Every month we receive a variety of questions from people asking us how to get started in their dream career. Here are a few examples:
"I am currently working in radio as a sales assistant. I thought I always wanted to be in sales, but I have only been here four months and am already ready for a change. I am a fast-paced person who likes challenges. I don't like sitting at a desk. I am interested in starting my own business and don't know where to start. Can you help me?" - JD
"I'm very interested in becoming a personal assistant for someone important. I need advice on how to get started. I know it won't be the easiest job in the world, but I'm up for the challenge. Any advice you could give me on how to get started would be great." - Annette
"One evening, I was watching television where they were interviewing people who had dream jobs. One woman's position entailed visiting resorts and hotels in order to rate them for the companies themselves as well as travel agencies. Would you have any idea where I could go to attempt to locate such a position?" - Stephen
"I absolutely love decorating my home and all my friends tell me that I have a real eye and talent for it. I don't have any formal education or experience but would love to break into this field. Could you give me some ideas how to get my foot in the door in a decorating job so that I can start getting paid for doing what I love?" - Maria
We don't normally respond to "How do I get started in ..." questions because we don't think we can provide a complete answer in only a few sentences. However, we can provide the following basic four-step overview of the process for getting started in a new career:
1. Learn about the career
Before you start looking for a job, learn as much as you can about the career, including the nature of the work, the skills needed and employment opportunities. Some ways to learn about a new career include: informational interviews with people working in the industry, attending meetings of professional associations, taking courses, finding information online and reading books about the career.
2. Develop the skills you need
Some skills, such as being well-organized and a good communicator, are helpful in many careers. Other skills are specific to the career. For example, an interior decorator needs a good eye for design while a business consultant needs to be able to identify and recommend solutions to business problems. You can develop skills through formal education. Perhaps the best way to develop your skills is by getting hands-on experience. (See step three.)
3. Get hands-on experience
Don't worry about the classic job-hunter's dilemma: To get a job you need experience, but to get experience you need a job. There are ways to get experience before you get the job. In fact, having experience will help you move into the position you want much more quickly at a higher pay rate.
Ways to get experience before you start applying for your dream job include: volunteering your services (to a department in your company, family and friends or a nonprofit organization); securing an internship; working a part-time, entry-level position; or starting your own part-time business.
4. Get hired for the job you want
If you want paid employment, this will involve preparing job-hunting materials (e.g. résumé, cover letter and portfolio), finding job openings and applying for jobs, going on interviews and negotiating salary when you're offered a job.
If you want your own business, you'll need to handle a number of details like choosing a business name, deciding whether to incorporate, obtaining inventory, finding a location, setting your prices, marketing your business and working with customers.
As you can see, there are many steps to getting started in a new career. The good news is that there are also many excellent resources available to help you get started.
Tag and Catherine Goulet are founders of FabJob.com, a publisher of career guides offering step-by-step advice for breaking into a variety of dream careers. Visit http://www.fabjob.com/ to find the guide to your dream career.