How to Test Run a New Career Idea Without Risking it All


When clients come to me during a career transition, I often ask them a version of the “genie” question. In other words, if I could wave a magic wand and presto! you could do whatever you want professionally, what would that be? It may take a gentle nudge, but most people come up with an answer – whether it’s a buried dream that’s been gnawing at them since childhood or a more recent yearning. In today’s post, I’m going to provide you with 3 steps to take the seed of a new career idea and make it grow.  

Give it a Name

Using 6 words or less, give a title to your new career idea.

For example:

– Teach an adult education science class
– Write and sell a comedy screenplay
– Run for local office

Your idea doesn’t need to be entrepreneurial. It might be relocating your skill and experience to another field or identifying a company within your current field for whom you’d be thrilled to work. Once you’ve got a name, fill in some detail. Write 5 or 6 sentences that describe it. This might include geographic location, the kind of colleagues you’re working with or the job’s impact. Don’t concern yourself with how to make it happen. This step is about the WHAT.

And next, tell your new career idea to a trusted friend (with an open mind). Ask for their feedback.

Resource It

Now that you’ve named your new career idea and told it to a friend, it’s time to move into a research phase. Make a list of people who’ve already done what you want to do. And if no one comes to mind, brainstorm with friends who might know someone. If it’s a certain company you’d love to work for, go to their Linkedin page and cross reference with your network. Do you know anyone who is a current or former employee? This phase is information gathering and is not the same as interviewing for a job. Schedule at least 3 research meetings to learn more.

For a guide for writing emails to help you get those meetings, click here:

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Prepare questions in advance of the meetings, e.g. – what certification or additional training do I need? What kind of financial resources are necessary? And if you can’t find an actual person to meet with, find a book written by someone who’s successfully accomplished what you want to do.

A word of caution. Don’t get stuck in this step. Read on….

Test Run Your New Career Idea

The title of this post is How to Test Run Your Career Idea WITHOUT RISKING IT ALL. I say this as a reminder that the TEST RUN is not about jumping off a cliff. It’s a measured step in the process. The research is important, but you’re not going to figure everything out before taking action. At some point, you’ll want to push your career idea into the light. Let’s say, you’re thinking about switching fields and becoming a therapist. But before you quit your job, how can you try out the idea? Volunteer for a hotline to see how it feels. Find out about shadowing a professional who works at a mental heath clinic. Or if your idea is for a new product, figure out how to build a cost-conscious prototype and share it with friends for input. Test runs are another way to get feedback to see if you’re on the right track.

When you’re at a crossroads, it’s the perfect time to dream about a new career idea. But give your dream a deadline. And then follow the steps above to make it real.

If you’re looking for personalized support to realize your career dream, LET’S TALK.

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