3 Low Risk Ways to Test out what your future career direction could be

‘By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change careers is to delay the first step until they have settled on a destination.’

– Herminia Ibarra

A question that many clients are asking themselves right now is, “Should I stay in my job where I have a reputation and sit out the pandemic or explore other learning and progression opportunities?” My answer is always , “Why not do both?”

In my 1:1 life design coaching programme with clients we look to do the exploration before making the decision. The experiment or prototypes test out two things; your previously untested personal preferences and realistically what other viable opportunities there might be for you. You might fancy teaching young people or yoga but until you try something similar how will you know whether to retrain or look into something else? You might want to start up your own practice selling the expertise gained in your sector but unless you do some research you will never know if you can earn enough doing so. And so, you stay stuck.

Here’s are the 3 ways I encourage my clients to experiment without deciding, handing in their notice or accepting the status quo:

Side Projects

Side projects might make you think about a small commercial enterprise you run after work but let’s broaden that definition. Learning to coach and doing my training hours was a side project until I finally took the plunge 18 months ago and set up my own business. A new client or project might be your side project. Or some pro-bono work or a voluntary board position. These experiences introduce you to the type of work and type of people you might work with if you decide to move into a new arena or work in a new way. In my experience, new opportunities will present themselves and if you’ve enjoyed your side project your ultimate decision will come more easily.

Temporary Assignments

A secondment can be an obvious and easy way to test out a move to another department or area. As can a short-term contract: not always a bad thing as there’s often less competition for the role and your commitment is time-bound. This is how I moved into the third sector a decade ago when I wanted to develop my experience in the world of careers. Moving to part-time in your current role and doing a temporary role alongside it can also give you that all-important insight into where your aspirations really lie. Volunteering is perhaps the least risky option of all. There are so many organisations seeking a huge variety of skills and support. If you find that applying your knowledge in this way bring you more satisfaction or impact you will then have both the insight and experience to apply for roles in this field.

More Learning

The ways and means to learn have never been more plentiful and varied. On-line, boot-camps, summer schools, weekend tasters; take your pick. This is not to fall into the trap that a new qualification automatically leads to a new job but rather it confirms your interest, deepens your interest and brings you into contact with people in that field who are beyond your current network.

In launching your own experiments, some things will inevitably fall by the wayside as they don’t appeal or hold your interest, others might appeal more than you could have imagined. Better still the process is dynamic so new possibilities, that you would never have encountered unless you had started to experiment, will also become open to you.

As I read this back, I realised something else important to note. Experiments are yours to own; they don’t arise from group-wide training programmes or traditional pathways They give you agency, show your initiative, make you more determined and revive that inner sparkle.

Where could you experiment more this year staying right where you? If you need a guide to help you design the experiments that will inform your future career moves, please connect with me at fionareithcoaching@gmail.com or here on #linkedin