Cooking Up Job Experiments!

A friend loaned me her copy of Julie & Julia. I’d seen the movie years ago, yet reading the book reminded me of the delight and value that can come from diving into a career experiment.

A career experiment is a short-term, low-risk experience that exposes the experimenter to an aspect of a profession that intrigues them. Career experiments can help with career planning, and, in author Julie Powell’s case, to satisfy a craving. Powell had been fascinated with cooking and Julia Child for years.

If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll recall that Powell challenged herself to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking—a total of 524—in one year, and to blog about it daily. Reading her account, she faced thousands of trials, such as tracking down nearly-impossible-to-find ingredients, persisting despite major kitchen snafus, and failing repeatedly to master crepe making (eventually she succeeded)—all while juggling a full time job. She thought of quitting many times, but didn’t.

Julie’s career experiment was a huge one. Most don’t need to be that massive to get a taste of an intriguing profession. Take a workshop, job shadow an expert, or attempt to complete a practice project on your own. One of my personal favorites was an hour-long private class I took with a slipcover specialist when I was thinking about opening a sewing business.

That tutorial, combined with the experience of covering a huge couch with pink denim, quickly helped me to abandon that idea…which is the primary purpose of a career experiment: to get your hands dirty and see if you’re truly suited to the work you’ve been idealizing.  Sewing for myself is a pleasure; sewing for pay was too much pressure.

Julie’s outcome was more productive. While she didn’t end up in a cooking career, her experiment did launch her into new work as a best-selling author. So if you’ve got a career craving, find a way to get a taste of the work you’re hankering for, even if it’s just a small bite.

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