Chapter 6: Research: Exploring Career Information


Before getting started on your research, take some time to consider all of the careers that have come to your attention through the various assessments and class activities you have completed over the past few weeks.  

Up to this point, we have researched YOU.  You should have a good idea of your:

  • SKILLS [what are you good at, what natural talents do you have, what skills have you developed as a student or through previous work experience?)
  • VALUES [what is important to you, what principles guide you through your day and life?]
  • PERSONALITY [do you like to work with people or do you like to work alone, do you see the big picture or prefer to work with details, do you make decisions based on gut feeling or through rational thinking?]
  • INTERESTS [do you like to help or persuade other people, do you like to solve problems, do you like to work with information, data or things, do you like to be creative?] 
  • PURPOSE [what fulfills you, makes ‘your eyes shine’?]
  • CHARACTER STRENGTHS [what are your positive traits that demonstrate your personal strengths?]

Are there patterns or themes that you’ve seen develop in the types of careers that have come up for you? Maybe careers in the health, education, business, construction, or outdoor sectors have been showing up in a variety of ways.  This is good!  Maybe you’ve had a sampling of many different types of careers show up, this is ok, too!  Are there any careers that you know you can cross off your list right now? Maybe some don’t fit with your life plan?  If so, cross them off!  Make sure not to cross off a career just because you don’t know what it entails – this is where research can help.

Now it is time to start doing research on what each career entails (how much education do you need? What is the salary? What is the job growth like?  What do people in these different jobs actually do?  Will it fit with your overall goals?

To analyze this information you will want to:

  • Make a list of all the careers that have come up through the various assessments we have done in class. Ideally, you will want to generate a list of 5 -15 careers that you think you might be interested in. 

The objective for the reading in this lesson, is to learn about the careers on your list and start to narrow your list down to a few viable options. 

You might be wondering why the reading in this lesson appears to be so short.  That is because the bulk of this week’s reading will be done online as you research careers using the websites provided below.

Let’s get started!


There are four steps to a good solid career research plan:  

  • READ – Read as much as you can about the different careers you are interested in.  You can do this online, through trade journals, magazines and websites.
  • TALK – Talk to people who are actually in the jobs you are considering.  The most common way to do this is through informational interviewing – you will find out how to conduct these below.
  • OBSERVE – Try a job shadow.  Once you have your decision narrowed down to two or three possibilities, job shadow people in those fields.  This will give you an experiential, first-hand look at the careers you are considering.  Many professionals will be happy to have you follow them around one morning or afternoon to get a better feel for the job and atmosphere – this may be a particularly good method to use for intuitive style decision makers.
  • TRY – Get a part-time job in an area you are interested in.  If you are considering becoming an accountant, look for part-time jobs in an accounting office.  This will give you a great look at the cycle of the work and the day to day differences.

For this class, you will be engaging in the first two step: READ + TALK.  This lesson, specifically, will focus on the READ component.


As you start your research, you will want to pay attention to the job growth rate, size of the occupation, education or training needed, typical tasks for the job and the average pay rate for each of the careers on your list.  Here is some information on each of these areas:

  • Job Growth Rate – not all jobs are growing at the same rate.  If a job is growing at a rate equal to or faster than the national average, then you know that this field is growing with good opportunities for employment.  If a job is growing slower than the national average, you will need to take this into consideration while making your decision.  This does not mean there will be absolutely no jobs out there, but they may be fewer and farther between.  
  • Size of the occupation, employment trends or employment outlook – how many jobs are out there for the careers you are considering?  If it is a large or very large field, there will be more job opportunities.  If it is a small field, there will still be opportunities, of course, but you may need to be willing to relocate or be very persistent in hunting down opportunities.  Here’s an example:  the field of air traffic controllers is considered “very small” with only 195 positions in the state of Oregon.  The field of nursing assistants is “very large” with 12,040 positions in Oregon. [source:  Career Information System- CIS] 
  • Education and training – will you need on the job training [OTJ], an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a Ph. D. for the careers you are considering?  If you only want to go to school for two (2) years and the career you are looking into requires at least a bachelor’s degree you will have more decisions to make (i.e. bump up the amount of time in school to earn the higher degree).
  • Tasks – are the tasks involved with the job, those tasks that you find motivating and in line with your personality, interests and values?
  • Pay – while you do not want to base your career decision on money alone, it is important to be aware of the earning potential for the jobs you are considering.  If you currently make $18.00 per hour as a bookkeeper but want to get into the medical field and work as a medical assistant, is it worth it to you to only make about $14.00 per hour after earning an associate’s degree? It may be, but it also might not be.  You may want to consider other health related programs with a higher earning potential based on your financial needs.


Now that you have some ideas about the type of career information that is important to consider, let’s take a look at where to find reliable career information.  What do you think: Is a Buzzfeed article on the “15 Hottest Careers Right Now” going to be a good source for you?  How about the “10 Highest Paying Careers Today?” Well, maybe – but maybe not.  For one thing, these lists don’t take into consideration YOU – your interests, values, skills, personality, etc.  And you know that finding a career that fits YOU is more important than the “hottest careers” mentioned in an online article.  You might also realize that the ‘hottest careers’ of today, may not be the ‘hottest careers’ of tomorrow. 

So, we are back to focusing on the list of careers that you have been building upon during the course of this class.  These are the careers that you think might be satisfying and rewarding to you. YOU have created the “10 Best Careers For Me” list, which is a better than any list randomly found online.  

With all of this in mind, let’s turn our attention to where to get the most reliable information on the careers that you have on your list.


The process of career exploration in which you are involved is not always linear, easily defined, or instantly clear.  For some of you, this may be your experience, but for most of us, this process takes time, effort, action, and patience.  Take a look at this video to get an understanding of what this process could look like. Don’t focus too much on the careers, just notice the process.

The Fantasy, The Ideal, and The Reality of Career Exploration

Reflection Questions

You’ve had a chance to get to know your personality, interests, skills, purpose (maybe), character strengths, and values. You have brainstormed many career options using the Strong Interest Inventory, the CIS Skills assessment, by participating in class discussions, and now, try to narrow your ideas down to the BIG 3. These are the careers that you think could be the best options for you.

Now consider, based on your research, how these occupations you researched fit with:

  • Your interests?
  • The skills you enjoy using most or would like to develop?
  • Your work values, purpose, and character strengths?
  • What you know about your personality style?

After doing some initial research on these occupations and comparing them to what you have learned about yourself, do you have a high, medium, or low interest in exploring any of these occupations further?  Which one(s)? Why? 

Are there general career fields (e.g. education, health care, etc.) that you will continue to explore?  Why?

What conclusions can you draw from your research?

What other information do you need and/or want? How do you think you might find this information?


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Career & Life Planning by Dawn Forrester and Eden Isenstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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