Career Research Checklist

Getting ready to graduate? Considering a career change? Trying to figure out exactly which occupational path to follow? These are common, yet important, questions that need to be answered before you start searching for a career. The key to finding the right career for you is a two step process. First, you need to conduct a thorough self assessment to identify your interests, aptitudes, skills, personality and preferences as they relate to a future occupation. Second, you need to research–in depth–the various careers that interest you. The more research you conduct, the more likely you'll find a career path that meets your needs and criteria. So what are the best ways to research careers?

Career Research Checklist
  • Take several career assessment tests. If you're not yet sure of your career direction, completing a few career assessment tests should be your first step in researching potential careers. Some of the more popular career assessment tests include Myers Briggs Personality Test, The Career Key, The Big Five Personality Test, Carolyn Kalil's Personality Assessment and Sokanu, among others.

  • Develop a plan. A career plan provides your research vision and direction. The success of your research will be directly proportionate to the amount of career planning and preparation you do. As part of your career plan you'll want to analyze your future lifestyle, your likes and dislikes, your passions, your personality, your dream job and your current situation.

  • Read books. Books are a great source information on specific careers. If you're at the stage where you're still not sure what direction to head in, then it's probably a good idea to rely on the Internet for your research. However, once you have a clear career direction, traditional hardcover and paperback books will hold a plethora of information about specific careers and occupations.

  • Reach out to your network. Having an extensive professional network isn't only useful when it comes to finding a job, it's also useful for researching career possibilities. Getting first hand information from real-world professionals who are working in the industry where you want to be is one of the most reliable sources of accurate information about potential careers and occupations. Don't have a professional network yet? We'll then we highly recommend you start building your network by reading, "The 'Linkedin' Strategy to Networking Through Professional Associations".

  • Familiarize yourself. Hop online and find out about the nature of various careers including training and education requirements, employment outlook, working conditions, job descriptions, earning potential, and more. You can get started by using the CareerProfiles career exploration guide.

  • Get a temp job. While this strategy isn't for everyone, it's one of the most effective ways to (1) research potential careers and (2) position yourself for career opportunities. So how does it work? It's really quite simple. All you do is go to a temp agency that focuses on the career field you're interested in and apply for a temp position with any one of the firms they represent. As a temp employee you're not entering a long term employment commitment with an employer, you're able to learn first hand what a career will be like, and if you decide you are interested in the career, you'll likely be the first candidate on the list when a new career positions open up with the company where you're temping. While untraditional, the "Job Temp" strategy is effective at a number of different levels.

  • Job Shadowing. This is another effective way to gain first hand insight into potential careers. Arrange to job shadow a few professionals who have careers that are of interest to you. Shadowing will allow you to see first hand what a career is like, without any obligation or commitment.

  • Become a volunteer. Identifying your work passion is imperative to obtaining a successful and fulfilling career. In order to discover your work passion, you must actually do the work. Volunteering or obtaining an internship will enable you to gain the experience you need to know if a specific career path is right for you. Volunteering can be performed on a part-time basis during the day or in the evenings if you have a day job.

  • Review trade journals. Unlike books and other publications that become outdated quickly, trade journals typically contain current information, industry trends and information about up and coming employment opportunities within a specific career field. Trade journals are a very useful resource for researching career options within an industry.

  • Visit your college's career services office. Whether your a current student planning your first career search, or an alumni with with 10 years of experience under your belt, it's never too early, or too late, to meet with your college's career services center. The counselors and professionals in the career services office of your college are a great resource for researching careers, companies and employers.

  • Attend career fairs. Going to job expos and career fairs is a great way to network, explore employment opportunities and research potential career paths. Many of the employers who attend career fairs can provide valuable information and insight about the company they work for the and career field in general.

  • Interview industry professionals. While it takes effort to setup informational interviews with industry professionals, it's one of the most effective ways to research careers and occupations. Industry professionals are going to be able to tell you exactly what it's like to work day in and day out in specific occupation. Before you begin setting up informational interviews, we highly recommend that you (1) narrow your list of potential careers down to 1 or 2 and (2) you come to each interview with a knowledge of the company you're interviewing and the industry they're in. No only are information interviews useful for learning more about potential careers, they're a great way to build a valuable professional network and discover new employment opportunities.

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