Sample Your Way to Your Dream Career

Thinking back to my 5th grade science class, I remember Mr. Winkler teaching my classmates and me about sampling.  The question on the unit test was, “It’s Thursday and you just realized you forgot to do your homework which is due tomorrow!  The assignment is to find out, by grade, which season is the students’ favorite.  What do you do?”  The right answer:  “There is not enough time to survey all students in the school.  As there are three classrooms in each grade, visit one room in each grade level and survey them as a sample set of what the entire grade’s preference is.”  The notion left an impression on me – in fact, I’m still moved by it nearly 40 years later!

This notion of sampling came to mind recently when I had the chance to sit down with entrepreneur and author, Jennifer Turliuk, about her book, How to Figure Out What to Do with Your Life (Next), which offers an easy to follow, step-by-step framework for maximizing career satisfaction and long-range fulfillment.  Like my story from 1982, Jennifer described to me a conversation she had several years ago with Stanford professor, John Krumboltz, an international career expert, who suggested that Jennifer sample different career experiences to discover which one(s) she was really interested in pursuing.

This notion of sampling, or “prototyping” as Jennifer calls it, allows one to engage in the lowest-commitment manner to test a variety of options.  Like the concept popularized by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup, “minimum viable product” or “MVP,” Jennifer suggests a “minimum viable commitment” in a try-before-you-buy sort of way that helps the job seeker to determine if the opportunity is worth pursuing.  For Jennifer, this was critical.  She engaged in a series of one-to-five-day job shadowing experiences with a number of companies whereby she shadowed various associates in each firm to get a sense for a day-in-the-life of that individual.  In an article she wrote on the topic she said, “I’m so happy that I took the time to prototype my different career options – and am grateful for the fact that it was nearly free to do so.

Jennifer describes her mission as helping people to be more than they currently are.  Her advice for those interested in giving prototyping a try:

  • Reach Out and Engage in Informational Interviews.  Most people are surprisingly approachable and willing to talk about their career journeys.  Take some time to learn about them, their companies, and their industries.  If you can’t spend a lot of time job shadowing, spend a few hours over a set period of time interviewing several people about their career experiences.
  • Job Shadow.  If you can swing it, ask people who you admire in jobs and/or companies that seem interesting to you if you can spend an hour, an afternoon, a day, or a week with them simply learning about what they do for a living.  Don’t just observe; roll up your sleeves!  Offer to help out where/when you can.

Chances are that by connecting with a few people and following this actionable roadmap for figuring out what you love, you will land in a career that brings boundless satisfaction and fulfillment.

Happy Networking!

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