This is part five of a seven-part series on the most common mistakes I see people making when changing careers.

After a couple years working in event planning, I was so miserable.

My job didn’t feel like the right fit anymore, but I had no clue what I wanted to do next. So like every good Millennial, I turned to Google for answers.

To my surprise, Google came back with a surprising first step: Do some informational interviews.

Meet with people in an informal context and ask them about their career. Tell them you’re ready for a change. Be honest. Be open.

Wow.

I had known about informational interviews for a while, but I had been putting them off. I was really good at being positive and happy at my job, and I didn’t want anyone to know that I was miserable and stuck.

Telling the truth about where I was at felt so vulnerable.

Maybe you’re feeling something similar. You’re stuck in your career but you don’t talk about it because you’re afraid it will damage your image or make it harder for you to advance in your career. So you keep up appearances and try to muscle through it on your own.

Let me tell you, there’s a better way and it’s on the other side of honesty.

I took Google’s advice and set up my first informational interview with a woman named Sarah who worked in HR. At the time, I thought HR could be a possible path for me, which is why I asked to meet with her.

Her perspective surprised me. When other people know that you’re looking to make a change, she explained, it opens up new possibilities. These people keep you in mind and are usually willing to tell you about new opportunities that could be good fits for you.

If you don’t tell people what you want, Sarah said, they will assume that you’re happy with your work and won’t tell you about new career options, even if they think it would be right for you.  

I had never even considered this before. I was so focused on keeping up a brave face, so focused on not allowing myself to be vulnerable that I hadn’t even realized that my silence was hurting my career more than helping it.

After our conversation, I knew I couldn’t hide anymore. I had to be open about my desire for change. I had to drop the happy mask and started talking to people about what I wanted.

The results were astounding: I found a mentor, did some job shadowing and was even asked to contribute to a project in the marketing department at work. All of this eventually led me to receiving a dream job in marketing at the company where I worked.

Here’s the main takeaway:

Sharing your story with other people and making yourself available for their help is one of the smartest moves you can make for your career. You won’t get the clarity you need by keeping it to yourself.  

Finally, I wrote up my practical tips to conducting informational interviews. Get them here.  



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