Whether you’re considering the possibility of retirement and starting a second career or maybe burned out in your current job and desperate to get out, you might be deterred by the potential problems involved in jumping into a new career. What if it fails miserably? For at least some people, there might be a way to test-drive that dream with minimum down-side risk.
The article that caught my attention today is “Test-Driving Your Dream Job” by David Ferrell. It’s an interesting read even if you’re not considering a career change.
A man named Brian Kurth came up with the idea of a company called VocationVacations because “he had a hard time finding a way to explore new fields and see what he liked while still working a day job” that he was seriously burned out with. His vocational mentors provide the Reader’s Digest condensed version of career exposure in fields that cover a diverse range, including archaeologist, makeup artist, and white-water rafting guide.
You don’t have to know anything about the career you’re dreaming about. You pay a fee for one to three days of up-close observation in the location where the mentor is based, plus the costs of your travel and accommodations. During that time, you’re exposed to critical elements of the career and have a chance to ground your fantasy in reality.
Not everyone will decide the dreamed-of new career is a right choice. You might be considering, as one person did, becoming a bed-and-breakfast owner. She knew it would be basically a 24×7 life and wasn’t discouraged, but if that field was your dream, you might find the demands of it more than you bargained for. Having to cater to the expectations of difficult guests could be just one of several drawbacks.
In most cases, too, you might not want to leap into the new career after the relatively brief observation, although it has been done (and successfully). As the article notes, “More typically, people take well over a year or two to prepare. The brief mentorships are just one aspect of the long learning process, and clients are just as successful if they can rule out a career change that would be unwise for them.”
Kurth published a book titled Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love. The reviews on Amazon are basically positive, with one partially negative review indicating that the person found the book overly simplistic and felt it romanticized small-business ownership. In any case, you might find the book worth reading, even if it only gives you some ideas about where to start your own new-career exploration.
Mind you, I think the concept of finding a way to try out a new career doesn’t have to be limited to people who want to own a business. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t come up with a plan that would allow you to check out a dream career possibility–a try-it-before-you-buy-it approach–and get a sense of whether it’s a good option for you to consider. Maybe you can find someone who does what you’re thinking about doing and persuade the individual to let you “shadow” him/her for a short time, have a heart-to-heart talk about what it takes to succeed in that field, and so on. Obviously, you couldn’t ask for a great deal of time, especially not for free, but if you’re resourceful, respectful and determined, you might achieve a workable approach that will help you avoid a “frying pan into the fire” career disaster.