5 Steps To Help Solidify Your Career Path

An education rooted in specialization, a career rooted in context.

If you’re like me, your journey through school and even the first few years out of college trained you to think narrowly and deeply about the type of work you’d like to pursue. Most schooling is rooted in specialization, which is fantastic. With that said, in the 21st century, your job is to figure out how knowledge you have gained will fit into the type of job you’d like to pursue. Companies are looking for smart, creative, passionate people to come work for them. Dream big about the type of job you’d like to pursue and then gain the specific context you need to be successful.

How to gain a better understanding of your industry.

Read and be curious about what is trending in the profession you’d like to pursue.  If you’re not already working, you will be in less than four years.  Your early 20’s are the optimal years to become an expert in your field, but they’re also a time to figure out how you would like to contribute to your chosen field.  Here are some suggested activities to get you started:

  1. Find at least one trade magazine relevant to your chosen career path and read it every month for a year.
  2. Find and collect a few magazines outside your chosen career path and get inspired by work that is being done in other fields.  You may be surprised by just how much in common the two areas have with each other.
  3. Find one local person in your chosen field, ask to shadow them, and take them out to coffee to see what their life is all about.  Try the 50 cups of coffee method to give you clarity.
  4. Set up a series of Google alerts (takes 5 min) for the topics you find most interesting.
  5. Pick one social media source (I like twitter) and follow all the big thinkers (people and organizations) in the field.  Read your feed for 10-15 min every day. Here’s my feed.

Take 15-20 minutes and work through the five activities above, I hope you find them helpful.  Just remember that you need to be able to put the great, specialized knowledge you have gained to work in the context of the field you would like to pursue.  If you can do that, I think you will find yourself well on your way to a successful career launch!

That’s all for today.  Thanks for reading and check back next week when I will discuss the value of learning a marketable skill.

I want to hear from you! What ideas do you have to offer to those of us trying to take the next steps in our career?

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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