How to Find a Career You Love - Without Quitting Your Job

Dec 24, 2014 - Joe Matar
It happens to all of us. It’s Monday morning and we’re commuting to work. Our mind drifts to thinking: “I’m ready for a career change... what will happen if I start over?” Many of us ask ourselves these questions as the 21st century job market shifts away from “one job for life.” But why do we have that desire to walk away from the career plan that we’ve worked so hard to make a reality? Take one quick trip down memory lane, and you’ll be reminded why so many of us are considering career change. At 19 years old, you were programmed to pick a college major after “thoroughly” evaluating the careers associated with that field of study. You thought you were choosing a career for the rest of your life, but you lacked the experience of the real world to understand how that choice aligned with your personality and skill set. Fast-forward to your 30-year-old self. Maybe your career flourished and you achieved success. Yet you evolved. Your priorities changed and new passions were born. It’s no wonder that 20 percent of Americans are unhappy at work, while nearly 60 percent are unfulfilled and have considered quitting their jobs. For those of you who have identified the desire to make a change – you’ve taken the first step. In some cases though, by the time you realize you have grown out of your position, you have also mentally checked out. This can lead to a frustrating next few months as you trudge through your days unmotivated and confused about what’s next. With so many choices, it’s easy to end up doing nothing at all. Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this the paradox of choice.

Job Experimentation

So what should you do when you are starting from scratch and aren’t sure which direction to take? The answer is simple: job experimentation. This concept is about conducting research through action. British author Roman Krznaric writes and theorizes about finding meaningful work. He believes that you have to try several different occupations before finding the one that clicks. Meticulously planning will only slow you down, so once you’ve decided to make that career change, Krznaric says to act first and reflect later. This method is also for the risk averse. Through job experimentation, you can investigate new careers while holding onto your day job. In the end, your research through action will have eliminated a lot of the risk associated with plunging head first into a brand new career. Here are four sequential steps to practice job experimentation before changing careers: (Click here to tweet this list.)
  1. Be honest. It all starts with who you are. As you prepare to talk to other professionals, think of the genuine reasons why you are making this change and be ready to explain your intentions. They will be receptive if you are authentic.
  2. Use informational interviewing and job shadowing. The next step does not involve perusing the self-help aisle at your local Barnes & Noble. It involves actual conversations with people. Remember learning about the informational interview from your college advisor? Professionals don’t use this method enough. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred job characteristics and industries, call someone in your desired position. Ask specific questions about company culture, management style and growth opportunities. If there is a chance to job shadow, take a vacation day to experience the job for yourself.
  3. Take an internship. They’re not just for college students. As professionals, we don’t typically consider unpaid positions, but think of the experience you’ll get in a new industry for an extra 10 hours a week. Spending your free hours, nights or weekends honing your skills will be invaluable as you build your credentials and portfolio.
  4. Network. The concept of “networking” becomes more meaningful when you’re in a career transition. Attending events tailored to your field of interest is incredibly valuable to your reinvention. Use networking as a channel to rebrand yourself, discuss your informational interview/internship experience, and prove that you’re serious about a career change. People will respect your initiative.
American poet and author Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” After a few months of taking action, you will overcome the fear of change. Answers to your career questions will start to become clear and you will have learned so much about yourself along the way. Why not try it now? This year, whether you are happy or unhappy in your current job, try job experimentation as a way to prepare yourself for the future. It can’t hurt. And it could be the best New Year’s Resolution you’ve ever kept. Samantha Un is an award winning communications professional, freelance consultant and writer. She likes to ask big questions like, “How should we define happiness,” and “What does life success look like?” So she founded a blog called Her Savory Life, where she is refining the art of living based on the principles of authenticity, inspiration and respect for life’s journey.