option. The good news: while it'll never be as easy as walking into a department store, there are several different ways to give the job that might be the one of your dreams a try before you make a long term commitment.
Research, research, research
For many—and especially those who are closer to the start of their careers, the reason why we don't know which job might be the right one is simple: lack of knowledge about what's out there. The simplest solution: do some reading. Start with some core skills that you enjoy using, and investigate the types of careers where they'd be helpful. Where possible, ask around for guidance. Find out what people in your network do—if any of it interests you, make a point to follow up with those people (see "informational interviews" below).
Still confused about where to start? Lacking the right contacts or resources? No matter: there are a ton of resources out there that can help you to get a sense of what people do all day in their jobs. Many companies feature videos and the like on their corporate recruiting pages, while you can also check out features such as "A Day in the Life" right here on Vault.
After you've done some basic research, the next least-strenuous method of trying on a career for size is to have an in-depth conversation with someone who actually does it. This might meant asking a friend to reach out to a co-worker on your behalf, or sourcing a suitable contact via LinkedIn. However you make contact, be sure to arrive prepared for the conversation, and to have some clear, focused questions that you'd like to have answers to. (Hint: asking "so what do you do all day?" is not an example of a focused question.)
OK, so the reality of being a temp is that you don't get too much control over where you end up—and the work will more than likely be administrative in nature. But consider temp assignments as a way to learn more about companies or job roles that you're curious about. Even if you spend all day redirecting phone calls, you'll have an opportunity to get a feel for the workplace, and to meet the people who are doing the job you think might be a fit for you. And if it turns out that you do find your fit, you've got a ready-made network of people who might be able to help you make the transition.
Can't find a paid position in or near the field you're thinking about? Sometimes the only way to get ahead is to spend some time doing for free what you'd eventually hope to be remunerated for. Sure, it's nobody's ideal strategy, but often it's the only way to get a foot in the door. And while it's not a strategy we’d recommend for much beyond the short term, there are few better ways of deciding whether a job is the right fit than by considering the question of whether you'd be willing to do it for free.
--Phil Stott, Vault.com
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