by Liesl Jurock
A young woman comes into my office and sits down with a sigh: “I think I want to do something completely different. My dream since I was a kid is to be an agent for someone famous, and I want to figure out how to get there.”
I hear the passion in her voice, and my first thought is, “I know nothing about the entertainment industry. How can I help her?” But then I realize that the rules are the same when you’re at the bottom of the barrel in any field.
Whether you’re planning a slight shift, say from sales to marketing in the same industry, or want to break into something new, like agency work, there are some key places to start.
1. Research, research, research!
Obviously, find out everything you can about the field. But go beyond Google and look for industry publications, professional associations, and even academic papers.
Some key questions to answer:
What are the jobs that interest you in the field?
Who are the successful people in these roles?
What skills, prior experience, and education do these positions require?
What is the future predicted for this field?
Who are the big organizations hiring in this field?
2. Find someone in the field to talk to
Some of your research questions can best be answered by people working in the field. Put the word out to everyone you know that you are looking to connect with someone in this industry. Go to events where you might run into these people. Or resort to the old favourite: Cold-calling. Politely request 15 minutes for an information interview. Most professionals are happy to help out people starting out. Take them for coffee and ask them a few prepared questions, including, most importantly, what their journey was to their current career. Try and get other contacts to talk to, and meet with as many people as you can. Not only will you get answers to your questions, but you’ll start building your network. Make sure to show your gratitude with a thank you e-mail or quick note.
3. Figure out the links
Once you’ve figured out the skills, experience, and education needed for the role you desire, figure out where you match and where your gaps are. For skills, take stock of the skills involved in your current job, as well as all the jobs and volunteering you’ve done before. For experience, see if you can volunteer or intern somewhere to gain some additional time. For education, research the options and costs, and do what you can within your budget.
The path to a new career may not be quick or simple, but in this day and age, it is certainly possible.