Looking for your dream occupation? Browsing for inspiration? Do some initial research to help uncover what you need to know before you head down a career path.
Start your research by checking out:
- News sources
This information is easy to access. It will point you toward occupations you might like to explore. It’s a great way to get a better feel for what the work is really like.
Talk with people
People who work in an occupation can tell you a lot about it. They may be the most up-to-date source of information available. If you’re looking for networking contacts, research the occupation you’re interested in. Make sure you know about the industry and the organization your contact is a part of before you approach them.
Talking with them and visiting their workplace will help you:
- Learn how other people got started in the occupation
- Find out what the work is really like
- Focus your career plan
- Identify new possibilities
- Identify your next steps
Omar is tired of running a restaurant, dealing with long hours, unreliable staff, and fickle suppliers. He wants a steady, 9-to-5 job so he can spend more time with his young family. When a food safety inspector gives Omar’s kitchen high marks, again, Omar quizzes her about her work, her regular hours, and her benefits as a city worker.
“Imagine taking a paid vacation!” he tells his wife excitedly that night. Omar knows all about food preparation and the restaurant industry. Switching over should be simple. But his research shows that inspectors need courses in microbiology and chemistry. Omar didn’t like science in high school. Is this the right option for him?
Chatting with someone who seems to be living the dream is just the start of your research. Look at Omar’s story. He likes what he hears from the food safety inspector. But as he researches online job postings, Omar discovers he would need post-secondary courses in an area he has never liked: science. For him, it makes sense to look at other options.
How much do I need to find out?
The amount of research you do should be guided by the size of the change you are considering. If you’re trying to decide if you can afford the latest smart TV, you do not need to do much research. You will probably just need to check some numbers: how much you’ve saved up, how much debt you have, the amount of interest you’re paying, and what future income you can afford to set aside.
But a change in careers is more serious. Take the time to really listen to advice or read up on information. Consider the time you use for your research as an investment in your dream. And while you do not want to waste your time, give yourself permission to follow interesting facts or ideas down other roads.
You may discover a job or a training opportunity you had never heard of before.
For example, while Omar was researching careers in his field, he discovered new options. From running a restaurant, he had skills in organization and food and beverage management. With these under his belt, he could also manage events, supply wholesale equipment to restaurants and hotels, or teach food and beverage management at the local college.
Keep track of new information
All your work gathering details about a great training program or a fantastic job lead will not help if you lose track of the information you collect. Use the worksheet below to record your notes and ideas. Or create a folder on your computer or in an empty drawer so you can store your research there.
As you gather information, remember:
- You may have an amazing memory, but it pays to keep track. Use the notes below or write things down as you research. Don’t just follow an internet link and then shut off the computer—you may never find your way back to that site. Bookmark it, write it down, or copy and paste it into an electronic document.
- Ask for business cards. Write down the dates when you spoke to people and a few points on what you spoke to them about.
- Keep documents such as brochures or news articles in the same storage place.
- Jot down any impressions or feelings you have as you learn new information. For example, someone in your network might tell you how much she loves working as a video game developer. But if she mentions that she has not had a weekend off in two months, you might note that work-life balance could be an issue.
Remember, you’re exploring your options by collecting information. Having all this information on hand will help you make a good decision.