What Are Career Experiments and Why Do They Matter?

Move your career forward and indulge your love for reading by conducting little career experiments after each development book.Okay, friends – this post embodies Built By Books. Why is this not the first post, you ask? Two reasons.

First, I wanted to use my previous posts as examples of career experiments. After you read this article, I hope you can apply the steps for a career experiment to any book you read.

Second, I just finished the book Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success* by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. Fate? Perhaps. Many of their key points align perfectly with this article, including, “Be the scientist AND the subject.”

What Are Career Experiments?

For years, I conducted little career experiments in each role to set myself apart from other people. I brainstormed and pursued creative projects, developed areas of weakness, and researched new ways to approach obstacles in my industry.

Little did I know, the steps I was taking could be more structured and defined. The scientific method has helped scientists test theories and make discoveries for centuries. As you look for ways to improve your attractiveness as a candidate for the next level, think about conducting career experiments. Show initiative, be valuable, and improve.

What if the experiment does not give you the results you need? Use that feedback and move on to your next project. Fail fast, as creative gurus David and Tom Kelley like to say. (More on that in my Creative Confidence article.) The only thing worse than an experiment that doesn’t give you the desired results is doing nothing at all.

Be Scientific

The scientific method is used for scholarly work, but the same steps can be used in our little career experiments. Here are the steps:

  1. Make an Observation
  2. Research
  3. Write a Hypothesis
  4. Test Hypothesis with an Experiment
  5. Measure Results and Make a Conclusion
  6. Report Your Findings

At face value, it may not seem like these steps can be applied to a professional aspiration or goal. But let me give you an example from my career.

  1. I wanted to start a blog while I was working full-time as a sales rep. At the end of the week, I would be disappointed with the lack of content I completed that week. I was running out of time. (OBSERVATION.)
  2. To learn more about productivity and efficiency, I read the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. She gave several strategies that help readers make the most of the time they have. (RESEARCH.)Learn time management and prioritization strategies, based on the book "168 Hours."
  3. I hypothesized that if I implemented three of her strategies – 100 Dreams, a career plan, and a time log – I would be able to work more on my side hustle. (HYPOTHESIS.)
  4. In my notebook, I wrote out my 100 Dreams. I created and filled out a career plan that outlined what I needed to achieve in the next two years. And for two weeks, I kept a detailed time log to find chunks of wasted time. Download your free career development worksheet, from Built by Books!After completing all three exercises, I had new priorities and found time to work on them. (EXPERIMENT.)
  5. A month after my “experiment,” I was still sticking to ideal time schedule! Not only was I creating content for my new blog, but I was also promoting it on social media and partnering with other bloggers. The strategies worked! (RESULTS.)
  6. In my post about creating time and prioritizing, I shared my favorite strategies and results. I also shared the resources that helped me be successful (a printable career plan and customize-able time log). (REPORT.)

Here at Built by Books, most of our career experiments involve research and experiments from bestselling development books. We are book nerds, yes, but we try to implement the books’ key strategies in our own careers!

Change Anything

To experiment with your career, try some of the strategies outlined in the book Change Anything.Sometimes the career experiment you are testing involve creating or changing a habit.

As I was drafting this article, I was listening to the audiobook Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success* by Kerry Patterson, et al. The authors say that you are both the scientist and the subject when it comes to making changes in your life, and I love that metaphor. We try new things in our career to see if they help us achieve our goals, and then we analyze the results of that experiment.

The book goes into great detail about these experiments, for both your professional and personal life. The authors constantly reference your six sources of influence and how you need to address all six in order to make sustainable changes in your life.

The Six Sources of Influence from Change Anything | Built by Books

Let’s use a real example from my life to see how the six sources are used when changing or creating a new habit. Currently, I am learning a new language, and I need to make time every day to practice and study.

  1. Love What You Hate. My Personal Motivation Statement: Find 30 minutes a day to sharpen my brain, better interact with people in my new country, and officially say I’m bilingual. In order to better enjoy the difficult task of learning another language, I will ensure my resources are varied and interesting. So far, I am taking a class twice a week, listening to Pimsleur, and using free iPhone apps.
  2. Do What You Can’t. The skills needed to learn Croatian: vocabulary, tenses, and grammar cases. Deliberate practice each day will help me learn all three slowly. I must practice at least 30 minutes per day.
  3. Turn Accomplices… With language, I need to see find others around me who speak Croatian. This includes people in my language class those in my networking groups who speak it.
  4. …Into Friends. I will make an effort to learn Croatian from these accomplices, in class and during coffee. I will immerse myself in situations where my friends are speaking Croatian so I can listen, learn, and make lifelong friends.
  5. Invert the Economy. In order to create rewards, I need to first establish a timeline with goals. My goal for the next year is as fluent as a Croatian 1st grader. In order to measure my progress, I will take a little test every two months.
  6. Control Your Space. I will plan my schedule around my Croatian classes, and I will find a block of time every non-class day to practice (Pimsleur until they run out, then a textbook). Instead of asking what a word means, I must look it up myself. After learning a new word or phrase, try it out that week.

If you are trying an experiment to change a habit, pay careful attention to the cues that cause your habitual behavior. Once you identify the cue, you can begin to change the entire habit cycle, including the trigger/cue, the habit itself, and the undesired outcome. In Change Anything, this is called “Control Your Space.”

To read more about changing habits, another great resource is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I wrote a post about habits a few weeks ago because it came in handy when building my Instagram strategy.

sign-up-boxBuilt by Books has many resources that help you conduct your career experiments, including the ones mentioned in this post! Sign up for free access to our library of workbooks, worksheets, and activities.


*This article contains affiliate links for the books Change Anything and 168 Hours! As a bookworm, I only recommend books I really enjoyed reading. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Implement the best development books into your career with little experiments.


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