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Reading a field's publications and blogs can clue you in on big issues and industry parlance. They may also contain listings for jobs that aren't widely publicized.
You might join an association or professional society. And attending seminars and conferences "is a really good way to build connections and network," says Pamela Mitchell, chief executive of the Reinvention Institute, a career-development firm in Miami.
Once you know what you're talking about, give someone who has the job you want a call and ask for some guidance. Ask questions such as: What kinds of people are generally successful in this job? What are things about the job people may not know? How did you get the job?
Be sure to ask about the job's negatives, says Brendan Courtney, a senior vice president of Spherion, a recruiting and staffing firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "People get caught up in what they think a job is without knowing the nitty-gritty."
You might also consider an adult internship or volunteering, suggests Ms. Mitchell. "There are a lot of small but growing companies that could always use more manpower," she says, and some unpaid work in a new field could help build your credibility.
Shadowing someone on the job may also be an option. VocationVacations in Portland, Ore., arranges one- to three-day "test drives" of dozens of different careers (see vocationvacations.com).
If you need additional academic training for a new field, you may want to look into online options as well as local programs.
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