Although it may not feel like it, it’s entirely natural to want to change careers without knowing specifically what career you want to switch to. Even if you know you’ve taken your current career as far as you can and you want a new challenge, identifying your next career move can be tricky. This is especially the case if you’ve worked in one field all your life. How can you possibly know if a particular career would suit you if you have no experience of it whatsoever? This is why doing your own research is such an important element of career change. Here are a few ways to research careers that interest you to see if they really are viable options.
- Use the Internet
This is perhaps nowadays the most obvious source of information. You have a whole world of knowledge at your fingertips without having to leave your home. Research careers online by looking at the career profiles that are commonly found on professional associations’ websites. Services such as Prospects and Total Professions also provide online directories and write-ups of various sectors. Use Google Blog Search to look for niche blogs written by individuals involved in industries that interest you. Reading such blogs is a great way of getting the scoop on a career straight from the horse’s mouth.
- Read books and the press
As well as reading online sources, you can also look towards physical books and the traditional press for information on a certain career. Join your local library and browse its reference section for books on the careers that are interest of you. Libraries also have newspaper sections where you can read the daily local and national press as well as trade magazines. Go through these publications thoroughly in order to find press releases, articles, reviews and interviews relevant to specific career areas.
- Tap into your network
Look at who your contacts are. If any of them are involved in a sector that you’d like to find out more about, don’t be afraid to ask them about it. Even if none of your immediate contacts have a profession that interests you, ask them if they know anyone who does. Once you’ve found someone to talk to, be clear on what you want to ask them before you actually approach them for information. Do you want to know about the everyday tasks associated with the career area? The educational or social background of the majority of people in the field? The health risks related to the profession? You can of course ask as many questions as you want, within reason. Just make sure you know what those questions are beforehand.
- Get a taste of the work
Research can mean more than simply reading or hearing about something. Field research may be just as valuable as desk research when done properly. In the context of exploring new careers, field research might consist of work shadowing or voluntary work, among other options. Contact a company associated with the profession you want to try out and ask if it would be happy for you to come in and work shadow an employee, even if it’s just a day. Again, using your contacts and your contacts’ contacts can be useful in helping you make that initial connection with a company. For volunteering opportunities, try searching a website such as Do-it for relevant openings.
Nisa Chitakasem is the co-founder of Position Ignition, one of the UK’s leading career consultancies. Position Ignition offers career advice, workshops and webinars, career eBooks and much more to help people who are seeking a career change, new job or to develop their careers to the next level.