Monday, March 31, 2008

Talking to People to Learn About Possible Job/Career Paths

The day I first learned that Los Angeles had railroad police, I was talking at a party to a man I didn’t know, and he told me that’s what he did. I had never heard of railroad police, so of course I asked him to describe in more detail what railroad police did.

That day I learned about a possible interesting career – not necessarily for me, but just a piece of information to be filed away for a future time.

And when you’re considering possible career fields for yourself, an interest in asking people about themselves and what they do can be very valuable.

I also remember the day a professor at a California college disparaged someone working in banking. This Ph.D. thought if you were in banking that meant you were a teller. She had no idea about the number of varied career paths all under the umbrella heading of “working in banking.”

We should all be careful with pre-conceived judgments about career fields for which we only know the popular image – especially if that image comes from television, movies or the internet.

While there are books about various careers – such as jobs in the medical field, in my opinion the best way to learn about a possible career path is talking to someone who actually does that job.

First, the person may bring up areas about a career that you would never even think to consider. Second, you can ask questions if something specific in the discussion sparks your attention. And, third, down the road you may be able to ask that person to write a recommendation letter for you based on your early interest in that job/career field. Or maybe that person will offer to help you find a “test drive” internship in that field.

Whenever you meet new people, or talk to people you don’t know well, ask them about themselves. And then ask about what they do. You might even ask about hobbies, because sometimes one person’s hobby is another person’s living.

The more you learn the more you’ll know, and one of the possible job/career avenues you learn about may just be the one for you.

Do you have any “unknown” career fields you learned about only because you happened to talk to someone who did that job?

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