So you're one of the lucky people who are working. But you're not happy: Your current job has lost its luster and you wonder if a new career might be the answer. You're not alone. • Research shows that worker dissatisfaction has been on the rise in this country for the past two decades. However, you don't want to endanger your current employment. The economy's still shaky and your dream career may not work out. • How about trying on that new job and making sure it's a fit for you? Here are some tips that can help:
Mum's the word: Don't mention your career change plans to anyone you don't trust to keep your search quiet. You don't want this to affect your current job status.
Research: The Internet is your friend. Look up job openings for the career you think you'd like. How many are in your area? What are the requirements? What is the salary range? What are the companies that have the job openings? What do you know about these companies?
Take a class: Sign up for a class that introduces you to the career you think you'd like. Colleges, universities and trade schools offer these types of classes for audit or credit. Talk with the instructor and your fellow classmates. Find out why they chose the career you're considering, what type of training is required and what opportunities are available. Also, ask about the long-term prospects for this career. For example, computer programming was hot in the '70s and '80s. Now many programmers are looking for jobs. What skills will your dream career provide and how will they translate into the job market in the next 10, 20 or 30 years?
Find a mentor: Contact someone who has the career you think you'd like and invite her or him to lunch or coffee. Make sure you do this on your lunch hour or before or after work so you don't take time away from your current job. How do you find such a person?
• Ask friends and family if they know of anyone who is working in the field you aspire to.
• Contact the local chapter of that field's professional organization.
• You can find them listed on the Internet.
• Attend a meeting and talk with people you meet there.
When you do select your mentor, ask pertinent questions:
• What type of training did you receive?
• What is your typical day like?
• What is the salary range?
• What are the opportunities and long-term salary potential?
Shadow: Ask someone already working in the field if you can "shadow" them for a day. This can be tricky and may require taking a day off from your current job. But it's worth it. When you shadow, you get a firsthand experience of the day in, day out realities of the job — what it requires, the types of people you'd be working with and the stresses and rewards involved.
Attend a workshop or seminar: Professional organizations often schedule workshops and seminars for people in their field to upgrade skills and to disseminate information. Some of these workshops are open to the public. Sign up and make sure you network. You can gain insight from the workshop itself and learn a lot by talking to attendees.
Listen to a podcast: More and more organizations offer podcasts on timely topics regarding their profession. Many of these podcasts are available to the public on the Internet. Download, listen and learn.
Volunteer: Many companies and professional groups sponsor charitable events throughout the year. Volunteer to help with an event and meet and talk with the people who represent the company or field you think interests you. This is a non-threatening way to make friends and show off your interest, your organizational ability and your work ethic.
Good luck trying on your next career. Hopefully it will fit your needs for years to come.
Marie Stempinski is the founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in marketing, public relations and business and career trends counseling. She also leads workshops. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.