Careers: An Overview

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The concept of careers ranges from descriptions of jobs, occupations, or vocations to the pattern of work and work-related activities that develop through a lifetime. Career is defined in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (1999) as "a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life."

The perception of a career has various connotations. A career could be a job. A job, as defined in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (1999), is "a regular remunerative position; something that has to be done: task." A job might be washing dishes or typing reports. In other works, a job is a task.

An occupation, as defined in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (1999), is "an activity in which one engages; the principal business of one's life: vocation." An occupation may mean practicing law, teaching school, and so forth. In other words, an occupation is a vocation.

Careers are the patterns of work and work-related activities that develop through a lifetime. Having several careers during a lifetime is not uncommon. One may train to become a business teachera satisfying occupation (vocation) for years. After that, one may leave teaching and train to become a financial planner (a second vocation).

Also, having more than one job within a career is common. A business teacher might begin teaching middle school general business subjects (a first job), then progress to teaching secondary-level business subjects (another job). While teaching secondary business subjects, the same person might supervise the publication of the school's yearbook (still within the career field of education).


To be successful in a vocation, it is first necessary to obtain knowledge about choosing a career and then to acquire the education needed to grow in that career and in the job(s) pursued within that career.

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test, available at employment offices, at school career/college centers, or on the Internet, could be a first step in choosing a career. Based on the work of Karl Jung, the test was developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, to determine whether someone was primarily extroverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. Combining these traits, they formed sixteen distinct personality types, known as the Myers-Briggs Personality Types. Understanding one's own personality type, as well as that of other people, can help in finding the "perfect" job and make it easier to manage personal and professional relationships.

Along with the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, a person should consider the following when choosing a career:

  1. Skills you currently possess and need to acquire
  2. Education you have or will need
  3. Salary you are willing to accept
  4. Working conditions in which you would be comfortable
  5. Working schedule preferred (day or night shift, part-time, or full-time work, etc.)

Anyone searching for a position, whether this is a first job or the next step up the career ladder, needs to go through the following steps.

Know which jobs are suitable

The information from the Myers-Briggs Personality Test will provide an idea of your abilities and interests. However, this is not the sole source of information for determining the perfect job(s). School or public libraries, job counselors, and employment agencies all have information and testing facilities to assist in finding the perfect job.

Prepare a flawless resume

Sales representatives know that when calling on a potential customer, displaying their product in the most favorable way enhances the prospect of a sale. The same principles apply when searching for a job. You are selling yourself based largely on your resumeeducation, experience, abilities, and talents that apply to their company or organization.

There are two primary resume formats. One is the traditional hard-copy format. The second is the scanner ready format meaning that the resume is ready to be posted on the Internet, distributed via e-mail, or submitted to employers with scannable databases. Because a computer software program will probably read the resume initially, a keyword paragraph must be included in the resume. Keywords are critical words matching the applicant with the required job qualifications. For instance, in an application for a job as a programmer, the keyword paragraph might look like this:

Keywords: Programmer, Unix, C, C++, Cobol, Java, Systems Engineer, and Solaris

The keywords are critical if an employer has resume-tracking software. They should fit the positions for which you are applying. It is also important that experience and background match the job.

The resume and cover letter are the first documents that the potential employer or resume-tracking system sees or scans. Even if the company has resume-tracking software, when a resume pops up from a search, a human resources professional will read it. A resume creates an all-important excellent first impression.

Search for jobs

Acquire knowledge about various career choices. The following is a list of the most popular careers for the twenty-first century (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000 ): (1) air transportation-related occupations, (2) engineering and engineering technicians, (3) architects and surveyors, (4) computer, mathematical, and operations research, (5) scientists and science technicians, (6) legal, (7) social scientists, (8) social and recreation workers, (9) teachers and instructors, counselors, and library occupations, (10) health diagnosticians, (11) health assessment and treating, (12) health technologists and technicians, (13) communications-related, (14) visual arts and design, (15) performing arts.

Determine what education is needed. Research the qualifications necessary. Use the Internet to begin gathering facts on a particular career. Firm-specific data can be found in books such as Hoover's Handbook of American Business, Dunn's Regional Business Directory, and other business directories available online or in library reference sections. Judy Kaplan Baron, a nationally certified career counselor in San Diego, recommends reading about a target occupation in resources such as the Occupational Out-look Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Baron believes that it does not occur to most people to use friends, co-workers, and neighbors as referral sources: "You may have what you need as a referral living right next door."

Research the company and/or industry

The task of business research has gotten easier, since the Internet contains information on almost every business. Use search engines to gather information on public and private companies or use information gleaned from the local library.

Prepare for an interview

Knowledge is power, especially in an interview. The more known about the company and what is going to occur in an interview, the more likely you are to be an intelligent candidate. If you are familiar with the interview procedure, you can talk confidently to a potential employer. Rather than worrying about the upcoming interview, time can be spent rehearsing and preparing for the interview.

Be aware of implicit rules during the interview. Never ask for a job and respect the interview's time limits. When time is up, offer to end the meeting. Maintain the conversation only if urged by the interviewer to do so.

The interview should be ended by asking the interviewer to suggest other people with whom it would profitable to talk. Then ask permission to mention the interviewer's name when contacting those recommended.

Within twenty-four hours of the interview, send a thank-you note. John Klube, site manager for the Army Career and Alumni Program at Fort Carson, Colorado (1998), also recommends additional follow-up, stating that never hearing from a candidate again makes interviewers feel used. He recommends contacting interviewers again four or five weeks after the initial interview to thank them again and to let them know how any referrals worked out.

Figure the Level of Salary

Check with employment agencies, read the want ads in local papers, and talk with others to find out what an expected salary should be. There are Internet sites, such as or, that will calculate and compare the cost of living in cities worldwide, based on selected origin and destination sites. For example, if a job-seeker currently live in Denver, Colorado, and wants to move to Boston, Massachusetts, that information should be entered. The online calculator would calculate if $100,000 in Denver would be equal to a salary of $154,621 in Boston.


The Myers-Briggs Personality Test, discussed earlier, is useful in helping determine interests and capabilities. The figures published by Bernard Haldane Associates (Vincent, 1998), a nationwide career search firm, show that nearly 70 percent of all jobs are acquired by those who mix personal initiative with a compelling search strategy: building professional contacts and making themselves known to employers. A job seeker does this through brief, data-gathering dialogues with corporate managers and referrals by those managers to other knowledgeable sources; candidates can gather real-world tips for career success and gain valuable professional contacts.

Roles of colleges and universities

Most of the careers listed earlier require education beyond high school. The length and type of education varies from technical training to a doctoral degree.

Advances in technology have changed the traditional role of the college and university. The Internet, computer assisted training (enhanced by video technology and courseware authoring tools), interactive CD-ROMs, and distance learning can provide education beyond high school. Training for a career involves competencies consistent with the demands of business and industry. Computer skills, subject-matter skills, and the soft skills of human relations and workplace ethics are central to the curriculum.

see also Certifications, Licensures, and Designations

bibliography Retrieved September 26, 2005. Retrieved September 26, 2005.

Merriam-Webster Online (2005).

"The Myers & Briggs Foundation" (2005). Retrieved September 26, 2005, from

"NBEA Online" (2001). Retrieved September 26, 2005, from

Judith Chiri

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Careers: An Overview

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