Once you have some ideas, "test-drive your path before jumping into a new career," suggests Dorie Clark, author of "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future." She says people might consider joining a nonprofit board, if that's feasible, to "develop new skills or try out a new industry. Volunteering on a political campaign can allow you to make valuable connections and deepen your knowledge of the issues of the day."
She adds that there is a company called PivotPlanet.com (formerly known as VocationVacations), which you can pay to shadow people in different professions, or just talk to them about their careers on the phone or via video conference. In-person, it can cost $250; most one-hour sessions, the website says, range from $40 to $125. The site has a slew of professions, including screenwriter, karate school owner, antique dealer, mortgage broker, nonprofit fundraiser and on and on.
Tell people about your reinvention. But be careful about how you do it, and when you do it. "If you know where you're going, it's a great idea to reach out to friends and colleagues for support or connections," Clark says.
But if you share your new career plans before you're really set on taking this new path, and you change your mind: "You may risk looking flaky ... causing others to be less likely to want to help you in the future," she says.
Clark also suggests developing what she calls a reinvention narrative. "You might assume it's clear to others why you're making the transition, but it's often not," Clark says. "So work on developing a short explanation [of why you're making a change], so others don't come up with random or negative ones of their own."
Sure, you might be thinking, "Who cares what other people think?" But remember, if you want people to help you get where you want to go, it matters. It matters a lot that they don't think you're in the middle of a midlife crisis and worry that aligning with you is something they will soon regret. If you're like most people, you're not going to reinvent you career alone, so you need to inspire everyone's confidence.
Reinvention, after all, is not easy. That's why people are fond of another cliché, the one about not needing to reinvent the wheel. Imagine what it took to make the wheel the first time.