By Shirin Khamisa, Founder & Practice Leader of Careers by Design
May 12, 2023. 6 min read
Career exploration is an important process for assessing your current and future abilities in comparison to potential career opportunities. It allows you to better understand yourself as a professional, providing clarity on the options available and where you may want to take your next steps. Through this career development process, it’s possible to identify areas of growth and development to build confidence when approaching hiring managers and building connections with others in the industry.
There are several ways to explore your career options which we will delve into below.
Researching job openings, attending webinars or events, talking to industry experts, building a portfolio of work samples, completing related courses or certifications, and volunteering are all great approaches that can help hone skills and add value while exploring different career paths.
Additionally, assessing personal interests through personality tests or aptitude tests can give valuable insight into the type of jobs that may match well with your abilities. Ultimately though it takes self-reflection and critical thinking about what most excites you professionally in order to make an informed decision about the right career path for you.
Idea 1: This is about you – it helps to know yourself!
One of the first steps towards career exploration is to take a good look at yourself. It’s important to understand your values and skills because they can help guide you towards a fulfilling career. Start by reflecting on your motivations for working. Is it to make a difference in the world? To provide for your family? To pursue your passion or creativity? Whatever it may be, understanding your motivations can help shape your career goals.
It’s also important to consider the responsibilities you might enjoy having. Do you prefer a role that involves working independently or collaboratively? Do you like interacting with the public, or would you prefer a more behind-the-scenes role? Thinking about these factors can help you narrow down your possible career paths and identify the best-fit options for you.
By taking the time to reflect on your values, skills, motivations, and interests, you can create a strong foundation for your career exploration process. Knowing more about yourself and what you want from a career can help you make informed decisions and set achievable goals.
Idea 2: Research Career Options
Are you feeling lost or unsure about which career path to pursue? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with finding the right career match, but with proper research and guidance, you can discover viable options that fit your interests, skills, and priorities.
Feeling uncertain about your career path is a common experience for many people. It can be overwhelming and stressful to try and figure out what you want to do with your life. However, there are ways to approach this challenge. By taking the time to research different career options and identifying your own interests and strengths, you can gain clarity and direction in your search. Seeking guidance from a career guidance coach, mentors, or trusted sources can also provide valuable insights and support. Remember, it’s okay to not have all the answers right away and to take your time in exploring different possibilities. Here’s a brief list to get you started:
– Online job search websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn
– Professional networking websites like LinkedIn and industry-specific forums
– Company websites and career pages
– Career fairs and job expos
– Local newspapers and classified ads
– Professional associations and industry groups
– Government job boards and employment agencies
– Alumni networks and college career centers
– Personal contacts and referrals from friends and family in relevant fields
Idea 3: Conduct Informational Interviews
Learn about career options by talking to professionals through informational interviews. Get insights into work-life balance and daily tasks. This section explores the importance of these interviews and ways to connect with professionals.
Conducting informational interviews is an effective way to gain insights into the day-to-day realities of a profession and receive guidance from professionals with experience in that field. These interviews can provide useful information that may not be found in traditional job-search resources, such as job descriptions. Speaking with someone who has years of experience and who is familiar with the industry can offer valuable learnings. For instance, talking to someone about the challenges and opportunities within their current job can be a great way to match personal and professional values with a career.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn offer an array of opportunities to connect with professionals. By leveraging LinkedIn, individuals can browse through industry-specific groups and attempt to connect with professionals of interest. Additionally, LinkedIn allows individuals to search for people based on their current or previous job titles and industry, making it easier to find potential interviewees.
Furthermore, there are various ways to connect with people one wants to interview. Joining student clubs, volunteering for an organization, participating in conferences or networking events, are all great ways to build connections within the industry. These avenues not only provide opportunities to meet new professionals but also to learn about current trends or challenges in specific fields of interest.
Once you’ve secured an informational interview with a professional, it is essential to prepare and research insightful questions. Before the interview, it’s recommended to review the interviewee’s social media profiles, articles, or speaking engagements. Researching the person and their background can serve as a starting point to develop relevant and intelligent questions. It also shows an interest in the interviewee and their work. Some valuable questions to ask might include queries around career paths, industry trends and changes over time.
After the informational interview, taking time for reflection and debriefing can help gain insights and further explore potential career paths. Evaluate the key points discussed in the interview and analyze how they align with your interests, skills, and priorities. Reflecting on the interview can provide a clearer outlook and help generate a list of other professionals worth contacting.
In conclusion, conducting informational interviews can be a valuable tool in exploring career options. LinkedIn can be a great resource to find potential interviewees, and participating in networking events can help build connections within specific industries. Preparing intelligent questions and following up with reflection and debriefing can help gain insights and guide individuals towards potential career paths.
Idea 4: Volunteering
Volunteering offers a unique opportunity to observe work being done from close quarters, even if the volunteer positions might not be ideal or directly related to one’s ideal career path. This type of experience can provide an understanding of how the organization operates and highlights the skills one can develop while working in that sector. Volunteering can also help build a professional network within the industry.
Volunteering opportunities can be found online through websites such as Idealist, VolunteerMatch, and LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace. Additionally, local inquiries with non-profit organizations, schools, or hospitals can provide leads in finding suitable volunteering positions.
Idea 5: Networking Events and Career Fairs
Networking events and career fairs offer a great opportunity for individuals to expand their career options. These events provide a platform for job seekers to connect with recruiters and professionals in their respective fields, learn about new job opportunities and industry trends, and build professional networks that can help them advance in their careers.
Keeping track of upcoming virtual and physical networking events and career fairs is now easier than ever thanks to popular job portals and sites like Meetup. Many of these events, including career fairs and webinars, are now being held virtually, making it possible for job seekers to connect with professionals from all over the world without having to leave the comfort of their homes.
Attending virtual job fairs and webinars can also be a great way to connect with professionals in the corresponding fields. These events often include opportunities to participate in live chats and engage in conversations with recruiters and industry experts, allowing job seekers to learn about the latest industry developments and trends from those directly involved.
To get closer to professionals, it can be a good idea to consider reaching out to experts in the related field for shadowing or volunteering opportunities. Shadowing or volunteering can provide a valuable insight into a typical workday in a given career path, while also providing potential referrals for upcoming internships or job opportunities to open up new horizons.
Overall, attending networking events and career fairs can be a highly effective way to expand on career options. By keeping an eye on upcoming virtual and physical events and connecting with professionals in the industry, job seekers can discover new opportunities, build valuable connections, and stay up-to-date on the latest industry developments.
About the author
Hi there, I am Shirin Khamisa, the founder and Practice Leader of Careers by Design, a company based in Toronto that provides career counselling, coaching, and training services to individuals and organizations.
With over 20 years of experience in career development, I am a recognized expert in my field, and I have helped thousands of people navigate career transitions, find meaningful work, and achieve their professional goals.