Whether you’re a recent college graduate approaching the market for the first time, or a mid-career adult thinking about branching out in a more satisfying new direction, there’s an important rule to keep in mind as you begin your exploration efforts.  As you research potential options, try not to lose sight of the fact that while there are an enormous number of distinct job and employment niches out there — over 100,000 by some counts — the range of options is not actually infinite or unlimited.

We mention this point only because we’ve encountered a healthy contingent of job seekers over the years who seem to think that the range of career possibilities is endless — and who appear to be holding out hope that if they look for long enough, they’ll find that one transcendent job path that meets every single last one of their expectations.  In other words, that they’ll find that one dream job that will allow them to only work three days a week, will fully leverage their lifelong passion for art history, and will compensate them at not a penny less than the $80,000 they’re making in their current career path..

Is such a career achievable?  Absolutely.  We’d be the first to admit that anything’s possible when it comes to the job market and that there’s some downright crazy stuff out there.  But such “dream” scenarios should be viewed as the exception, not the rule, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a serious job seeker to rely solely on finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.  Instead, we’d encourage potential career changers to do some thorough homework and then make the best possible choice from the range of more conventional career options that this research proves actually exist in today’s market — in significant enough numbers to represent a realistic possibility.

What’s the best way to test out the “proof of concept” with regard to a possible career path?  It’s simpler than you might think.  Simply log on to one or more of the huge vertical job boards (e.g. Indeed.com) and search nationwide for the job title or titles that interest you.  Even if you don’t find many current leads in your local market, any bona fide career avenue will produce multiple listings for your target job in other parts of the country, providing critical evidence that the “value proposition” you’re considering is one that employers currently recognize and for which they are willing to pay money for.  For example, despite the fact that no “art curator” job listings appear posted in Seattle at the time of this writing, searching on a nationwide basis reveals over 25 such leads available in parts of the country — suggesting that this career path truly exists, is recognized by employers, and represents a viable career option to pursue.

Going after a different kind of opportunity?  Try applying the same test to make sure that you have a realistic shot at success and aren’t chasing the proverbial wild goose, instead…