Researching Careers That Interest You

Once you’ve analyzed yourself and determined what you should look for in a career, it’s time to find out more about the careers you are considering. You can use both informal and formal methods to research careers. Informal research is as simple as talking to people you know, going to a movie, or reading a magazine. Formal research methods include use of library resources, internet searches, and exploratory interviews. You can also learn about careers by working part-time or by taking advantage of opportunities to see people at work.

Conducting Career Research

Both informal and formal methods give you useful information about careers. If you are seriously interested in a certain career, take the time to learn as much as possible about it. If you are uncertain what you want to do, seeking information about careers of interest will help you decide. You will find many sources of useful information.

Informal Research. Wherever you go, you can learn about careers informally by simply paying attention. Make a list of the careers you notice as you go about your daily activities. Talk to people about their career experiences. Most people will be willing to talk about their jobs. Ask people about their past jobs, their reasons for changing jobs or careers, their current job, the education and skills required, and their most and least favorite tasks. By gathering information first-hand, you get answers to the questions that are important to you. Is the person you talked with anything like you? How did the person get into the field? What qualities does the person see as important for success?

Media sources such as movies, TV shows, U-tube, newspapers, and magazines are other informal ways to learn about careers. Notice the careers portrayed in movies and TV shows that might interest you. Read about people who work in careers of interest in newspapers and magazines. Search for videos on U-tube that show people at work. Can you imagine yourself pursuing any of these careers?

Formal Research. After you find careers of interest through informal research, use formal methods to learn more.  School guidance counselors and career counselors are a good place to start. Many school and public libraries have career information centers. You can search there for reference books, magazines, videos, and other sources of career information. You can do computer searches to find information about careers of interest.

Your school guidance counselor or career center supervisor can answer your questions about careers and guide you to a variety of resources. Schedule an appointment to discuss your career interests. If you have taken job preference and job value tests, ask to discuss the results. If not, ask whether your counselor can administer these standardized tests. The tests will show you things you might enjoy doing as well as things to look for in a job. Your counselor can also provide information about specific jobs, job outlooks, employment trends, and other work-related topics as well as information about schools and scholarships related to your career interests.

Both school and public libraries have books, business magazines, videos, and other resources that provide information about jobs and careers. From these sources, you can learn about the advantages and disadvantages and about education and training requirements of different jobs and careers. You will also find information about colleges and technical schools. If you cannot find the information you want, ask a librarian for help.

The Internet has vast amounts of information about jobs and careers. Using a computer, you can explore jobs and careers, their locations, and their education and training requirements. You can also find lists of available jobs. You will find a wide range of internet job services designed to recruit job applicants and for career research. Two helpful sites are and You can also search a specific company’s website to find information. Most websites list job opportunities in different industries by title, key duties, where to find jobs, and other criteria. As you search for jobs and careers online, choose specific search terms, such as dental assistant or social media marketing to help you find jobs that best fit your interests.

Four online sources that use U.S. Department of Labor data provide reliable information for a variety of occupations.

  • Occupational Information Network (O’NET) is an online database that offers up-to-date information on thousands of jobs. The database also provides career exploration tools. (See
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) profiles hundreds of occupations and describes duties, work environment, education and training requirements, pay, and more. Each profile also includes employment projections for the 2010-20 decade. (See
  • American Job Center Network (AJC) provides a single access point to key federal programs and critical local resources to help people find a job, identify training programs, and gain skills in growing industries. (See
  • Career One Stop allows you to explore occupations, take a career assessment, and browse the fastest growing careers. (See

For more information, take time to study each of these resources.

Finally, you can pursue exploratory interviews with people who work in a career that you are considering. Ask people you know to help you make a list people who work in the career you find most interesting. After doing some formal research, choose one of the people on your list then call to arrange an interview. Before your visit, make a list of questions such as these:

  • How did you get into this career?
  • What education and training did you need?
  • What do you like most and least about your job?
  • What do you do on a typical day at work?
  • What advice can you give someone interested in this career?

During the interview, listen carefully and take notes. Afterward, write a summary of what you learned and how the interview affected your interest in the career. Also, write a thank you note to the person you interviewed.

Learning from Experience

One of the best ways to learn about a career is by making your own observations in the workplace. Observing people over time provides insights into the environment, the work, and the challenges of a particular career. A part-time or full-time job as well as unpaid work will give you that opportunity. Being involved in the world of work will help you better understand how businesses and organizations work. It may alert you to some of the less glamorous aspects of the career. Making first-hand observations will help you recognize not only what you like but what you dislike about the career you are considering.

An entry-level part-time or full-time job provides a chance to see a career you might like in action. You will also gain experience, make personal contacts, and earn a paycheck. Perhaps you can find a part-time job on your own. You might consider full-time employment during summer vacations or following high school graduation. Work-based learning programs also promote an understanding of specific careers. These programs may offer classroom instruction and either hands-on laboratory instruction or part-time work opportunities.

Other ways to learn about careers are through job shadowing, volunteering, and internships. While you may not get paid, these options provide valuable experience and may lead to future employment. Job shadowing involves spending time on the job with someone and learning about their career by watching, listening, and asking questions. This will give you an idea of the work environment, tasks, activities, and problems the worker faces. Volunteer work is another way to explore careers. Hospitals, schools, libraries, animal shelters, and museums are just a few places that use volunteers. While you are unlikely to do the work required in a full-time job, you can learn about the work environment and see workers who have chosen careers in the field. An internship is a more formal position that usually requires a longer, more formal commitment than volunteering. It provides a chance to work where the action is and to do work more closely related to jobs in the field. Interns may or receive pay. Exceptional interns get full-time paid positions.

Don’t wait! Start researching the careers that interest you today. Thorough research takes time to do and time to absorb. The sooner you start your research, the sooner you will be ready to develop a plan to prepare for your chosen career..

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