Increase Your Chances of Choosing a
Great Career:
Career Research, Part 1: Written Resources

"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled "This could change your life"
~Helen Exley

"How can I be sure I'm making the right choice?" I've been asked that question many times by clients concerned that they will make a career choice, put a lot of time and energy into achieving that choice, and ultimately... hate it. Well, the bad news is that you can't guarantee a good career choice. The good news, however, is that you can greatly increase your odds of not making a bad choice (did you follow that?), and the way to do it is by conducting some in-depth career research before making any final decisions.
There are three different types of research - written stuff, people, and what I call experiential. I'll be addressing these three types of research in three separate articles. In this article, we'll look at the first of these three - written information...

Using Written Resources for Career Research
First up... the written stuff - and there is a lot of it. Let's be kind and say that not all of it is, how shall we put it... exactly accurate. There are some better sources than others. Some of the best written sources are available on the internet. Here are a few:

U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook
(One of the best sources of career information in the nation, if not in the world.
Use the search box to quickly find the occupation you're looking for)

O*NET Online
(Again, the search box is a good bet. The Bright Outlook and Green Economy Sector Drop Boxes may also interest you)

Career InfoNet Videos
(If you're more visual and prefer to watch videos as opposed to reading)

Career InfoNet Wages & Trends
(For information on salary and occupations with the fastest growth and most openings)

Occupational Trends in New Hampshire
(New Hampshire's largest, fastest growing, and highest paying occupations - use the left hand menu to conduct searches using various criteria)

Career Forums
Another source of information about careers on the internet are career forums (aka. message boards or discussion boards). Just go to your web browser's search box and type the name of the occupation you're interested in followed by the word "forums" or "career forums" (e.g. "Physical Therapist forums" or "Physical Therapist career forums") Here you'll find Physical Therapists having discussions about their profession. You can read through posts you're interested in and often gain valuable insight into the "dirty details" of a profession! Also, if it's allowed, don't be afraid to ask questions. You'll be known as a "newbie" and when "newbies" ask questions, often the most experienced forum members will almost be fighting themselves off to answer you. Here is a Physical Therapist Forum. And, by the way, here's a hint: if you're considering pursuing Physical Therapy as a career, and you really can't find any interesting topics or posts on a forum like this, then you might want to reconsider it.

Career Blogs
You can do the same with blogs as with forums. A blog is an online personal journal containing career related topics and links. You can get into the career, life, and mind of say a Graphic Designer by reading their blog posts. Again, just go to your web browser's search box and type the name of the occupation you're interested in followed by the word "blogs" or "career blogs" (e.g. "Graphic Designer blogs" or "Graphic Designer career blogs") Here's a Graphic Designer's Blog

Career Newsletters
With the advent of blogs, newsletters are less common, and often you have to "subscribe" (some are free) to get a newsletter through your email. Still, if you can find one of particular interest it may be worth it. Once again, just go to your web browser's search box and type the name of the occupation you're interested in followed by the word "newsletters" or "career newsletters" (e.g. "Librarian newsletters" or "Librarian career newsletters")

Library Research
Speaking of libraries... yes, despite all of the information on the internet, the library is still a good source of career information. Most libraries have a career section, and if you ask your friendly local librarian where that is, he/she will be glad to point it out to you. Here you can often find a compendium of books about all different types of careers. 

Using Trade & Occupational Magazines for Career Research
Also in the library, you'll be able to get your hands on many different types of trade and occupational magazines or journals. Most career fields have at least one, and often many, trade or occupational magazines associated with them. You can find some of these online, some of which will require a fee to access, or membership in the association which publishes them. But, in the good old library you'll have free access to these mags! They are choc full of articles that are of interest to industry members. These articles include new research and developments in the field as well as articles written by experts in the field. You can get a feel for what's going on in a field pretty quickly by reading through some of these journals.
Also, in some of these magazines, usually on the back pages, you may be able to find job opening posts. These can give you a taste of what type of openings are occurring in a field as well as the experience and education employers are looking for. And this, in turn, can give you an idea of what type of education and skills you'll need to be employable in a career field. Again, a hint: If you're reading through these magazines and the material is really interesting to you, that's a good sign you're on the right track career wise. If, on the other hand, the articles seem pretty boring to you, it could be a clue you need to reconsider it as an option.

Professional Association Search Engines
Professional Associations are simply groups of like-minded people who share an interest in a specific career field. One of the main objectives of a professional association is to promote their profession. You can utilize this desire on their part by contacting them for information. Usually they'll be more than happy to send you info, direct you to their website, etc.
Something you can also do is attend a local branch meeting of an association you may be interested in. For example, if you're interested in the field of psychology, you may want to attend a local meeting or conference of the American Psychological Association. The meeting will be a chance for you to see what's happening in a certain career field and may give you a feel for how interested you are in it. Also, attending a meeting gives you a chance to make contacts. You've heard the old saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Well, consider a meeting like this to be a step toward knowing the "who." Getting to know people in the field also helps you to see how much you have in common with them. Remember, if you enter this field, these will be your colleagues. If you find you like them and have a lot in common with them, that's a good sign. If not, you may want to reconsider things a bit.

Her are a couple of links to professional association search engines you can use online:

Directory of Associations
(go into the "All Categories" drop box to select the career of your choice)

U.S. Scholarly Societies Project
(for a list of "scholarly" societies - you'll have to click the link to find out what that means!)

So, these are some of the written resources providing you with career information that can help increase your odds of making a good career decision. In the next article I'll address people research.

"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it." ~P.J. O'Rourke

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