Career Sampling – 5 Ways to Test Drive a New Career

February 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Old School NASCAR- Richard Petty 1992

Image by James Marvin Phelps via Flickr

Everyone has bad days at work, but if your bad day stretches to a hundred bad days(!) then you may want to start thinking about reinventing your career.   

Twice during my own career I found myself in a frustrating and unchallenging job and stayed longer than I should have.   Mostly because I was delusional and thought that if I proved my loyalty and stayed with the company long enough they’d reward me with a “new and improved” job, (did I mention the delusional part?), but also because I was afraid of trying something new, and potentially failing.  

If you’re in a similar situation and the thought of charting into unknown career territory makes you want to curl up under your office cube, then you may want to try what I’m calling ”career sampling” – the art of dipping your toe into a pool of new career opportunities, before diving in head first.

Career sampling is a great way to test drive a new career without investing a lot of time, or risking your paycheck.  Here are five great strategies to help you determine if a new career is right for you… 

  1. Take on an extended assignment. 
    Look across all the departments within your current organization to see if there are any projects or teams that interest you.    Many times managers and project leaders jump at the chance to have someone join their team – even if that person doesn’t have any experience.  This is a great way to test the waters of a new career. 

    Also, are there any external initiatives that inspire you?  Many companies have community programs and special events that you may be able to support.  Finally, talk to your manager, peers and other department managers to see which professional and civic organizations they’re involved in.  Take advantage of opportunities that could help you learn about new industries or job roles.

  2. Try freelancing or consulting.  If you’re thinking about owning your own business, try setting up shop first as a freelancer or consultant.  You’ll be able to set your own hours, develop your business plan and gain some experience before investing all of your time, money and energy full time.  It’s also a great way to earn some extra cash! 
  3. Work part-time.  A great way to test drive a new job role, company or industry is to start out part time.  Investing a little time up front to take on a part-time position is a much better strategy than investing all your time and realizing you’ve made a bad career choice.If you think you don’t have the right experience, a great attitude and eagerness to learn can help get your foot in the door.   And once you start proving yourself and showing results, a promotion to a full time position could be just around the corner!
  4. Volunteer your time. This is the quickest way to gain insight and experience into a new career. As your Career Coach, I encourage you to research company websites, read trade magazines, and attend industry conferencs and business networking events to learn about volunteer opportunities.  Volunteer your time and talents, and in return, learn all you can about that industry, different job roles, and the skills and qualifications of others who have been successful in those job roles that interest you.
  5. Join a Professional Organization.  Most cities have organizations such as the American Marketing Association, American Medical Association, Small Business Association, American Society for Engineering Education, etc. which provide excellent education, training and networking opportunities.Consider attending meetings, becoming a member, or stepping up to join their Board of Directors.  Take advantage of every opportunity to learn about various industries and career opportunities.  

If you’re itching to change your career for something more meaningful or inspiring, then try career sampling.  It’s less risky, less stressful, and a smarter way to transition into a career that’s right for you!

 And finally…If you’re ready to make a career change, get some professional help. You’ll have an easier, quicker, less stressful journey ahead of you when you have a partner who can give you the roadmap on how to reach your goal.

Here’s to your success! 🙂

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About Career Coach Sherri Thomas
Sherri Thomas is a leading career coach who helps professionals transform and thrive in their career. She is a leading career coach, Huffington Post writer, globe trotting keynote speaker, and the 2013 Best Career Book author of “The Bounce Back – personal stories of bouncing back higher and faster after a layoff, re-org or career setback.” As a sought after media source, she has been featured in top news outlets including NBC-TV Phoenix, the Wall St. Journal, TIME, New York Daily News, and many others. She loves traveling around the world and learning about other cultures, thrives in nature, and will always encourage you to go on what she calls a life changing Kenyan safari because the 30-hour flight journey “isn’t that bad.”

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