It’s impossible to know if you’ll really like a career direction until you try it. To avoid costly mistakes — and wasting your energy — take a test-drive. If you can spare nights or weekends, or afford to go without a paycheck for a short period, try volunteering. Offer to help out at an organization or assist an entrepreneur who’s working in the field you think you want to get into. It will allow you to network with people in your target career, build new skills, and enhance your resume — all of which will make you an attractive candidate if you eventually decide to apply for jobs in that field. You can even volunteer in your current job. Step up for committees and cross-functional projects that allow you to build connections in different departments. It might feel strange at first to work for another part of your company, but you’ll be compensated with a broader internal network and added experience.
Adapted from the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job.