In my coaching I find a constant disconnect between clients’ perceptions of what work opportunities exist for them and what’s really out there. It’s easy to underestimate the depth and breadth of current career choices because we only hear about the super glamorous careers or the uninspiring ones.

How can I find choices?

Bridging this gap comes down to this: finding a conduit between what you know about and what is actually possible. For the most part, we only know about the careers we’ve been around. Your neighbor’s job, your partner’s job, your siblings’ jobs, teaching jobs, tech jobs (and they’re all coding, right?), and manufacturing jobs. Wait, aren’t all of those jobs done by robots? Nope. Besides, who runs the robots?

For example, I was in a meeting recently where the agenda consisted of brainstorming about the needs of the workforce. We weren’t talking about tech jobs, we were talking about the need for workers in skilled trades like plumbing (average salary: $55,000) and welding (average salary:  $55,000 – can go up to $100,000 based on specialty).

Who’s doing this work now?

As we were talking about how few people explore these lucrative, safe careers, I was struck by a couple of things. (1) People don’t understand the opportunities that exist in these fields because (2) they don’t know anyone in their immediate circle who’s pursuing them. Since people can’t picture themselves doing the work, they automatically dismiss it.

My point is that it’s hard to picture yourself pursuing a career when you’ve never seen anyone who looks like you doing the work. When we think about tech jobs, we think about guys in hoodies working in secluded cubicles. Guys, hoodies, cubicles…. Doesn’t sound like anything remotely interesting to most of the women I know (of any age). Here’s the problem. That’s one view of one tech career.

Tech careers are collaborative.

Did you know that programming is like solving a puzzle? That it’s a critical, strategic part of many businesses? That almost all programmers work in teams, collaborating and sharing their work so they can all do their best work?

Did you know that for almost every group of programmers, there are project managers tasked with making sure the work that’s being done meets the strategic needs of the company? They’re also tasked with keeping their projects on target, on budget, and on time. They remove roadblocks to progress and, when project specs change, they help rework the plan.

Designers everywhere

Then there are designers: graphic designers, website designers, user experience (UX) designers, customer experience (CX) designers.

Design: the purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object. – Google

Think about the apps on your phone, the websites you frequent, the programs you use on your computer (most are called apps now,too), the customer service lines that you call when you need help. All of these experiences have been designed with a specific intent. And, those experiences you like the most, that you keep going back to? They are great because they follow stringent user experience design guidelines.

It’s all about the user experience.

The UX designers did research about their product, interviewed real people who use or might use the product, created mock-ups of the product, tested those mock-ups with potential customers, worked with programmers to figure out how the design and the product worked together, and went back to potential customers to check their design work out. And then they did it again.

During the design process UX (user experience) designers constantly combine their design knowledge with the strategic needs of the company to tweak their app to meet both the needs and desires of their customers and the company. Win, win.

And there are product managers for each of these products. And project managers for the individual projects needed to develop the product.

I want to find out more!

So, how do you access information about careers like these? You can start by Googling any of the job titles I listed. You can research them on CareerBuilder or GlassDoor or LinkedIn. Sure you can read about these careers, but how do you figure out if a User Experience (UX) career is really for you? Or if you’d enjoy project management, or product management, or customer experience? Because you sure don’t know anyone who works in any of these fields. And all those 25 year olds working in tech sure don’t look like you!

How do I actually figure out what works for me?

You can sign up for my Women’s Tech Conservatory. I created this program to do one thing: create a bridge between your perception of what tech careers are and the reality of the broad range of opportunities that are available to you in technology right now.

Women’s Tech Conservatory

In this 8 week program, I bring together people who are working in technology right now with women who want to figure out which tech careers appeal to them.

We explore careers, pursue training options (this is not a training program), create a tech career network, support each other, hold each other accountable, and receive one-on-one coaching around their career paths.

We meet face-to-face and online to build a network of women in technology who can support and mentor each other – and future participants.

If this sounds intriguing to you, you can find out more on my website – here. You can also email me directly, or comment on this post.

You are relevant.

There are awesome amazing careers out there. It’s not too late. You’re not too old. You haven’t missed the boat. Call me. Let’s talk.

Rise to the occasion and embrace change. Stay relevant.