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VOL. 129 | NO. 96 | Friday, May 16, 2014

Angela Copeland

Networking Over Coffee

By Angela Copeland

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Workers change jobs more frequently now than ever before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees only stay at a job for a little over four years on average.

In the past, people making quick transitions were sometimes looked at as flaky or unstable. Today, it’s common to assume those who transition more frequently are also more experienced. They’ve seen different environments, and have been forced to grow their skills.

If you’ve decided to become part of this growing trend, you may wonder where to start. You’ll need to decide if you want to keep the same type of job, or try something new, and whether or not to stay in the same industry. When changing careers, it’s often easiest to either keep the same job function in a new industry – or try a new job function in the same industry.

But first, you need to decide which job function, and which industry. This is a place where people often get stuck. They wonder how to gather enough information to make this decision.

One good approach is face-to-face conversations with employees in the know. Although this can happen during a job interview, you often don’t get the entire picture. Interviewers are on the job, and are obligated to focus on the good things about their organization. They’re trying to hire you, after all!

This is where coffee comes in. Try reaching out to those in your network who currently work in the fields you’re interested in. Ask if they would be willing to sit down with you for 30 minutes over coffee for an informational interview.

An informational interview is not an opportunity for you to find a new job. It’s a chance to learn about another person’s job through their eyes. If you’re lucky, the person will invite you for a tour of their office and introduce you to coworkers.

Often, they will reveal how they really feel about their job and their company. They will share the perks, and the things that get them down. They may even let you in the secret that employees are jumping ship in droves. A few of these meetings can help to accelerate your interest in a particular field, or throw up red flags that this field isn’t the right one. A few coffees are much cheaper and less time consuming than experimenting with new jobs, or going back to school.

If you’re considering going back to school to learn a new trade, treat it like switching jobs. Consider also starting with a few informational interviews. Going back to school can be an excellent idea, but you want to be sure that you’ve pointed your new career in the right direction before you fully commit.

Seeking out information from those around you is inexpensive and more helpful than other research available. It’s also a lower commitment than learning about a new job while on the job. The best part? People love sharing about their career paths and what they do all day!

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, www.CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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