Have you ever wished you could buy a coffee for someone who has your dream job, sit them down and then pick their brains for tips and inspiration? Well, why not?

I’m always interested in new and innovative ways to help people change careers, find work or develop a strategic plan for their work. Some time ago, I came across a blog by a young woman in the States, who was in transition between careers, and had set herself the task of having fifty coffees over the next year, with people who could offer ideas or advice about where she could go next.

It reminded me of an exercise that I suggest to many of my clients, where they identify their ‘job role models’. In this exercise, you look at other people whose careers you admire, or who have jobs you admire. They might be friends, colleagues, people you’ve read about or seen on TV.

The key question is: ‘Whose job would I most like to have in the whole world?’

Then do some research to find out as much as you can about what it would take to get a job like that, or what skills or experience you’d need to acquire first.

If the job or field still seems interesting, try to set up 2 or 3 ‘informational interviews’ with people who you’ve come across in your research, or with companies that look interesting. Good questions to ask might include:

  1. What’s a typical day/week like in your role?
  2. What do you love about your job?
  3.  What are some of the things you’d change if you could?
  4. What are the three most important qualities needed to excel in this field?
  5. Are you a member of any networks or professional associations?  How do they add value to your practice?
  6. What are the possible career paths, opportunities to learn and advance, options for specialising…?
  7. What is the main reason people leave this industry?

In my long experience with this tool, I have found that people are generally willing to help, if you:

  • Make it clear you’re just seeking information, not angling for paid work
  • Ask for 20 minutes only, and arrive and leave on time
  • Offer to meet at their office or the café of their choice (and if the latter, please pay for the coffee!)
  • Send a hand-written note thanking them afterwards (or a polite email if you must…)

That’s it really. Of course, you can take this wherever you like – people who have skills you’d like to develop, people with cool hobbies, people who are wise…

So, who’s on your list?
Joanna Maxwell


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