Detective Colombo - the unlikely, disheveled detective who unraveled mysteries on our screens from 1968 to 2003 might seem be unrelated to your job search.
The qualities of our lovable crime solver - resilience, determination and pursuing a path of query right to the end are ones we can all need to be successful. Always underestimated yet always triumphant, Colombo is our underdog hero.
Why is he such a good role model? It's his unassuming manner, his confidence in showing that he does not know all of the answers, and his sheer doggedness and determination to get to the bottom of a mystery.
If your mystery is how to get a foot in the door of your dream profession, then adopting Columbo's questioning approach, upturning every stone until he finds what he is looking for, is one you should adopt.
Your Tool: LinkedIn
You don't need a crime scene, even. You just need to use LinkedIn as your research tool. You don't need to even sign up as a member to benefit from the database of professionals that is LinkedIn. By using the 'professional Facebook' as a research tool, you can view occupational profiles and glean information that would take hours of informational interviewing.
If you are in a job you don't like, it can feel like being a prisoner for an offence you didn't commit. Finding a way out into a different field is tough, especially if you don't have relevant contacts.
Imagine that you work in administration but you have always loved the idea of being a camera 'spark' on a film set, helping with the lighting.
From administrator to a film set spark is quite a leap - film is a very different arena to work.
This is where LinkedIn can come into its own as a handy career research tool. Search in the UK for 'sparks' and look at their employment histories, the training they undertook to take up their current role, and the qualifications they have.
Have a look at what they did as occupations before they became a spark. Like you, they might have had a career switch.
If the professional spark that you view has had a career switch, take a note of the length of time it took for the individual to go from their previous role/training period to working full time in their chosen area.
This time period is a good indicator of how long it would take you yourself to train in the new chosen field.
It seems that when people follow up their passions with good training and a clever placement, the switch over from one career field to another can be relatively quick.
LinkedIn is all about your links, your connections, and building upon the relationships that you have already established - even if it's just a nod in the hallway.
'Cold calling' for new contacts is frowned upon in LinkedIn. When you approach people to be a LinkedIn contact, the website asks you to verify how you 'know' them.
If you have not worked together, been to college together, or have a viable 'other' connection, then LinkedIn doesn't approve of your invite being sent. See LinkedIn etiquette for more do's and don’ts.
This is not to say you can't go ahead and send a connection request and tell a porky that you know them. However, this bluff approach is not advisable. People might find this a bit intrusive. Some people (me, for example) wouldn't mind if you asked me a career related question and I didn't know you (I would probably be flattered!), but it's difficult to guess just by looking at a profile picture. The amount of occupational information available to you on LinkedIn should mean that you don't need to make personal contact to get the answer to your career questions.
See if there are any of your contacts who have a connection with anyone in the industry that you would like to work in. You could ask your contact for an introduction in LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a brilliant research tool. The more you look, the more you find. By reading through professional profiles of jobs you would like to do yourself, you can find all of the information that you need to pursue that dream job yourself.
Make notes of common similarities of people who have succeeded in your chosen career area. If the same course or training route keeps appearing in profiles, this is a good sign that it is a reputable course in the industry, and one worth looking at pursuing yourself.
Look also at the professional 'baby steps' that these professionals took. Is there a company that appears to employ people at the beginning of their career? If the company was open to employing this individual when they were freshly trained and brand spanking new, it might be worth contacting them to see if they would be interested in taking you in your freshness too.
And Just One More Thing...(sorry, I couldn't resist Detective Colombo's famous catch phrase)
Don't get put off by LinkedIn. Sometimes reading through profiles can make you feel intimidated by the sheer frightening volume of professional people that all look uber primped and primed for business.
Try not to forget that people put on their best professional fronts and show only the gleaming successes on LinkedIn. The personal and professional failures, challenges, and hardships are not on view to see. It doesn't mean, however, that they are not there at all.
Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE: http://flickr.com/photos/photonquantique/2105018860