As a child you most likely played a game called “You’re Getting Warmer”. The objective of the game was to have a blindfolded person locate a hidden object or by directing them through clues. As the person got closer to the object the other player(s) would say “You’re Getting Warmer”. If the person moved further away the response was “You’re Getting Colder”.

That game is a useful analogy in thinking about how to find the path to the right career. Most of the clients who come to me for career counseling or coaching are disheartened because they don’t have a clear or passionate idea as to what their next career should be. In fact, very few people are lucky enough to know that. Most of us need to undertake a process of exploration in order to narrow options and help determine the right direction to pursue for a new career. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT CAN BE “FIGURED OUT”! Nor is it something that career testing will reveal. What is necessary is to undertake a series of small experiments, each of which will tell you whether you’re “getting warmer” or colder.* Small experiments are relatively easily undertaken and involve little or no risk.

What kind of experiments am I talking about? Here are some examples:

  • Enroll in a class. If you have an interest in, for example, opening a restaurant, or becoming a jewelry designer, a nurse, or a landscape architect, take or audit a class. You’re guaranteed to learn more about the field of interest, and that learning will either lead to a desire for more, or you will realize that it’s not for you.
  • Join a group. lists 2,339 groups meeting within 25 miles of Washington D.C. The groups are made up of individuals with an interest in topics ranging from advertising to entrepreneurship to interior design to yoga. This is an ideal way to find out more about an area of interest, as you’ll be able to talk with numerous people who are in the field.
  • Research. The Internet is your road to a wealth of information about every conceivable career. It can also point you to books and articles that will help you decide whether “you’re getting warmer” or not.
  • Volunteer / Internship. Although not applicable to every area of potential interest, you can learn about many careers in this way. Don’t overlook industry associations.
  • Talk to people already in the field. Even in today’s highly challenging employment environment you maybe surprised at how many people are willing to take the time to talk about their careers. Be prepared going into these conversations with a list of specific questions (e.g. “How did you become interested in….”;”What’s the most challenging aspect of being a…..”; “If you had all the time in the world what would you do to better prepare yourself to be a…..” LinkedIn is an ideal tool to locate these individuals. Don’t overlook people who spent time in the career but have subsequently left it.
  • Attend an industry event (a trade show, lecture, workshop, or conference) and be sure to engage a number of people there in dialogue about what they do (see above).
  • Call or stop by the industry association. Chances are that here in Washington D.C. you’ll find an association that covers just about any field imaginable. Tell them you are interested in joining their profession or trade, and ask what material they have with which you could familiarize yourself with their field or, even better, if there is someone you could speak with for a few minutes (again, see above).

Whatever information you can gather will be of value either in deepening your knowledge or interest or passion or, alternatively, in helping you decide that what you thought might be right for you in fact isn’t. Warmer or colder, you only stand to benefit from the small steps outlined above.

*Keep in mind that, just like in the child’s game, “You’re getting colder” is almost as valuable a lue as “You’re getting warmer.”