Last week, I presented a sort of year-in-review, looking at the various careers on my list that I’ve explored, with updated thoughts on each of those careers.
Today, I want to do a deep dive into the ways I’ve explored these various professional paths.
As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the first approaches I took was online courses through freeCodeCamp.com, as part of my consideration of web development as a career. As the name of the website implies, the lessons are completely free and you just go through them at your own pace.
I really enjoyed going through the lessons. What helped was that the courses were highly interactive, teaching you a concept and then having you practice writing some code yourself. Where I got hung up was the end-of-unit sample projects, which I found tedious and uninteresting to work on. And since these were self-led lessons, there was nothing and no one to push me to complete the projects.
Self-led lessons — particularly free ones — can be a good way for me to get an initial taste of a new career, but it’s best for me to then transition to something more structured so that I’m pushed to continue my exploration, even when I hit patches where my motivation or interest wanes a bit.
In contrast to the previous method, at the beginning of this year, I enrolled in interior design classes at Cañada College. So far, I’ve completed three courses and am currently taking two classes.
These classes have been a great way to get a breadth of knowledge of interior design, as well as some practical experience through the various projects we have to complete. There are some weeks when I’m uninterested in the lecture. And I will occasionally get some assignments that I find myself less motivated to get through than others. But because these are formal classes that I’ve signed up, paid for and are graded on, I still push myself to get the work done.
It has also been a great environment to hear from actual professionals in the field, whether that be my professors themselves or guest speakers.
Teacher-led courses are a little more helpful for me when it comes to really digging into a new career path. I seem to benefit from the structure of a set syllabus and deadlines.
However, these courses only get me so far with understanding what a real day-to-day looks like in the career.
Interviewing people in the field
I will admit that this is a method I thought I would be doing a lot of, but I’ve really dropped the ball here. I interviewed Ryan to hear about his experience making a major career shift. And I interviewed Tasi to learn more about what it’s like to be a content creator.
Interviews really just give me one perspective and, from that standpoint, can be pretty limiting with regards to getting a good sense of a certain career path. However, I have found these interview sessions inspiring, so they serve as a good way to kick-start an exploration or reinvigorate something I had waned on. For example, after my conversation with Tasi, I went back and finally completed a video from start to finish.
Learn by doing…for fun
This method is the approach I’ve taken for my exploration of video production and content creation. From working on short films to producing the podcast and even writing this blog, it’s all been work that I do in my own time and sort of as a hobby. Even my acting— while requiring just as much work, diligence and dedication as a paid, full-time job — is still something that I do more for fun.
I would say that this method helps me gain the skills in doing the type of work (whether it be writing or producing or acting) but it gives me no insight at all into the actual business of these careers — i.e. how to actually make a living off of the activities.
And by approaching these new pursuits as simply a hobby, it’s easy to limit myself to activities or parts of the work that come naturally to me or things that I know I’ll enjoy rather than pushing myself to learn the parts that are harder but necessary if I want to actually have a career in this field.
Much like the self-led lessons, I think this method of ‘learning by doing as a hobby’ is a good way to get a taste of a new career. However, once I’ve identified that a certain path might be something I’d like to pursue professionally, I need to supplement with some more structured training or exploration.
For example, podcasting is something that I could see myself potentially doing professionally. But just working on the current podcast is not enough. I need to take the time to understand what types of roles are available in the professional podcasting space and what skills I may be lacking. These are skills that may not come easy to me, so I’ll need a structured way to develop them.
Internships and Jobs
This summer, I did an internship with a home staging company. I learned a lot about what goes into a staging project and got tons of hands-on experience with the work. I was lucky to have a mentor during that internship that took the time to explain the business to me.
And a few months ago, I started a part-time job as a design assistant for a local interior designer. This job has already been an invaluable experience not only with gaining more knowledge and skills in design work but also better understanding the business side of the interior design field.
For any career path that I am seriously considering, an internship or a paid job is vital to understanding what the day-to-day looks like and really gauging if this is something I would enjoy doing full-time.
As I move forward with my sabbatical, I want to continue a variety of methods of exploring new career paths. But I want to be more aware of how these different strategies best serve the distinct stages of exploration.
Interviews will be good in the beginning, when I need to be inspired. Self-led lessons/research and trying things out casually will be good ways to get an initial taste of a career. If my interest is piqued, I can then move into more structured learning and even an internship or part-time work in order to really immerse myself in the career and see if I enjoy doing it on a daily basis.