Career Exploration for a Rewarding Career

If you are a recent or soon to be high school or college graduate, you are probably scratching your head wondering what to do next. If you are a high school graduate, you may be interested in exploring different majors so that you can decide, which college, university, or vocational school is right for you. If you are a college graduate, you may be interested in exploring the many different types of jobs that are available to you now that you have earned your degree.

Making the right decision about your education or job choice is the first step toward a rewarding career. You can save yourself years of unhappiness by taking the time to research the different types of careers that are available to you, the economic outlook for those careers, the salary that you can expect to earn, and the advancement potential you can anticipate.

With tens of millions of jobs to choose from, planning your career can be a long and difficult road without the proper tools to research your career and education options. As a high school graduate, if you make the wrong choice about your major you could spend years earning a degree only to discover it was not the right career path for you. As a college graduate, if you make the wrong choice about your career you could spend years feeling trapped in a job because it was not the right career trajectory for you.

As an experienced career coach and resume writer, I have clients of all ages and career levels contact me to help them navigate their job search. Unbelievably, approximately 50% of these clients do not have a clear-cut job target, nor do they know that there are resources to assist them in making this very important decision. As a result, I provide my clients with the tools and resources they need to identify their career objective before we begin mapping out a strategy to help them get there.

With graduation time creeping around again, I wanted to share a few online resources with you to help you find the career that might suit you best. The Big Book of Jobs published by GM Career Books and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics says, "The key to a successful career search is to balance what you can do and what you want to do versus what employers expect in specific career fields. One way that most of us reconcile this dilemma is by first conducting an extensive self-assessment and then researching careers that match your personal profile". I could not have said it better myself. Below are a few of the free self-assessment resources that are available online.

1. The O*NET Computerized Interest Profiler is a vocational interest assessment instrument administered online that fosters career awareness and provides a window to the world of work via the 800+ occupations within O*NET Online.

2. O*NET Work Importance Locator is a self-assessment career exploration tool that allows people to identify occupations that they may find satisfying based on the similarity between their work values and the characteristics of the occupations.

3. The O*NET Ability Profiler is a career exploration tool that helps clients plan their work lives. Individuals can use the results to identify areas for which they might want to receive more training and education as well as identify occupations that fit their strengths.

Once you have completed a comprehensive self-assessment, you can begin researching careers that match your personal profile. Below are a few career exploration tools that are available online.

1. Inside Jobs is a free online resource dedicated to career exploration. There are thousands of job descriptions to help people identify what they want to do in their career. The job descriptions are fun to read and include salary ranges and work environment information as well as information on education and training needed to enter a specific job field. Users can also explore common career trajectories for a variety of job fields. The interactive media components of the website allow users to watch informational videos with real people sharing their personal experience about their career choice.

2. O*NET Online is an interactive application for career exploration and job analysis. The O*NET database contains information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors, which is available to the public at no cost, and is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation.

Even with the multitude of career exploration tools available, you may still find it difficult to make a career decision. As you peruse job descriptions that match your personal profile, make a list of the likes and dislikes of the jobs you have eliminated as well as a list of the likes and dislikes of the jobs that are still in contention.

For the positions that are still in contention, make notes about what makes these types of jobs attractive to you such as skill sets, opportunity for advancement and salary ranges. Think about other types of careers that share these same features and refine your research efforts to focus solely on these career fields until you reach a decision.

If you are still undecided about your career choice, consider setting-up informational interviews with professionals in your fields of interest to learn more about what the jobs entail and what you might expect should you decide on a career in one of those fields.

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