how to learn about a new career path without fully committing?

For example, I wanted to learn about whether or not recruiting was right for me. Long story short, it was not.

But how I got there wasn’t quite as simple. I had been considering a transition to recruiting. In fact, I thought (foolishly) that because I was so interested in helping young designers find roles in their careers that this would be a great way to do that.

A quick note before proceeding: this is a mostly unedited draft. If you have questions or you need further clarification, please leave a comment or DM me on Twitter (DMs are open) and I’ll do my best to answer.

What is empathy?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines empathy as “ the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”.

So when you look into a new career path, pay attention to:

All of this information helps me make informed decisions.

What is the technique I use?

The “Empathize Technique” or ET is a technique I use to spend time learning about a new career path before I fully commit.

If I’m meeting people, I listen to people’s feelings and needs while being fully present in the moment.  I come into a situation curious and without assumptions. I also want to make it clear that I am interested in their insights and not what I can get from them. 

A specific example:

At first, I began by reading blogs about how to get into recruiting, then I looked into HR certifications thinking that this might give me a let-up in the process, then I decided the next best thing for me to do was to contact a recruiter that I had become friendly with.

I was just planning to ask a few questions. He offered to have me come in and he’d show me what they do and I can ask questions. That 1-hour conversation (which I was extremely grateful for) turned into a pseudo job interview. I ended up meeting with the head of recruiting shortly after that, and then the VP who founded the company before they sold it to a larger firm. They were interested in my background and as it turned out they were looking to expand into UX as part of their practice.

They asked if I was interested in the account manager role that would focus on generating relationships with 200/300 plus hiring managers throughout the bay area. My role would be to fill approximately 20-30 UX roles to start.

I considered it heavily and even was excited by the idea because hey, this was something I was truly interested in it. But I said that I wanted to take some time to think about it.

Two things stuck out. 1. it would’ve been a base-pay cut. Expected since external recruiting runs on commission. And 2. it would’ve been a phone heavy job. I didn’t have much issue with that.

But two red flags for me. 1. I felt they wanted to use me and my pre-existing contacts to build their book (I just wasn’t comfortable with that) and 2. my ex-wife asked me if I have ever closed a sale before (which, if I’m being honest is not my forte). She is a former diamond sales-person. She knows about closing sales.

All this is to say that by apprenticing and taking the time to learn what goes on in external recruiting I realized it wasn’t the right role form me. Had they offered me a recruiter role, I may have taken them up on it. That seemed more interesting to me (looking, reviewing, finding people to fit possible roles, the thrill of the hunt). But I definitely learned that I didn’t want to be an account manager responsible for closing sales with large accounts at big tech companies in the bay area. I wanted my relationship to be with the recruiter. I still do.

The conclusion

So the quest is not entirely over. I just learned what I don’t like.

My ex-wife also challenged me and said, if you were going to do that for them, then why wouldn’t you do it for yourself. Like why wouldn’t you open up your own recruiting firm? I mean, I guess I could. But that isn’t really what I’m interested in. I’m in treatment in helping people find jobs, not helping the company find people. I guess I would want to be more of a concierge recruiter. Not sure if that even exists.

Of course, this is a best-case scenario. Many times all it takes is just a little bit of work to find out if something you’re interested in is truly something you should follow.

I’m sure there is more to recruiting than just what I’ve described above. But what I’ve described above, both my impromptu panel interview and the challenge by my ex-wife made me really think about what I was most interested in. I’m interested in helping people. That’s what gravitated me to the recruiting field.

What’s next?

For my next experiment, I’m focused on the intersection of HR and Employee Experience. This is more specific, but I have a base understanding of what recruiting is. And this helps inform future conversations with HR professionals.

I will once again employ the following:

  • Listening – what are people’s feelings and needs? am I fully present when listening to them?
  • Curiosity – I’m open to learning new things. I’ll use the mirroring technique learned in Chris Voss’ book Never Split the Difference
  • No assumptions – I go into a discovery without assuming I know the answer or have expectations.
  • Caring – I care to understand the emotions, problems, and challenges that people face in this new career path.


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