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Choosing a Career is Like Buying Shoes

by Beth on November 20th, 2012

In her book Working Identity, Herminia Ibarra argues that the best way to choose a career is to try out different things. She believes that doing and experimenting are more useful than self-assessment exercises for determining whether or not you’ll be happy in a particular career.

The two internships I had in college provided invaluable information when trying to decide what career I wanted. I spent the first semester of my senior year working for a large bank in downtown Memphis and the second semester working in a small travel agency. I learned pretty quickly that I did not want a corporate career. While many of my peers couldn’t wait to graduate and join a large company, I realized I didn’t want to wear suits and spend long days inside an office building. I preferred the flexibility and informality of a small business, but I also figured out I wasn’t going to satisfy my love of travel by planning trips for other people. Both experiences helped me choose a career in academia. I was very happy with the autonomy it offered and the opportunity to work with others who shared my love of learning.

The good news is that internships aren’t just for college students anymore. People who want to reinvent their career or return to one after taking time off can try out new “working identities” at Vocation Vacations. You can test-drive your dream job by spending your vacation working with someone who has a career you think you might be interested in. Here are some great stories of people who have switched careers after trying out something new and discovering they loved it.

Another option is a “returnship”.  A recent Harvard Business Review article highlights the growing number of companies that are offering short-term paid positions designed for professionals who have been out of the workforce for several years. Returnships help companies decide whether they want to hire people interested in returning to work, while also providing an opportunity for professionals looking to reinvent themselves to try out a potential career move.

If you’re considering a new career, experience can really help you to make the right decision.  So at the very least find someone working in that career and see if you can shadow them for a few days. It will give you a good idea of what tasks you’ll be doing and the kind of environment you’ll be working in. Choosing the right career is a lot like buying shoes. The best way to know whether or not it fits is to try it out.

From → Work, Working women

One Comment
  1. Beth, this is a great article!!! Thanks so much for posting about this! I have shared this with a lot of women students and they love it so much! Your great!

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