How to Find the Gateways to New Career Paths

Albeit current economic conditions are causing some professionals to rethink potential job switches, choosing to remain in the somewhat reassuring security of their current employment is safer for some. But there are always others who continue to yearn for ‘greener’ pastures and to find meaning in their work.

However, finding that connection between vocation (the work you have to do) and the avocation (the work you’d like to do) doesn’t necessarily match up perfectly skill-wise. So how does one leap-frog from one career field to another, if they aren’t related?

One of my most favorite examples of this conundrum was a client of mine who has been a writer, but had a passion for wine. She had taken a staggering number of enology (wine) classes on her own, and had even visited Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries to participate in the harvest and spend time with wine-makers. Her goal: to be a wine marketing representative. We paired her experience with writing marketing materials and conducting sales activities associated with that work with her intensive wine knowledge, and wrote a functional résumé, blending those skill sets together, and presto! A new wine marketing consultant was born!

But how would you make this work for yourself?

The following areas can be keys to bridging that gap to transition from your current career to the type of work that you’d rather be doing:

Most busy professionals have some kind of volunteer activity going on in their lives, but in addition to ‘giving back’, volunteering is also a great conduit to finding out whether a specific industry is really a fit for you. And if you are seeking a career in this area, volunteering can provide skills, background, and contacts, as well as make you become a ‘known’ quantity to a particular organization. You never know where this might take you! Volunteering is a positive avenue that gives back to an organization, while at the same time allows for safe career exploration.

Practically every industry has some type of professional trade or membership association. These organizations are fountains of information and contacts. By targeting an industry sector, you can research the professional groups associated with that area, and then do some digging. What kind of networking and educational activities does each group offer? Focus in on one or two groups, then get involved as a member and build industry credibility, attend networking events and gain additional sector-specific knowledge through educational programs. This can do wonders for your portfolio and network!

Formal training and professional development are also excellent ways to build up skills and expertise in a new career field. Credit can be given for ‘professional experience’ already gained in a field, so starting from scratch often isn’t necessary. Many institutions and certifying agencies not only provide the ‘classroom’ portion of learning, but also have connecting activities through outplacement or internships that enable ‘real world’ practical experience. Marrying your current relevant skill sets with formal education can help you shift career direction significantly in ways that you’ve never dreamed!

Vocational immersion
An exciting new concept for new career-field seekers is to actually immerse oneself into a particular career area without ‘jumping ship’ from a current job. “Test-driving” one’s dream job is the idea behind VocationVacations, which is an organization that allows people to explore new career directions in a safe environment. ‘Vocationers’ are paired up with industry experts as mentors, and spend a pre-determined amount of time (akin to a vacation period) with that mentor, and learn the ‘inside scoop’ and ropes of that particular business. Tapping into an expert’s knowledge can help you determine if this is the right fit before you make any significant life and career-altering decisions.

All of these options are all viable means to gain inside knowledge, understanding and expertise to take that ‘leap’ into a new career field. The best part is that you can engage in these activities while at the same time maintaining your current employment until you feel that you are ready to transition to your avocation. It’s exciting and invigorating, and can open up brand new avenues as well as providing meaning to your work life!