How to start a new career on the right foot

Sometimes you need to interview yourself to find the best fit

Career change

A student waits for an interview during work readiness training at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, California on Saturday, April 14, 2012. Before you change your career (or even begin your career search) be sure you've researched your field, interviewed people in the know -- and assessed your own needs. (REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

Are you looking to change your career path but are feeling stuck? Maybe you are just out of college and not sure where to start? According to career coach and workshop facilitator Dee Kane, the first step to planning your future is doing an in-depth interview — and not with a potential employer, but with yourself.

"When you do a self-evaluation you can really hone in on the jackpot job," said Kane, whose client base ranges from high school seniors to adults looking to shift gears. "You need to know yourself. Do people excite and ignite you or do they drain you? Do you like working with numbers or being creative? Do you want to work with people, information or things?"

If interviewing yourself sounds challenging, Kane said to ask friends and family to do it for you.

"They can help reflect back to you what you do well and where you excel," she said. "They can also help you look at things you've done in the past. The biggest piece of information is what you don't do well and what you dislike. This will tell you a lot."

Once you've finished your self-interview, Kane suggests making a checklist.

"Take a look at what tasks would really motivate you to go to work the next day — whether it's understanding complex physical systems or creating and designing," she said "Do you want to be in a place that's fast-paced or slow-paced? Casual or business? Look at the physical environment and find an environment that you fit in."

Kane said it's also important to do research—to help you get a better understanding of the job, as well as the starting salary.

"A lot of jobs might sound glamorous or you may think they pay really well, but once you look into it this might not be the case," she said. "I tell my clients to look at http://www.careers.stateuniversity.com. This site gives a ton of data on all aspects of a job."

The final step before applying for jobs, Kane said, is doing an informational interview with someone working in the field that interests you.

"The key is you never do this with someone who is going to hire you, but with someone who is doing the job you want to learn more about," she said. "You're just there to get a picture of what your day would look like and whether you would like sitting in their shoes."

Here are the five questions Kane recommends asking during the informational interview:

•How did you get started?

•What do you like most about your work?

•What are the challenges you have with your job?

•What advice would you give someone like me who is interested in this field?

•Do you know anyone else I could talk to in this field, and may I use your name when I make the contact?

Kane said learning the details from someone who is working in a desired field will help narrow the options.

"Doing an informational interview can either really excite you—or terrify you," she said. "Then you'll know if it's worth pursuing, or time to move to another potential job on your list."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

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