If you’re currently still in school, or are planning a return to the workforce in a new-to-you industry, you want to be sure your first work “relationship” is a good one. Think of it like online dating – you wouldn’t necessarily go out with the first person who winks at you without learning more about him or her, right?
We connected with Aaron Michel, CEO of PathSource, a career exploration tool for young adults, for his tips on evaluating potential career paths. Here’s his game plan…
Focus your job search in one to two industries.
Especially if you’re new to the working world, the possibilities can seem endless and overwhelming if you don’t narrow down your search. Once you have your areas of focus, that’s when the real work begins. “Read everything available about what’s happening in those industries,” says Michel. What is the job outlook like? Who are the key players, and are jobs available in your geographic area? What skills and credentials are required for an entry level position? Etc. You can usually find this information in places like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or you can turn to industry-specific associations.
Michel says you should get a feel for your intended field and start making connections before you look for full-time work. “Ask for informational interviews and part-time internships to build a network and relevant experience,” he says.
Ask a lot of questions.
When you’re on an informational interview, or if you know people who work in your industry of interest, ask for advice and suggestions about what sort of opportunities might be a good fit for you. Don’t come right out and directly ask for a job if there’s nothing immediately available, says Michel. “This is part of the process of building a network and creating mentors. At the same time, see what you can do to add value in return. This might include offering to do a free project for someone influential in the industry,” he says.
Don’t use school as a fall back.
“Every year, people spend tens of thousands of dollars on law school and other graduate degrees because they don’t know what else to do,” says Michel. If you find yourself unsure about the type of work you want to do, more schooling probably isn’t the answer. In fact, if you’re going to take on additional debt, you need to make sure that there will be a return on that educational investment.
By gaining an understanding of what a specific career is really all about, it help you decide if you’re headed down a path that’s suited for you. Plus, by meeting people and/or taking on an internship or volunteer work, you can improve your hiring chances once you’re ready to look for work.