Trying New Foods and Trying New Career Opportunities

By: Luke Mohamed, @72Luke

In my last article, I compared showing appreciation on a friend’s birthday with connecting after a networking event or conference. For this article, I compare trying new foods and trying new career opportunities.

Think about your favorite foods. For me, chicken, bread, and blueberry pie come to mind. Now think about foods at the other end of the spectrum. I am thinking tuna, coleslaw, and ketchup (yuck!).

You have significant experience eating your favorite foods. You know you like them and you seek them out. Conversely, the taste, smell, or appearance of your least favorite foods makes you avoid them.

With food, you have the experience to know what you like and do not like, but think about this: What if something could be your favorite food, but you never tried it?

Recently, I was making a blueberry pie with my four-year old nephew. As I sliced our delicious treat, my nephew proclaimed he did not want a slice because he does not like blueberries. I was befuddled.

If you have kids or have been around kids, you have undoubtedly had a conversation like this before.

Me — “Just try the pie!”
Child — “I don’t like blueberries.”
Me — “Have you ever tried blueberries?”
Child — “No.”
Me — “How do you know you don’t like blueberries, if you have never tried blueberries!?”
Child — “I won’t like it.”
Me — “You don’t know that. Just try it. If you don’t like it, then you can spit it out”

I lost that argument.

As adults, we realize the stubbornness of the child’s argument. We know that even our favorite foods were once a strange, mysterious substance.

Now let’s transition from the dinner table to the conference table. Students and young professionals are regularly asked what type of position they are seeking in sports. Do they want to do sales, marketing, event management, or something else?

Very often, they are unsure what they want to do, but they have something they KNOW they do not want to do — typically sales. That conversation usually goes something like this.

Me — “Just try sales!”
Student/Young Professional — “I don’t like sales.”
Me — “Have you ever tried sales?”
Student/Young Professional — “No.”
Me — “How do you know you don’t like sales, if you never tried sales!?”
Student/Young Professional — “I won’t like it.”
Me — “You don’t know that. Just try it. If you don’t like it then you can spit it out (choose another career path).”

Look familiar?

We laugh at the reluctance of children to try new things, but as adults, we are often just as guilty when it comes to career choices.

Have you ever wondered: what if something you never tried is your dream career?

Similarly, we can be just as stubborn about what we KNOW we want to do. Personally, I KNEW that I wanted a sports career in social media, accounting, or event management. Yet, this career-defining proclamation came without any experience working, interning, or studying someone in one of those functions.

Back to the dinner table, you would never proclaim something was your favorite food without trying it first. Why would you do the same for your career?

Fortunately, before pursuing a specific career path, my first internship provided me with a buffet of opportunities. I experienced all the things I KNEW I liked…and then I realized I liked them much less than I anticipated.

The lesson learned? Consider opportunities outside of your comfort zone. If you want a career in marketing, find a marketing internship, but do not hide from other opportunities. Regardless of your position, you can use any opportunity not only to gain experience in the role’s primary function, but also to learn about other types of positions. Ask a co-worker from another department if you can talk with them over lunch, volunteer outside of work, or offer to help on other projects. The organization will notice your enthusiasm and you will gain valuable experiences and knowledge.

If you do not try something, you will never know if you like it or do not like it. Even worse, you may never realize your greatest potential.

What did I end up liking most at my first internship?

Sales — the one thing I KNEW I did not want to do.

And my nephew?

Well, he still has not tried blueberries. His loss, more pie for the rest of us.

Closing food for thought:

Is your current career path the one you predicted?
Are you willing to detour from your envisioned career path?
Do you like blueberry pie?