Get More Information on the Careers That Interest You Most
You probably know what sort of job you will seek. That certitude may come as the result of past training, education, work experience, or other reasons. If this is your situation, you may be thinking that you already know about the jobs you want and don't need to learn more about them. But learning more about the jobs you're interested in is a good idea, for several reasons. By researching various options, you can do the following:
Increase opportunities in your job search by identifying a wider range of job targets. There are thousands of specialized job titles, and, if you don't do some research, you are almost certain to overlook a number of them that would fit your needs very well. Looking up a few job titles is a start, but reviewing all jobs within clusters of similar jobs is likely to help you identify jobs you don't know much aboutbut which would be good ones for you to consider.
Improve your interview skills. Sure, you may think you know what's involved in a particular job, but you still need to prepare for an interview. Most people with substantial education, training, and work experience in a particular job do not do a good job of presenting their skills for that job in the interview. People who do their homework by carefully reading a job description and then mentioning key skills that job requires in an interview often get job offers over those with better credentials. Why? They do a more convincing job in the interview by making it easier for employers to understand why they should hire this job seeker over another.
Write a better resume. Knowing the specific skills a job requires allows you to focus on those skills in your resume.
Out of the hundreds of sources of career information, an important few will give you most of what you need. I've listed these few primary resources here, along with information on where to find them.
The Guide for Occupational Exploration
After extensive research, the U.S. Department of Labor developed an easy-to-use system that organized all jobs by interest. For example, if you are interested in artistic activities, this system would allow you to identify the many jobs related to this area. This interest-based system is presented in a book titled the Guide for Occupational Exploration (GOE) and is used in a variety of print and computer career information systems.
The current edition of the GOE organizes all jobs into 14 major interest areas. These areas are further divided into more specific groupings (called work groups) of related jobs. The GOE system is easy to understand and use, yet it is powerful enough to allow thousands of job titles to be organized into its various work groups.
The GOE allows you to quickly identify groups of jobs that are most closely related to what you want to do. All along the way, from major interest areas to the more specific work groups, helpful information is provided related to each group of jobs.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook
I consider the Occupational Outlook Handbook (which I will hereafter refer to as the OOH) to be one of the most helpful books on career information available. I urge you either to buy one or arrange for frequent access to it throughout your job search because it is useful in a variety of ways.
The OOH provides descriptions for about 280 of America's most popular jobs, organized within clusters of related jobs. Although that number may not sound like many jobs, about 87 percent of the workforce works in these 280 jobs.
The OOH is updated every two years by the U.S. Department of Labor and provides the latest information on salaries, growth projections, related jobs, required skills, education or training needed, working conditions, and many other details. Each job is described in a readable, interesting format.
You can use the OOH in many ways. Here are some suggestions:
Identify the skills needed in the job you want. Look up a job that interests you, and the OOH tells you the transferable and job-related skills it requires. Assuming that you have these skills, you can then emphasize them in interviews.
Find skills from previous jobs to support your present objective. Look up OOH descriptions for jobs you have had in the past. A careful read will help you identify skills that can be transferred and used in the new job. Even "minor" jobs can be valuable in this way. For example, if you waited on tables while going to school, you would discover that this job requires the ability to work under pressure, deal with customers, and work quickly. If you are now looking for a job as an accountant, you can see how transferable skills used in an apparently unrelated past job can support your ability to do another job. If you are changing careers or don't have much work experience related to the job you want, describing your transferable skills can be very important.
Identify related job targets. Each major job description in the OOH lists other jobs that are closely related. The description also provides information on positions that the job might lead to through promotion or experience. Because the jobs are listed within clusters of similar jobs, you can easily browse descriptions of related jobs you may have overlooked. All of this detail gives you options to consider in your job search.
Find out the typical salary range, trends, and other details. The OOH helps you know what pay range to expect and which trends are affecting the job. Note that local pay averages and other details can differ significantly from the national information provided in the OOH.
Get more specific information on a particular job and related jobs. If a job
interests you, learning more about it is important. Each OOH job description provides helpful sources, including a cross-reference to the O*NET career information (see next section), related professional associations, Internet sites, and other sources.
Tip: Most libraries have the Occupational Outlook Handbook, but you probably won't be able to take it home. Another book titled America's Top 300 Jobs provides the same information (plus my job search tips) and is often available for circulation. You can order either book through JIST or most bookstores. You should use these books as reference tools frequently during your job search and after. You can also access the OOH information online at careeroink.com or at bls.gov/oco.