Figuring out what you want to do for work can be difficult. There are so many different types of jobs to choose from, and your interests can change over time. If you’re thinking about your options and feel unsure about where to focus your efforts, there are three main methods you can use to learn more about any given career: reading, talking, and doing.
It’s generally a good idea to employ these methods in the order listed. Each method takes more time than the one preceding it, but they provide successively more information to help you with your career decisions and job search plans.
It’s a good idea to read both about the nature of jobs you’re interested in and about the organizations who typically employ people in those jobs.
- Search the internet for related job titles and click around for sample job descriptions, salary surveys, blogs, organizations, and news items.
- Idealist and Guidestar’s websites both have databases of organizations searchable by name, location, area of focus, and other criteria. Find a few you like, go to their websites, and Google them. Get to know their missions, campaigns, and activities to get a sense of that corner of the landscape.
- Hit your library and peruse a few books about the jobs and missions that interest you. Generation React: Activism for Beginners by Danny Seo, Encyclopedia of Homelessness by David Levinson, and The Volunteer Management Handbook: Leadership Strategies for Success by Tracy D. Connors are a few examples.
Find communities based on the types of jobs or missions you’re interested in and follow their interactions online, or attend their gatherings in person. For example, LinkedIn’s Social Entrepreneur Empowerment Network has over 7,000 members; Meetup has 209 groups devoted to fundraising; and Green Drinks International convenes monthly mixers for the environmentally-oriented in over 650 cities worldwide. Start clicking and get chatting!
The “talking” phase of finding career focus is also a great time to request informational interviews from people you know (or want to know) who work in the fields you’re interested in. Check out our how-to guide on getting the most from informational interviews.
Especially if you’re a learn-by-doing person, you may find you get the best information about the jobs and missions that interest you by volunteering or interning with a project or organization. Idealist lists thousands of volunteer and internship opportunities worldwide, searchable by scores of criteria.
Pursuing internships at nonprofits and volunteer opportunities can also strengthen your resume and give you a competitive edge in the job hunt. Read more about how to find the right opportunity for you and the career-boosting benefits—and responsibilities—of unpaid work in our article on GOOD.