Tough Career Question of the Week: How Do I Contact Someone for Info on a New Job Field, But I’m not Ready to Say “Yes” To the Field?

new job field

How Do I Contact Someone for Info on a New Job Field, But I’m not Ready to Say “Yes” To the Field?

This is the hottest question that has come across my desk (ie email) this week, and I’m excited to share some perspective on this!

Basically, what this person was asking was as follows: they’re exploring several career paths but have not yet chosen which way to go. They know that to find out information on each of their potential paths, they gotta talk to some people in those roles, but they want to strike a good balance of not wasting the person’s time by being too vague and non-committal and being gung ho about the field before they are ready.

So I’m here to give you some quick tips and a script to get moving and not let you trip you up. Remember, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good here!


  • Talk to one of your close peeps first: You may not have this, but if you do, absolutely start with people who know you well and that don’t mind you bumbling around to get more information!
  • Gather preliminary info first: Check out an info session online for the professional association of the field you are exploring. Do a (timed!) Google search on the field. I say ‘timed’ so you don’t fall down the Google rabbit hole. 45 minutes per field is PLENTY. Make notes of what appeals to you for each field and what additional information you want to ask someone about.
  • Check out live in-person networking events in your area: It’s a good way to get a grasp on the lingo people in that field are using, what kind of ideas they’re talking about and what’s important to them. Heck, you might even make a connection there! But if not, that’s fine- the name of the game is info gathering.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups in your proposed field: Now, not all LinkedIn groups are created equally, so some might…well, they might suck. But check some out, see what kinds of (non-promotional) discussions are taking place in there and see how people are talking about the issues of their industry/field and what information is being passed around.


Once you have a basic sense for what appeals to you about the field, how your current skillset could gel with the proposed field and some questions you want to ask, you’re ready to contact someone for an info chat.  Woo hoo! Congrats!

I’m including a brief script you can adapt for your outreach – to make it specific enough that you get a response, but not so specific that you’re painting yourself into an interview for a job you’re not even sure you want!

This is adapted from a script a good friend going through her own career exploration process has used with massive success. When she was first sending it out, she had an 85-90% positive response rate. So, try it and let us know how it goes! J


Here’s the script:


I hope this email finds you well, and I apologize for the “cold call” approach. I’m currently exploring a transition from a WHAT YOU’VE DONE BEFORE at COMPANY into a career in NEW PROPOSED CAREER, and I would be so grateful to spend 20 minutes with you to learn more about your own career path and your role as THEIR ROLE AT THEIR COMPANY. You are highly respected in WHATEVER THEIR FIELD IS and I’ve noticed your work doing <CITE WORK YOU’VE NOTICED> and I would be extremely appreciative of any insight you may have for me as I navigate this new area.


If you’d be willing to meet for just 20 minutes and chat about your career and experiences please let me know. I can come by your office or call you via phone at a time convenient for you.


Thank you very much for your consideration and time.


Warmest wishes,






So, in closing, there IS a way to connect with people even when you’re not 100% sure of the final direction you want to go- it just takes some up front research and a specific ask to do so, as you’ve seen in this blog. And remember, it’s a great way to start to build a relationship – who knows, maybe you know of something or someone or a resource that can help them down the road, so if you’re feeling shy about reaching out, remember that- it’s a two way street!

The Three Crucial Areas To Focus On When Exploring Potential Career Paths


Imagine the scene: you, tired of your role in event planning, have done some exploring and decided that a career in either graphic design, digital marketing or as a horseback riding instructor would really suit you, but you’re not sure where to start exploring. So, you start by checking out all the usual job boards, see what’s available and start applying to all three because “you might as well cast a wide net and see what comes back, right?”

Wrong. And I don’t normally like to use that word, since there are SO many ways to look at any given situation.

But seriously, wrong.

If you’re in marketing or work with marketers, you’ll appreciate the following phrase: If you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Every brand out there has their ideal customer (sometimes referred to as an avatar). Nike, Barkbox, S’well bottle, Bai Tea….and YOU, when you’re looking to change jobs or careers, are a brand too.

This means that before- yes, before – you seriously consider any job description and DEFINITELY before you apply to a single job, it’s critical that you thoroughly explore each of your career options and consciously decide on ONE to put yourself in the running for.  In other words, just so we’re clear, in this hypothetical example, you’re choosing between graphic design, digital marketing and horseback riding instructor (hey- anything goes in Jill’s wacky Career Change Kitchen, so go with it!)

So, where are the three places to look in order to fully flesh out each of your options so that you can come to this conscious decision?


Surprise! Online plays a big role in the beginning of your exploration process. You don’t want to hang out TOO long here, so what I recommend is setting a timer for exploring for 45-60 minutes PER career path. So in our hypothetical example, you’d set 45-60 minutes aside for graphic designer, 45-60 minutes aside for digital marketing and 45-60 minutes aside for horseback riding instructor. Avoid the rabbit hole at all costs! You want to get an idea for your basic questions about each of the roles here- you’re not trying to solve whether this is the career for you. Before you dive in, make a list of those questions so you also can protect against rabbit-hole-isms.

Also, bookmark any online seminars any associations, trade groups, or networking groups are providing and pencil them into your calendar. Most, if not all professions have a trade group or an association and those can be good places to search for resources, info and seminars where you can learn more about what people in the field are talking about.


Yes, I’m talking about going to live, in person events. These can be seminars, workshops, panel discussions, networking events—the list goes on for this exploring phase. I don’t necessarily recommend spending $2k + on an industry conference at this stage, per se. Instead search for networking groups in your area that have free events or reasonably priced. In NYC, for example, I’d say anything under $35-$40 for a 2-3 hour event is reasonable, but you also really need to assess the value. Are people that you would want to meet and learn from going to be at this event? If you don’t know, ask the event organizer.  Don’t go on a blitz of moderately applicable events; instead pick the 1 or 2 that will really allow bang for buck (and time and energy! After a long day, you want to at least be semi excited about this!). Check out industry associations and see if they’ll let you check out an event before joining. Be bold!


Dun dun dun! Yes, the third piece of this is to actually speak to humans while exploring career paths. Real. Live. Humans. I know, I know, but it’s going to be ok! You’ll want to look into your own network to see who you might already know (score!), who people you know can introduce you to (so 2nd degree connections) and people you clicked with at the aforementioned events above that you can set up follow up chats or meetings with to learn more.  You also might reach out to some random people whose profile on LinkedIn matches what you’re looking for. (OMG JILL NO!!!!) But seriously. This is the sweet spot of where you can fine tune your exploration and research phase and really dig into the nitty gritty of a role (“Hey, so what’s it like day to day being a graphic designer?”) and to really get a sense for whether your skillsets, interests and values/priorities fit that field.

No, talking to one person for a rushed 15-minute conversation as you’re running to the subway after the event, racing home to catch Empire (no? just me?) is not sufficient. Part of this is about relationship building and part is about learning more about the field.

No, talking over email to one person does not count.

This part is gonna be a little gut-checky and might make some of you feel a little uncomfortable. But one of my favorite people and closest biz confidants always says, “Being wildly uncomfortable is where the growth is.” So are you ready to come out on the other side of this, ready to grow? Let’s get started!

Oh, and after you do all of this? THAT is when you can develop your job search materials (LinkedIn profile, resume, etc) and start applying to jobs. NOT before.

The Article That’s Changing My Life…And It Could Be a Game Changer for Your Career Change


I was at the office last Tuesday, and I was having a bad day. I had even parked myself in a private room because I couldn’t fathom even saying ‘hi’ to anyone. Yea, it was that way. Personal life bled into biz life, cuz, you know, life isn’t neat little lines all the time and stuff, and I was just not myself. Everything was irritating me, which led to a rather unproductive day, which led to more annoyance, which led to me screaming the lyrics to the album “Lemonade” to.…you get the picture.

The best thing I could have done that day was take an actual lunch break. Not my usual 20-30 minutes, but a full-on 45 minutes (Whoaaaa!). As I was eating, I rather mindlessly picked up my copy of the most recent New York Magazine. The cover read, “Put down your phone.” I’ve become increasingly interested in the importance of being DIS-connected recently, so I was intrigued and flipped to it.

Mind blown.

The author talks about his own addiction to being constantly connected. “Every hour I spent online was not spent in the physical world. Every minute I was engrossed in a virtual reaction I was not involved in a human encounter. Every second absorbed in some trivia was a second less for any form of reflection, or calm, or spirituality. “Multitasking” was a mirage. This was a zero-sum question. I either lived as a voice online or I lived as a human being in the world that humans had lived in since the beginning of time….after 15 years, I decided to live in reality.”

Sounds about right. He missed the part where we fast-forward 20 years in the future and we’re facing an unprecedented scoliosis, arthritis of the hands and slipped disc epidemic from leaning over our phones. But let’s back up to Last Tuesday. I was waiting for wedding vendors to respond to my messages (some 2+ weeks old and the wedding is closing in! And Event Planner Jill doesn’t love that.), so I was constantly checking my email. There are a couple of days a week where I’m largely working alone, so I was craving text interactions with friends that sometimes lasted…longer than I’d like to admit to you here. And I’m beta-testing the Career Change Kitchen Online Course so I’m especially on edge, as I always am when I put myself out there so fully.

So what did I do? Made up emails to write, freakishly checked Facebook and Instagram, got into text marathons with friends, and the like. And you know what the end result was?

My body felt weird and disconnected from my mind. I felt sluggish and my mind felt heavy, fragmented and frazzled. And ironically, I felt less connected than ever. I felt like the movie “Boiler Room” looked. Oh, and I’m sure my work product that day was crap.

Then I started to think that this has MAJOR ramifications for ya’ll, my party people going through a career change. There’s that statistic out there that upward of 70% of people are not engaged at work. I’d venture to guess that a large percentage of that group is not engaged because they’re not in the right role for their skills, passions and values, but even less of those people even attempt and successfully make a career change.

Why? Well, I’d also venture to guess that this constant connection thing that has pervaded our society, ESPECIALLY in always-on-the-go NYC and other large cities, has fragmented our minds so much that it’s become near impossible to stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize for long enough to see it through! We’re tired and frazzled and at the end of a long day, we have no energy left to pursue something else. But what if this phenomenon many of us experience (including me when I was working two jobs and building my business on the side) has less to do with external factors like time and how much sleep you got the night before (though important) and more to do with just being mentally exhausted?

So if you’re still reading this blog, which is a bit of a departure from my usual tips and tools and how-to posts, I did a massive brainstorm today on giant post-it notes all over the place to come up with a brain dump/laundry list of quick ideas to make this more top of mind for you as you make your career change a reality:

career change

  1. Turn off all notifications from your phone. I no longer get notifications for email, text, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (or any app) on my phone.
  2. Better yet, go into your settings on your phone and manually turn off your email. This has been a game changer. If someone needs you, they’ll call. (Yes, I keep phone notifications on!)
  3. Leave your phone at home. My phone is almost always at home on date night, and I have started to leave it at home for other personal activities (but not business).
  4. Put your phone in a drawer one day a week. For me that’s either Saturday or Sunday. Some weeks are easier than others, and I currently don’t have a hugely high success rate here J Again, if it rings, I will hear it, but all other notifications have been turned off.
  5. Pay attention to when you go to check your phone, ESPECIALLY when you leave it at home. I left it at home to go to dance class last week, and I noticed that on the way to class (approx. 25 minutes) I reached for my phone 3 times. Of course it wasn’t there, but because it wasn’t there, I was able to actually NOTE that I was doing it, rather than doing it mindlessly.
  6. Stop posting sh*t: This is another area where I could use some help <cough> Instagram <cough>. I love photography and weird stuff so it’s FUN for me to try different angles and lighting, especially with my DSLR, but I also get into what the article mentions re: social validation and seeing who said what about a post.
  7. If you run your own business (or want to, as a career changer!) or you’re a blogger on the side, schedule those posts into buffer or Hootsuite or whatever the Generation Z kids are using these days so you can set it and forget it.
  8. If you are on your laptop a lot during the day- another thing I want to do less of eventually!- notice when you’re opening up your browser to check email or Facebook. For me, it’s when I’m about to do something that’s scary or makes me nervous and I’d rather distract myself.
  9. Work places where there’s no Internet sometimes. DUN DUN DUN. No internet, Jill?! NOOOOO. I know, it seems nuts. I’m currently typing this up at a local café where people come in and sing the Greek National Anthem at the top of their lungs, so internet sounds like it might be a nice alternative to that, but I just don’t ask for the Wi-Fi password. I also left my phone at home, hehe.
  10. This may mean doing the research you need the Internet for ahead of time. Or….not, and filling in the blanks later.
  11. Figure out which set times you want to check email per day. I’m working on getting down to 2 times per day for 20-30 minutes per time, prioritizing client questions and emails
  12. If you work at an office that seems relatively normal and not insane like my brief stint when I returned from Argentina, see how much more you can get done implementing some of this stuff over the next few weeks, and if you’re done at 3pm, see if your company will allow flex time. Or a change in schedule, so that you can do some of your career change stuff during actual work hours. (WHOAAAA). I know not all companies are like this (see: Crazy 2013 Company), but for many, if you’re able to prove that you are responsible and can get your ish done in less time, it’s worth the ask. The key here is to prove it first and ask later. And it takes some nuance- you don’t want to tell your team or your boss that you’re embarking on this little experiment only to have them be all, “Great, here’s a whole other pile of work for ya!” And if your company has 9/80 (work an 80-hour work week in 9 business days, so you have every other Friday off), use a few hours of that day
  13. Go somewhere with no cell service. I know, I’m giving you heart attack inducing ideas here. Make sure there’s a landline and you’re set! The author of the article went to a meditation center for 7 days. Think big even if it’s seemingly impossible (e.g. “Oh I can’t sit in silence for 7 days because who will feed Fluffy?”). Challenge your limits.
  14. CALL PEOPLE, FOR THE LOVE! I’m dedicating myself to limiting text blitzes (minus the “Oh I’ll see you soon- can’t wait!” kind of quick things) so that when I get to actually talk to or see my peeps, it’s a deep meaningful convo and catch up. And I called three friends this week just to say hi. People may be like, “isn’t that intrusive?” A) No, if they can’t talk, they won’t answer. B) IMHO, it’s more intrusive to get a barrage of texts that will.not.quit.
  15. Consider working with a mindfulness or meditation professional while you go through your career change. Or go to a weekly meditation at a Shambhala Center near you. A friend of mine from high school, who’s a meditation, mindfulness and certified Alexander Technique professional, is working with me on a six week ‘course’ he’s putting together during the launch of the Career Change Kitchen and the lead up to the wedding. LIFE.CHANGING.
  16. Think about having a ‘no phone available’ part of each individual day. This is a little different than the full day with your phone in a drawer. For example, my office is about a 12-14 minute walk from my house. I carry a backpack. My phone goes in the backpack. Presto change! It’s so cool what you see when you’re not rapid fire texting your sister, hoping you’re the first to tell her about Brangelina splitting (oh, just me?)

I really think there is no shortage of ideas to add to the list. But since I don’t have the internet ;) this is all from my own brain and not inspired from any other source. It actually feels great, so let’s add that to the list:

  1. Consider writing. It can be about your career change, but it doesn’t have to be. You can also close out each day asking yourself the question, “How am I feeling right now and why?” and writing for 2-5 minutes about that to close out your day.

I’m speaking at the W.E.L.L Summit next month and I have an inkling that this is going to be part of my wellness-during-a- career change talk! Do you have other ideas to add to this thread for my talk? Or have you tried any of them with success? Or maybe they didn’t work for you? Comment below!

Day In The Life: Startup Project Manager, Hillary For America

In the #dayinthelife series, we’re not always talking about long-term roles and jobs. There’s the whole world of project-based work, where you can choose what you want to work on and what projects speak to you in an authentic way. Project based work can take many forms- as an events manager, a marketing manager, and more- today, we’re focused on the role of project manager.
project manager







Enter Patricia Zablah, tech-savvy project manager for startups and media who is passionate about showcasing diversity of all kinds and fostering it in the workplace. She is currently working as a project manager on the campaign Hillary for America, of the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton. (#ImWithHer)!!! I sat down with Paty to talk about what it’s like to work on the campaign and be a part of history. Here are excerpts of our conversation.

  1. What is your official job title for the campaign?

I’m a Digital Organizing Tools Manager

  1. What are you responsible for? In other words, what part of the campaign puzzle do you work on?

I work on the Digital Organizing team, which is the team that works with organizers around the country to help them organize offline with the help of digital tools. The tools are built by our internal tech team, who are awesome! I am responsible for rolling those tools out across the 50 states, training people to use the tools (with the help of our team, of course) and I’m also responsible for gathering feedback for the tech team. Basically, I’m the bridge between the tech team and the people who use the tool, which is a really exciting place to be.

  1. What’s an example of a tool you work with state organizers to roll out?

Organizers are experts at talking to voters and educating people on absentee ballot requests, early voting, etc. All states have different roles around voter registration and absentee ballot requests so we work with states to say oh you want an event or people in your state want to organize an event and have it be on our site. The most important events for people to get involved in the campaign are things like phone banks and canvassing (knocking on people’s doors). One of our tools helps organizers create events, link those events to our site – and make it easy for volunteers to sign up and help us elect Hillary!!

4. Tell me what a typical day is like working on the Hillary Campaign.

9:30am: Walk into work, sometimes after hitting the gym (when I’m feeling enthusiastic) and skim our daily news report that the entire campaign gets. We basically get a summary of how the media is covering the election- the good, the bad and the ugly. Sip my coffee and usually have breakfast at my desk that I bring from home.

10:00am– By this time, our slackbot has already reminded the entire HQ offices how many days we have until election day and our smaller team- the Digital Organizing team- has our daily slack check-in: what are you working on, do you need help? what’s the status?

11:00am – Meet with our HQ State leads who deal directly with our State Directors in our state offices. Talk about the challenges they are facing, what events they are preparing for, successes or problems they are having with our tools and how we can help.

11:45am– stand-up with the tech team. What is everyone working on? What are you struggling with? – Usually pretty quick.

12:15pm– by this time, I am starving so I usually head out to get some Dos Toros with friends at the campaign or sometimes, I bring my own lunch (wellness, remember?).

12:45-2pm– Block off time to work on product spec reviews, answering support emails from users, etc. Consolidating feedback from States in the morning to send to tech team.

2-3pm– Prepare for our Office Hours with users- where I look at what has been happening throughout the week, what could people benefit from us explaining and what new technology has been rolled out that we can share with them.

3-4pm– Office Hours call with ~60-80 organizers at a time using Maestro- a conference software that is incredibly complicated and I still have not mastered.

4-5pm– update user guides based on feedback from call.

5-8:30pm– This time is spent answering more emails, and if it’s Thursday, filling out my weekly report which is due on Friday mornings, slacking (on the Slack app), meeting with Tech team, Analytics team and States teams – sometimes reading our horoscopes to each other and then trying to head home at a reasonable hour to get enough sleep.

*Note: during this whole time, TVs are playing in the background with speeches from both parties, events, news, etc. I have headphones, of course.

5. What do you love about being a project manager for the campaign?

I love this work, first and foremost, because I believe Hillary should be the next President of the United States and I love that I get to have a part in making that happen. I also love working on this side of technology as a project manager, with a more user centric approach as opposed to a more product-based approach- which has been my experience in technology in the past. It is interesting to challenge myself in this way. I love working with a team who has a clear shared goal in mind- there is a clear focus on everyone’s piece of the puzzle to help achieve the measurable goal of “did Hillary win the presidency or not?” I love the direct impact I have and I love the people – everyone supports each other. We work 7 days a week and are under pressure so we all help each other out and support each other.

6. What’s the biggest challenge of working on the campaign?

We work a lot! So that can get challenging when you have to remember to take care of yourself and your family and friends as well. We get free Soulcycle classes because the owner is very supportive of HRC, so that definitely helps! Also, sometimes you have people who aren’t supportive of the campaign and you have to be aware of that in the way you carry yourself out in the world. Mostly in the digital world. It’s frustrating that some people think that when you share something or speak your mind about something related to politics, you are doing it as “part of a job” and not because you believe in it. Would I work here if I didn’t share the values that Hillary is fighting for?


Networking Using LinkedIn: How Do I Make it Worth my While?

I know, I know. I’m hearing a lot of groans through my computer screen from you. I can sense them! LinkedIn is obviously a really helpful tool and platform for SO many reasons, but people often get stumped when trying to use it for actual networking with people they don’t know. In other words, you know it could be a good avenue for you and open up some previously unseen doors, but it feels weird to reach out to “randos” on LinkedIn and besides, you wouldn’t even know what to say. Does that about sum it up?

I totally get it. If not done properly in a non-thought out way, it can be a little useless and feel funky, so I’m here today to share some tips – in chronological order- to make it useful and productive- and maybe even a little natural. I’ve been working with a couple of clients on this, so it’s top of mind, so I want to share some of it with you here. Read on, dear friend!:


Check Out LinkedIn Premium: They give you a free month, so for this LinkedIn plan of action we’re about to embark on, it’s worth it. Why? Because you can see people’s email addresses, which is MUCH more useful than LinkedIn’s InMail system. I can’t tell you how many messages I miss from there- mainly, it’s because most people do not have their LinkedIn open all day and if your primary email is gmail, for example, emails notifying you that you….have an email go to that blasted social tab. Anyway, they’re easy to miss so emailing your top potential people via their actual email is the way to go.

Start Finding Peeps: Groups! Once you have LinkedIn Premium, joining relevant groups is the next thing to do. Not all groups are created equal, as I say to my clients, so it might take some due diligence on your part (e.g. Are all the posts sales posts or not conducive to discussion? Do people post frequently?). And you can always un-join a group that isn’t useful to your career goals if you realize it’s not great. Do a search for your field (e.g. “project manager groups”) and check out size, activity, level of discussion and level of professional. Check out the most frequent contributors. There’s also an added bonus that anyone in a shared group can be InMailed directly without a Premium account, if you decide not to get a premium account for the free month.

**Note: Don’t reach out to people willy nilly and don’t email blast the same email to dozens of people. This is a curated approach and not a ‘numbers’ game.

Start Finding Peeps: Connections! You might also already be connected to some relevant people that you might not even remember! Check them out and make note of them. Also, do a search for your field in your area (e.g. “project managers NYC” either in the basic or advanced search- NOTE: LinkedIn Premium also has more robust search options) and see if you have any 2nd degree connections that friends/1st degree connections can introduce you to.

Keep Track: If you have a CRM system like Highrise or your Outlook calendar, use that, but good ol’ Excel will help too. You can really go into the rabbit hole with this, so when you see someone that might be a good networking fit, add them to the list. What we’re going for here before even sending one email, is a list of 20-30 people you can start with to get your feet wet (you can always add more!). Ensure that you’ve captured relevant info like their contact info, how you ‘know’ each other (ie is it a group or a shared connection?) and why their profile piqued your interest. This will be important for the actual outreach.

Prioritize: Of those 20-30 people, who is the most natural fit? In other words, who can you imagine getting your email and being excited about the possibility of connecting with you? Yes, this is a two way street and you have something to offer as well, especially to those top 5-7 individuals you find. Maybe they posted something recently that you can help with or have a resource to share. Maybe they work at a company aligned directly with your values. Maybe they do what you do and you can share best practices. (This is the ‘why their profile piqued your interest” note in the last section, but it’s important because your outreach has to be thoughtful and targeted so we’re reiterating it here!)

Follow Up: You will not hear from everyone the first go around, so it’s absolutely worth following up (yes, even if they don’t know you) to show them you’re serious about this and didn’t just blast 200 people with the same email. Maybe they missed it or maybe they meant to get back to you but forgot. Believe me, ONE email follow up to an already cold email is not going to anger anyone (and if it does, do you want to be connected to that person anyway?). So, make follow up part of this process.

Timing: Using LinkedIn for networking usually isn’t the quickest way of getting a job, so if you’re looking for it to replace your current network and job searching, don’t. You might get lucky and contact someone at the exact right time, but this isn’t a “blitz” of cold-emailing 200 people the same email and hoping something sticks. This is a more curated approach and takes time. So this is ONE of the pieces of the job search and career development puzzle and shouldn’t take the place of other important elements. If you’re not in active job search mode, I recommend making this part of your Career Upkeep monthly- maybe spending 2 hours a month on this process. If you’re job searching, I recommend making the above steps part of your weekly process. Maybe on Mondays you do some research, Tuesdays you email and the following Monday you do your one follow up email. You’ll see what works for you.

Next week, I’m going to be sharing some actual outreach templates for these LinkedIn outreaches so stay tuned for that!

What have you done to reach out to people you don’t know on LinkedIN? Did it work? Not work? Share in the comments below!