Families and friends can be extremely helpful in providing career information. While they may not always have the information needed, they may know other knowledgeable people and be able to put the job seeker in touch with them. These contacts can lead to an “information interview,” which usually means talking to someone who can provide information about a company or career. This person should have the experience to describe how he or she trained for the job, received promotions, and likes or dislikes the job. Not only can the person advise what to do, he or she can advise what not to do.
Libraries and Career Centers
Libraries offer a great deal of information about careers and job training. Begin by searching the catalog under “vocations” or “careers” and then look under specific fields of work that match areas of interest. For instance, those who like working with animals can find descriptions about the work of veterinarians and veterinary assistants, zoologists, animal trainers, breeders, groomers, and others whose occupations involve working with animals. Trade publications and magazines describe and discuss many kinds of work in various fields.
Most school and public libraries own current editions of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which describes hundreds of occupations in detail and is revised every two years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor. The 2006–07 edition is available at http://www.bls.gov/oco/. School career centers often offer individual counseling and testing, guest speakers, field trips, and career days. Information in career guidance materials should be current. It is wise to find a number of sources, since one resource might glamorize the occupation, overstate the earnings, or exaggerate the demand for workers in the field.
Counselors are professionals trained to help clients assess their own strengths and weaknesses, evaluate their goals and values, and determine what they want in a career. Counselors can be found in:
- High school guidance offices
- Placement offices in private vocational or technical schools
- College career planning and placement offices
- Vocational rehabilitation agencies
- Counseling service offices offered by community organizations
- Private counseling agencies
- State employment service offices
The Internet provides much of the same job information that is available through libraries, career centers, and guidance offices. However, no single network or resource will contain all the desired information. As in a library search, one must look through various lists by field or discipline or by using keyword searches.
A good place to start an Internet search for career information is at the Web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where job seekers can find the aforementioned most current edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This resource contains specific information and statistics on occupations from aircraft mechanics to zoologists. Topics covered range from the type of education or training required, to working conditions, earnings, prospects for career openings and advancement, and a description of what workers do on the job.
Since October 2003 the U.S. Department of Education has operated the Career Voyages Web site (http://www.careervoyages.gov/). Information focuses on indemand occupations within select industries that have projected high growth, including advanced manufacturing, automotive, construction, energy, financial services, health care, hospitality, information technology, retail, and transportation. In addition, the site highlights such emerging industries as biotechnology, geospatial technology, and nanotechnology. Career Voyages gears information to students (including a special section directed at those still in elementary school), career changers, parents, and career counselors, and offers advice on how to begin a job search, how to qualify for a particular career, which industries and occupations are growing, and how to pay for education and training.
Professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, business firms, and educational institutions offer a variety of free or inexpensive career materials. The Guide to American Directories, The Directory of Directories, and the Encyclopedia of Associations, found at local libraries, are useful resources. Trade organizations are particularly useful sources of information if one already has a job and is seeking another or fears being “downsized” by one’s present employer.