How do I get clarity about my career direction? – Step 2: Doing Your Research in Reality

In our last blog, we talked about being intentional in making your career to be exactly what you want it to be.  At Catch Your Big Break we know that getting the career you want always starts with you. The first step to clarifying your career direction is to take inventory of who you are and how you work. If you missed our blog on taking inventory click here to read it now.

Our process for finding clarity in your career direction won’t work unless you take it seriously. If you haven’t taken time to take inventory do it now or step two won’t help you at all.

STEP TWO: Doing your research in reality

Now that you’ve done some soul searching you should be able to look at the information you’ve gathered and see how it might fit together in your career. For example, you may love to help people and you might be really good at math. There are hundreds of careers where those two items intersect.

You could be an accountant, a bookkeeper, a payroll manager, a bank teller, or an investment banker. Each of those careers is very different. Your self-assessments and your feedback from friends and family should have helped narrow that list down. If you hate conflict you definitely don’t want to be an investment banker. And if you want to avoid a job that has stressful seasons you probably don’t want to be an accountant either. That still leaves you with three good options. Now it’s time to do your research.

1)      Google it! – You’d be amazed at what you can find if you just look! Before you do anything else, make sure you do some online research to see what you can find out about your potential career path or new position.

 The internet is an excellent resource for many different types of career information from official company websites, to career blogs, and news articles. Start by googling exactly what you want to find out, for example “how much money does an entry level bookkeeper make”. If you don’t get the information you’re looking for keep googling similar questions or key words until you find what you need.

One great online resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook which can be found at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/. The website shows basic information about different job fields including national statistics for the current number of job openings in that field. Because these are national statistics you should pair this information with local statistics as well in order to get a more accurate view.

2)      Talk to someone! – The best way to find out about a career or position you think you are interested in is to talk to someone who is currently doing the job or who has done it recently.

 Start by asking around. Someone in your circle of friends likely knows someone in the job you want. At Catch Your Big Break we know that your next opportunity will probably come through networking. Even if your contact is your aunt’s new husband’s best friend’s son, people are always more willing to help and to hire people they “know”, so don’t be afraid to ask around!

 Use appropriate social media. Find people on Linked In, on university alumni websites, or similar career networking sites. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you don’t know. That’s exactly what those websites are for. Sending a clear, concise, and well-written e-mail to the right person can open all kinds of doors for you. Trust me. I’ve been a recruiter most of my career and I’ve seen this works for candidates time and time again. Someone who never would have been noticed in the recruiting process can get hired because they sent a polite inquiry for information to the correct senior manager.

 However, there are a few ground rules:

  • Make it clear that you’re not looking for a job – Let the person know you are just looking for information to decide if this is the right career move for you. And seriously…don’t use this time to try to get a job. If you decide this is the right career move for you there will be an appropriate time in the future to ask for help with your job search. In fact, if you use your first meeting wisely and make a good impression the person you connect with will be much more likely to help you again down the line.
  • Bring your resume, but don’t lead with it – Again, DON’T try to get yourself a job; however, it’s always good to have a copy of your resume.  Hiring managers and decision-makers of all kinds can give you much better career advice if they understand your background.  Don’t offer your resume, but if your previous experience comes up in discussion it might be helpful to pull it out for reference.
  • Do your online research FIRST – It’s important to recognize that the person you are meeting with is sacrificing their time to meet with you. Do your online research first so you can come to the meeting well informed and with a short list of important questions. This will make the meeting much more productive for both of you and will help you make a better impression on a good career contact.
  • Be polite and appreciative – People are busy and, again, whomever you meet with is sacrificing valuable time to meet with you. Make sure that you are polite and appreciative of their time. After your meeting, send them a thank you note as soon as possible. This not only shows your appreciation, but it helps keep the connection going for when you make a potential career move.

 Melinda Barrow is an HR Consultant for Catch Your Big Break. For more information about Melinda and her work, contact her here.