Episode #29 - How to Run a Career Pilot Study
Hey Rebels. I'm not feeling 100% today, so forgive my voice; I really wanted to talk about how to run career pilot studies. This is an important and valuable approach to finding what you want if you're ready for a career change, transition, or reinvention. But it's a process some people haven't heard about, and others scoff at or resist. Mainly because it takes time, and when people want out of where they are, they don't want to take the time to figure out where to go next. We live in a society of instant gratification, so slowing down to get what you want isn't always attractive.
But when it comes to our careers, we have to remember that we didn't get here overnight.
Now, I call it a "career pilot study" because before you can conduct your dissertation research in doctoral graduate programs, you have to run what's called a pilot study. A pilot study is your opportunity to test your hypothesis, theory, and research methods, basically the whole premise of your research. It's your opportunity to gather the data you need to determine if you're on the right track and what, if anything needs to change before you jump into your dissertation research, which in some cases can take a year or two to conduct.
That's what a "career pilot study" is all about. The opportunity for you to gather data to help you determine if you're on the right track with your career change or reinvention or if you need to chart a new course. Career pilots are part of the Activate phase of the Triple-A Framework in the Career Rebel Academy. So it's not something you jump into immediately. It only comes after you've been able to clarify your calling.
Now, if you're listening to this, you're probably considering making a career shift, you're unhappy in your current career, or maybe you're just not where you want to be and trying to figure that out. And if you're in that position, you'll want to do more work to discover your career path and direction before you start conducting a pilot study.
However, if you've done that work and you're listening in because you have an idea of what you want to do or there's something that lights you up that you're curious about and wondering if you can make a living doing it, then you'll find this super helpful. Whether working in a different industry or launching a new business, you'll want to conduct a career pilot study.
Skipping this step is how most people end up in careers and jobs they regret and desperately want to get out of, and it's not surprising because it's not like they teach us about this in college or at any other time in our career. So many of us chose our careers without much thought or research.
I know a lot of women who are doctors, engineers, and lawyers because it's what their parents did, and because it was familiar and they liked the lifestyle provided by their parents, they chose the same profession. I also know people who chose their profession because they watched LA Law or St. Elsewhere, or ER or knew others who were affiliated with their chosen career. Others I know were guided into their professions because someone told them they'd be great at debating, so they should be a lawyer, or were exceptional at science, so they should go into medicine, or great with people, so they should be a teacher or social worker.
Similarly, I know people who love baking, decorating, or shopping, for example, and then decide they want to start a business as a baker, interior designer, or stylist. While I believe it's important to work at the intersection of what you're good at and what you love, running a business involves so much more than just baking, decorating, or shopping. And what you may love to do recreationally doesn't mean you'll love doing it as a business. Right?
The problem with making career choices this way is that you don't really know what's involved or what it takes to do that work, or what it's like from day to day. And having an idea of what it's like is not enough. There will always be aspects you enjoy and some you don't; that's with any job or career, but you want to be super clear on what you're getting into and how it's aligned to your genius, skills, values, and vision.
I worked in a small law firm (there were four attorneys in the practice) as an assistant while going through college, and that experience was a big part of my wanting to become a lawyer. They were bankruptcy attorneys, and I had no interest in that field, but what I observed were people who had a great deal of independence and freedom in their jobs and were helping people, two things I know I wanted in whatever I decided to do. But I didn't go further to discover many of the differences in law, like the difference between transactional law and litigation, and I wasn't really clear on my genius, skills, values, and vision.
So then, when things don't work, we try to push through, believing something wrong with us and it will work out with more time or that we've made a terrible decision and can't trust ourselves to make good decisions about our careers. But the reality is we just didn't know enough about our career choice, and possibly ourselves, to know if that was the thing we really wanted to do.
And now that you're ready to embark on a new career adventure, you don't want to have some idealized version of your new career option and hop into something new, hoping for the best. You don't want to make a career choice like you've done in the past.
This time run a career pilot study and test out your options.
When I knew I was ready to stop practicing law, I thought I wanted to be a mediator. I did a lot of mediations for small claims court when I was practicing law in Chicago and felt like it aligned more with my personality and values. So when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, working as labor counsel for a union, I explored becoming a family/divorce mediator. I took a certification course in Seattle, and by the end, I could have hung out my shingle. But before I decided to leave my job to do this work, I decided to test it out first.
I contacted one of the top family mediators in the area and asked if I could shadow her or intern with her to gain a deeper understanding of what life would be like as a family mediator. I did this while working a full-time job. I went to her office before or after work, and sometimes I could spend an entire day with her. After a couple of months, she gave me one of her cases to mediate, and once I was done with that case, I was done with that as a career option. In the end, I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with her because it helped me learn more about myself and what I did and did not want to do with my career.
The next pilot study I ran was with an organizational development consultant who was doing some culture change work in a small organization. I volunteered to work with her and got a chance to see her work and behind the scene. Two months into that experience, I was hooked and knew what I wanted to do next.
Now there are three steps to running a career pilot study: implement, evaluate, and recalibrate.
Implementation requires two things research and action. Research can include informational interviews, conversations with family and friends, or internet research. But you want to be careful about this part of the implementation step because many women can get lost here.
Research is safe and easy. It's easy to read all the books, talk to people, and scroll the internet hoping it will get you everything you need to know, but it's not. Clarity comes from action. Reading or talking to someone about what you want will only give you some insight into what it's like for them; you need to figure out what it will be like for you. So once you've done your research, you want to take action.
Taking action can be done through volunteering, shadowing, or doing an adult internship. I talked about adult internships on one of my career segments with AM Northwest, which I'll link in the show notes, but they've become very popular over the years and are a great way to get a feel of what's it's like to do what you're interested in.
You can also work for free, part-time, on a project, get a tour, or just sit in the area for a day. You want to do whatever will get you first-hand experience of what it will be like.
After implementation, you'll want to evaluate the experience. What worked? What didn't work? What did you love? What did you hate? Can you see yourself doing this long-term? The evaluation phase is critical to determining if you're on the right track.
If, after your evaluation, you realize it's not what you want to do, you then recalibrate, which means you pivot to exploring a new area of interest and start the process again.
Now, if you're thinking, I don't have time to do this, or it's going to take too long, I want to encourage you to take the time you need to ensure you're moving in the right direction. Spending a few weeks or a few months doing due diligence is so much better than spending years in the wrong career or years jumping from job to job because you don't know which opportunities to yes or no to. I mean, you wouldn't jump into a marriage after the first date. Right?
Figuring out the career you want requires a willingness to get in there, work hard and try things out, whether you think you know what you want or are trying to figure it out. And you have to allow yourself the time and space to explore all of it. I know we live in a fast-food society, and we want things quick and in a hurry, but when it comes to your career, you don't want to go for the short-term fix instead of the long-term solution.
That's what we'll work on together in the Career Rebel Academy. That's why we have six months together. That's why there's a framework to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Because for each person in each industry, it's going to be a little different, and we'll work together through this process and create the right career pilot for you. We'll talk about how to reach out to people, implement your pilot, evaluate your experience, and recalibrate to find the right direction. So if you're interested in getting that kind of support, let's go!
In the interim, start thinking about your interests and who you can start talking to. How you can learn more and the ways you can gain first-hand knowledge for greater clarity and confidence.
Running a career pilot alleviates the stress of believing you have to quit your job to discover what you want or the fear of leaving something you're not sure will be better or worse than where you are right now.
And if you're wondering how can I run a pilot for a position I'm interviewing for right now, there are many things you can do to get a good feel for whether or not it's the right position for you. It's one of the things I break down for my clients in the Activate phase of the Triple-A Framework. So have no doubt that this can work for you too.
The point of a career pilot study is to give you the information you need to make the best career choice for yourself. To learn what energizes you, what's aligned with your values, where your genius and gifts shine, and what brings joy to your work and life. It also helps you to learn more about different fields and industries that you otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to discover or explore. You'll also see your current work and career with new eyes, and in some cases, I've had clients reconnect with their work and career and realize they didn't need something new, just a slight tweak or new direction.
And like I said, if you want help running a career pilot, join me in the Career Rebel Academy. You'll have the guidance and the support you need to figure it all out. I'd love to help you get out there and implement, evaluate and recalibrate your way to the fulfilling and meaningful work you're meant to do in the world.
Okay, that's what I have for you today, Rebels.
If you want to learn more about the Career Rebel Academy and the Triple-A Framework, check out my free video training series, The 10-Minute Career Jumpstart. You'll be able to diagnose where you are and what it will take for you to get to the career and life you want! Just click on the link in the show notes and get started.
Until next time, have an amazingly rebellious week.