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Career Exploration

How to Explore Your Career Options


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Career exploration is the second stage of the career planning process. You will begin to explore careers after completing the first stage of the career planning process, self assessment. During that stage you took inventory of your values, interests, personality and skills. You should have come away from the self assessment stage with a list of careers that are appropriate for you based on what you found out about yourself. Now it's time to learn about the careers on your list so you can begin to make that list shorter. Your goal is to eventually narrow it down to the one career you want to pursue. Try not to eliminate any career from your list until you do, at least, a little bit of research about it. Even if you think you know about an occupation, you may be surprised by what you learn.

Start With the Basics

At first you will just want to gather some basic information about each career on your list. Let's assume you have a list of ten occupations. You can do some preliminary research which will allow you to narrow down your list before you do more in depth research. When exploring careers you will need basic information such as job descriptions, employment statistics, job outlook, earnings and educational and training requirements. For basic information, use these resources:

After reading up on the careers on your list you will find that several of them don't appeal to you. For example, you may decide that you wouldn't enjoy the job duties of a particular career or that you can't (or choose not to) meet its requirements. The earnings may be lower than you thought or its outlook doesn't look promising. In the end, you will be left with a list with no more than about three careers on it.

Delve Deeper

After you narrow down your list of career choices your research will become more involved. You will want to learn what working in the field is really like, at least as much as you can without actually working in it. The best way to do this is to talk to people who do.
  1. Utilize your network to compile a list of people who work in your field or fields of interest.

  2. Set up informational interviews with them.

  3. See if any of your contacts are willing to let you follow him or her around at work for a day.

After your in depth research, you should be able to determine which career is a good match for you. Try not to get frustrated if, at this point, you can't make a decision. Continue to do more research until you can comfortably make a decision.

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