Not sure what you want to do with 8 (or more) of every 24 hours for the rest of your life? Once you know your own values, interests, skills, and personality, there are a number of tools to explore potential careers:
- O*NET: O*NET, funded by the U. S. Department of Labor, lets you explore careers by using a guided menu of descriptors, job families, industries, and disciplines. It also has a Skills Search option that can be a fun way to generate lists of potential jobs.
- Assessments: The Career Development Center offers three assessments that ask you about your interests or personality preferences and generate lists of potential careers.
- BLS Kids' Page: Feeling intimidated? Check out the career exploration page put together for kids by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It doesn't have the breadth or depth of other resources, but the information is sound and you might find some ideas.
Research highlights potential emerging careers, ensures you will not enter a dying field, and shows you what you're getting into before you invest your time, money, and energy.
When researching a career, get a feeling for the big picture:
- The health of the field
- The top employers and outside competitors
- The future of the field
You'll also need to know the details:
- Daily activities
- Working conditions
- Required education and training
- Advancement opportunities
- Job outlook
To get this information, first try the Occupational Outlook Handbook. You might need to try a few different keywords to get information about the particular field you're interested in, but it's the most comprehensive single resource for learning both the big picture and the details.
Professional associations are often good sources of information about the current state of the field or industry, possible career paths and qualifications, as well as job ads (so you get to see what employers are looking for). To find a relevant association, check the Career Interests Web Link Library.
To stay in the know, read. Major newspapers and magazines report on businesses and economic trends all the time. If you're serious about a specific career, ask a professor or a professional in the field for the titles of the industry's niche publications. Most fields, even small ones, have at least one important newsletter or trade magazine.
Of course, library and web research can only take you so far. If you're serious about investing your time, money, and energy in a career, do some experiential research.