How to test-drive a potential career

by Oct 8, 2021

When you’re buying a new car, there are so many options to choose from. What kind of vehicle suits your lifestyle? Which makes and models have the features you’re looking for? You’ll likely spend some time researching, narrowing down a list of favourites, then taking them out for a test-drive before making your big purchase. It makes sense to do these things because it’s an important decision.  

But how about when you’re contemplating a career change or deciding which direction to take after graduation? 

Thankfully “try-before-you-buy” doesn’t just apply when you’re shopping for a new car. A career test-drive can help you to experience the realities of a job or industry before making a big commitment. Through some low-stakes activities, you can gain the insight you need to evaluate your career options and make an informed decision. Here are four easy ways to test-drive a career you are interested in.


Informational interviews

Let’s say you’re considering buying a Volkswagen Golf, but you’ve never owned one before. You might reach out to a family member or neighbour that drives that car and ask about their experiences with it. You might even have a chat with a mechanic to get their opinion on how the car performs and the maintenance required. 

In the same way, you can have an informal conversation with someone working in a career of interest to you. We call these conversations informational interviews. They are one of the quickest and most effective ways to find out what a career is really like because you’re able to hear firsthand experience from someone that is familiar with that occupation. 

Check out this article for ideas on questions you could ask.


Internships and virtual work experiences

Internships offer a fantastic opportunity to see how the theory learned in the classroom gets applied in practice. Spending a few weeks or months getting some practical experience in the field can tell you a lot about whether you’re excited by the day-to-day job duties and the industry. 

In addition to that, you’ll pick up some soft skills that an academic curriculum can’t teach and expand your network. 

Some companies even offer 4-6 hour online virtual work experiences as a way for students to test-drive a field. You can find some on Forage and Prosple.


Short courses

Enrolling in a short course or class related to your field of interest is another fun way to see if it is a good fit for you. 

For example, if you’re curious about working in software development, you could get a feel for it by taking a short online programming course. 

Fortunately, there are a multitude of in-person and virtual places to do courses, paid and free options. A personal favourite of mine is which has a wide catalogue of free introductory courses. 


Join a professional community 

Immerse yourself in the field with industry blogs, newsletters, conferences, events, podcasts, Linkedin groups… the list goes on. 

No matter what job you’re interested in, there are lots of communities where you can learn about a role or industry. You may find yourself fully engaged in the LinkedIn discussion thread about industry trends, or maybe you’ll want to turn on Netflix instead — but either way, you’ll have more insight into whether it’s the path for you.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

By Stephanie Gonzales

By Stephanie Gonzales

Career Consultant

Stephanie is an experienced career coach, educator and consultant. Her background in human resources and graduate recruitment allows her to bring a unique perspective. She loves coaching people from diverse walks of life and helping students and graduates to work towards their career goals.