Doing Career Research

November is National Career Development Month. Let’s talk about doing career research.

In a previous post, I gave some tips for doing research when making a decision about taking a job you have been offered. But how can you research potential jobs and careers? Instead of just blindly applying to anything on the internet that sounds good, you can do some serious fact finding about your interests and abilities, and how they match up with what is available in the job market.

Doing Career Research

Career research is the process of finding out exactly how you can get to where you want to be via reliable and credible resources. It includes researching job prospects, understanding educational and experiential requirements, and learning if a career is well suited for you.

1. Take a career assessment such as the Self Directed Search. I am not someone who believes that tools of assessment and measurement are the be-all and end-all of career decision making, but I do think they can be very helpful. Assessments help to link your values, goals and preferences with careers. You can find some other helpful assessment tools on O*Net. Of course, the best way to use assessments is to sit down with a career counselor who can help you navigate through the process, and the results, in a way that is productive rather than overwhelming.

2. Review general career information sites such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) and O*Net. These sites provide you with information about the knowledge and skills required for a particular career; the type of work environment; the educational requirements; and of course the data on salary and job growth. If you take the SDS, you can actually match up your results using the codes in the OOH and on O*Net.

3. Review articles, websites and books related to a potential field of interest. This is the beauty of living during the age of the internet and google. Google it! Just make sure you are using reliable sources and reading about the positives and negatives.

4. Meet with professionals in the field to learn about their perspectives and  career strategies. This is usually referred to as informational interviewing. Many professionals are open to it but remember to be respectful of time and availability. Doing an informational interview can help you get a feel for the type of person found in that particular field, hopefully the person you meet with will also be honest about the positives and negatives and it will help you build a connection. Not all connections lead somewhere; but many can if you nurture them. Don’t assume that an informational interview is going to earn you an internship or job and don’t take advantage of people who are willing to keep the lines of communication open.

5. Gain first-hand experience through internships, jobs and volunteering. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! I can’t stress it enough. No matter how much you read about something, nothing will prepare you more than first had experience. I worked with a student who waited until senior year to work at a dental office. He spent 3 years in college taking science courses and preparing for entrance exams. After a couple of months at the dental office, right before he was going to apply to dental school he sat in my office and said “I hate spending all day with my hands in peoples mouths.” Oops! If only he had gained experience earlier! Although, on the positive side at least he discovered this before spending thousands of dollars on dental school applications and stressing himself out in the process.

This however, is not just advice for students. If you ask any recruiter or talent acquisition specialist, they will tell you that people who volunteer (and have that volunteer experience on their resume) are looked upon favorably. So if you are looking to make a career change, or go back to work after some time away, think about volunteering somewhere.

6. Join and participate in associations related to a field of interest. Joining professional associations can help you make and build connections, find internships/jobs and really dive into learning more about your future career.

7. Network. In addition to joining professional organizations, using LinkedIn, going to happy hours, VOLUNTEERING, and attending special events can really help you learn more about what you want to do, and where you want to do it. I recently spoke to a recruiter who said that she got two of her jobs, yes TWO, by attending happy hours she was invited to by her colleagues. My one piece of advice – stay away from large amounts of alcohol.

group of friends hanging out
Photo by Helena Lopes

Here are some helpful Career Research resources:

Career Resources