If you’re like most people, you began attempting to figure out your ideal career direction by first reflecting on who you are and what you want in life. You considered past experiences, took self-assessments, and tried to imagine what new career would be right for you. This is a natural starting place, since any career path needs to relate to the person who is going to be walking it.
Yes, your career should revolve around you, but basing your career choice solely on your personal knowledge and thought processes limits your access to new perspectives and ideas that could just give you the breakthrough “Aha!” that you’ve been wanting. The access point to expanding your horizons is to include other people in your process.
Add these five interpersonal strategies to your wheelhouse, and you’ll move towards a great career fit with more speed and precision than you would on your own.
Interview for information
All the online research in the world can’t tell you what it’s really like to work in an industry. Informational interviews give you a chance to learn from people in the field, as they describe their day to day experiences and give you advice on industry pros and cons and what it takes to succeed. Stories from your interviewee’s work life or those of their colleagues can give you insights into whether an industry is or isn’t for you.
Find hidden gems
One-to-one interviews aren’t the only way that other people can help your career search. A second way people can help is by sharing information on industry resources. While it may seem like Google holds all the answers, there can be resources you don’t even know to search for. Industry-specific job boards, smaller local groups that relate to particular topics, and hidden Facebook groups are all resources that you’ll only discover if you connect with people in the industry and ask them for information.
Build your network
One real downfall of relying on internet research is that you’re only going to see the same information that everyone else sees. To go farther, you need to actually go out and talk to people. Not only can they give you information about resources and industry life, they can introduce you to others who can help you and connect the dots for you. Remember, opportunities always flow through people. The more people you talk to, the more opportunities you’ll find.
Get through the rough spots
Figuring out your career direction can be a challenge, and you can get stuck in parts of the process you didn’t expect and don’t know how to work through. At that point, it’s helpful to reach out to a career coach or a career counselor who specializes in helping people figure out their career direction. Working with this kind of person means that somebody else will be by your side, guiding you through the process, looking over your shoulder, and helping you move forward.
Boost your confidence
Other people can be fabulous resources for information, opportunities and connections, but a less-obvious way they can help your career search is by boosting your confidence. People you connect with will often be encouraging and supportive, giving you momentum into that new career direction you’re thinking about.
As you reach out and connect with people, it’s important to remember that not everyone will be helpful. Be wary of people who have an obvious agenda for your career, or who are perpetually down about everything, including your opportunities. Be careful, but don’t let a few bad apples keep you from enjoying the richness that is available when you get out of your house, away from your computer, and connected with other humans.
The resources are there waiting for you, but you need to be the one to step out and ask for the help you need. When you do that, you will move past the blind spot of isolation and get on your way to figuring out what you want to do with your career.