Imagine the scene: you, tired of your role in event planning, have done some exploring and decided that a career in either graphic design, digital marketing or as a horseback riding instructor would really suit you, but you’re not sure where to start exploring. So, you start by checking out all the usual job boards, see what’s available and start applying to all three because “you might as well cast a wide net and see what comes back, right?”
Wrong. And I don’t normally like to use that word, since there are SO many ways to look at any given situation.
But seriously, wrong.
If you’re in marketing or work with marketers, you’ll appreciate the following phrase: If you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Every brand out there has their ideal customer (sometimes referred to as an avatar). Nike, Barkbox, S’well bottle, Bai Tea….and YOU, when you’re looking to change jobs or careers, are a brand too.
This means that before- yes, before – you seriously consider any job description and DEFINITELY before you apply to a single job, it’s critical that you thoroughly explore each of your career options and consciously decide on ONE to put yourself in the running for. In other words, just so we’re clear, in this hypothetical example, you’re choosing between graphic design, digital marketing and horseback riding instructor (hey- anything goes in Jill’s wacky Career Change Kitchen, so go with it!)
So, where are the three places to look in order to fully flesh out each of your options so that you can come to this conscious decision?
Surprise! Online plays a big role in the beginning of your exploration process. You don’t want to hang out TOO long here, so what I recommend is setting a timer for exploring for 45-60 minutes PER career path. So in our hypothetical example, you’d set 45-60 minutes aside for graphic designer, 45-60 minutes aside for digital marketing and 45-60 minutes aside for horseback riding instructor. Avoid the rabbit hole at all costs! You want to get an idea for your basic questions about each of the roles here- you’re not trying to solve whether this is the career for you. Before you dive in, make a list of those questions so you also can protect against rabbit-hole-isms.
Also, bookmark any online seminars any associations, trade groups, or networking groups are providing and pencil them into your calendar. Most, if not all professions have a trade group or an association and those can be good places to search for resources, info and seminars where you can learn more about what people in the field are talking about.
Yes, I’m talking about going to live, in person events. These can be seminars, workshops, panel discussions, networking events—the list goes on for this exploring phase. I don’t necessarily recommend spending $2k + on an industry conference at this stage, per se. Instead search for networking groups in your area that have free events or reasonably priced. In NYC, for example, I’d say anything under $35-$40 for a 2-3 hour event is reasonable, but you also really need to assess the value. Are people that you would want to meet and learn from going to be at this event? If you don’t know, ask the event organizer. Don’t go on a blitz of moderately applicable events; instead pick the 1 or 2 that will really allow bang for buck (and time and energy! After a long day, you want to at least be semi excited about this!). Check out industry associations and see if they’ll let you check out an event before joining. Be bold!
Dun dun dun! Yes, the third piece of this is to actually speak to humans while exploring career paths. Real. Live. Humans. I know, I know, but it’s going to be ok! You’ll want to look into your own network to see who you might already know (score!), who people you know can introduce you to (so 2nd degree connections) and people you clicked with at the aforementioned events above that you can set up follow up chats or meetings with to learn more. You also might reach out to some random people whose profile on LinkedIn matches what you’re looking for. (OMG JILL NO!!!!) But seriously. This is the sweet spot of where you can fine tune your exploration and research phase and really dig into the nitty gritty of a role (“Hey, so what’s it like day to day being a graphic designer?”) and to really get a sense for whether your skillsets, interests and values/priorities fit that field.
No, talking to one person for a rushed 15-minute conversation as you’re running to the subway after the event, racing home to catch Empire (no? just me?) is not sufficient. Part of this is about relationship building and part is about learning more about the field.
No, talking over email to one person does not count.
This part is gonna be a little gut-checky and might make some of you feel a little uncomfortable. But one of my favorite people and closest biz confidants always says, “Being wildly uncomfortable is where the growth is.” So are you ready to come out on the other side of this, ready to grow? Let’s get started!
Oh, and after you do all of this? THAT is when you can develop your job search materials (LinkedIn profile, resume, etc) and start applying to jobs. NOT before.