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Try before you buy: how to test your new career options.

How to test your new career options - photo of a sign by the side of a road saying 'follow that dream' with a backdrop of palm tress..

Before Christmas I lost a battle with an unripe avocado which would not yield its stone. 

For my stubbornness I was rewarded with a large slice in my finger; it bled lots, I cried lots (which turned out to be very cathartic, almost worth the injury) and my mum made me a mitten so my hand didn’t freeze as I couldn’t get my usual glove on.

My mum made the mitten within 2 hours, the morning after the finger incident. 

She likes the challenge of working out how to make something, creating a pattern and then producing the design. Throughout this process she teaches herself through trial and error and YouTube videos. She’s discovered she likes the challenge of figuring it out herself rather than being taught a method and then following it.

To get to this understanding, my mum has undertaken a number of shift projects

A shift project: a quick, easy and inexpensive activity that allows you to follow your curiosity and explore something that interests and excites you.  A low-risk way to try something that is a little daunting and brings you into contact with new people, new places and/or new experiences.

As you’ve probably gathered, my mum’s interest is sewing.  Having sewed when she was younger, she already has a sewing machine and paraphernalia.

Here are examples of the types of shift projects she has undertaken:

#1 Copied a simple skirt using a technique learnt from YouTube.

#2 Copied a sweatshirt using a new technique which worked better.

#3 Designed and made a dress using a combination of techniques, including new ones learnt from YouTube. 

And so it goes on.

If my mum had never tried sewing before, her curiosity may have led her to take a 2 hour class for beginners. 

The idea is that you are pulling into reality what is interesting you and giving it a try to see how it resonates. You then move to the next shift project to test further, allowing you to slowly work out whether this interest is worth pursuing.

A guide to setting up your own shift project:

Identify where your curiosity is currently taking you – it may be you have some new areas piquing your interest or maybe an interest from years ago keeps whispering for your attention.

Choose an activity – find a class, a workshop, an experience and get booked on it.  Remember, it should be short, easy to access and inexpensive.  Have fun with it! 

If you are in the information gathering stage, maybe purchasing a book, reading a blog or setting up a chat with someone in the know would be more appropriate here – you could ask them how you might experience what you’re interested in and use that as your next shift project.

Reflect on the experience.

How did the activity live up to expectations? 

Which parts did you find yourself enjoying? 

Which parts didn’t resonate? 

What did you observe about yourself?

Shift and repeat.

If the activity left you still feeling excited in the area of interest you’ve chosen to explore, set up another shift project. 

You may find you have some requirements for your next shift project now you have a little information to start working from that’s based in reality, 

For example, it needs to be in-person and not online or you want to try the activity out for longer to see how that feels or the level may have been too difficult for you so you want to find a class that is more aligned to the stage you’re at. 

Keep adapting your requirements as you learn more from each shift project.

This is how your dreams slowly turn into reality.

If you keep creating shift projects, before long you will have invested in something that previously you were only dreaming of, and in a way that’s easy and inexpensive but exciting!

It’s the same approach I use with clients when they are ready to explore the contenders for their new career. 

However you use this exercise, I would love to hear from you, especially if you’re looking to bring more of what you enjoy into your life through your career!

Photo by Alex Azabache on Unsplash.