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Searching for the Right Career

By Russ Beck
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #28, 1999.

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Russ Beck


Bionic electron technician, grief therapist, fiber optic technician, Internet content developer, leisure consultant, psychopharmacologist, retirement counselor, and space mechanic. These jobs didn't exist a few years ago! With technological breakthroughs and changing demands in consumer services, many new jobs and many new specialties within job fields will be created. With the world of work undergoing rapid growth and change, it is particularly important that after identifying their skills, interests, and abilities, students conduct a comprehensive exploration of all the job opportunities that are available.

The personal profile that emerges from the data in the student's career development portfolio will likely lead him or her to more than one career field. Eliminate those fields that are definite no's and list those that are possibilities. If a student has an affinity for a particular field, be sure to exhaust all possibilities within that field. For example, someone who has an interest in and is proficient in astronomy doesn't necessarily have to be an astronomer. There are many other opportunities to consider. They range from being a sales representative for astronomical equipment to being a science editor for a magazine. So while your interest is astronomy, your skills and personality type will determine what type of work you will seek in the field of astronomy.

A good place to start looking for occupational information is the public library. One of the most comprehensive collections of career information is the Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance. This four-volume, A to Z reference set can provide information such as the nature of the work, salaries, job outlook, training and education required, and advancement possibilities for hundreds of careers. In addition, personal interests and school subjects that relate to each job are listed. Another useful reference tool is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Department of Labor. This publication provides basic information on jobs and current employment statistics. If you are looking for information on a particular career or career field, you can also write to the professional associations related to that career. The addresses of thousands of associations are listed in the Encyclopedia of Associations, which is found in the reference section of the library.

Another excellent source of career information is the State Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (SOICC). Each state has a SOICC office and operates under the auspices of the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (NOICC). The mission of NOICC/SOICC is to help students and adults make informed decisions about their careers. They do this by providing career information and by guiding people to the resources they need. In addition, each SOICC operates a Career Information Delivery System (CIDS), a computer-based program that provides information about occupations and educational programs within a state.

Some public libraries may have access to the CIDS program. If not, it can be found at what are now called One-Stop Centers. These were formerly known as Job Service offices or State Unemployment offices in many states. Their services are now greatly expanded and can be extremely helpful to anyone exploring career possibilities or actually looking for a job. Locate the closest One-Stop Center in your state and ask about the services they offer; this is a great resource.

Another resource that will provide a wealth of job information is the Internet. Researching careers on the Internet, however, can be a little overwhelming. According to a recent National Business Employment Weekly article, there are over 11,000 employment-related sites. A good way to get started is to use an indexed search engine and one of the best is Yahoo (www.yahoo.com). The best career site to begin with is America's Career InfoNet (www.acinet.org). This site has information on employment trends, specific jobs, salaries, and training requirements. Two other career sites worth looking at are The Riley Guide (www.dbm.com/jobguide) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, (www.bls.gov/oco/).

Consider contacting a person who is employed in a field of interest and schedule a short interview to learn more about their job or career field. Volunteering is a great way to get an inside look at a job. Internships, part-time work, and temporary positions are also excellent ways to find out more about specific jobs.

It is true, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that the average person changes careers three or four times in a lifetime. However, with good information and good career intelligence, those changes will be positive moves leading to a more successful career.


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