CHOOSING A CAREER
There are many reasons individuals may select one career over another. Career counselors often urge people to consider what they are passionate about. Career seekers might consider what skills they use in activities they engage in during their free time, and they can then explore occupations that use these skills.
Another way to explore potential careers is to take a career aptitude test. Many job centers or school advising centers have these tests on hand to help students and job searchers explore their interests. There are also many examples available online, including one at Career Explorer (http://www.careerexplorer.net/aptitude.asp), Live Career (http://www.livecareer.com/?cobrand=CAEO), and Job Diagnosis (http://www.jobdiagnosis.com/).
Once a person has a sense of the kind of occupation he or she would like to do, other things should be taken under consideration when deciding on a career. The education and training requirements for this occupation, the opportunities for advancement, job prospects, potential earnings and benefits, levels of stress in an occupation, and other considerations may go into deciding on a career path.
Education and Training Requirements
All jobs require some kind of training, even those that primarily use simple, everyday skills. Many people acquire these most basic job skills during the process of growing up and through compulsory education. Additional on-the-job training is often sufficient for success in a first part-time job. Most careers, however, require more education and training than can be provided through basic life experience and new employee orientation programs.
Free career training for some fields may be available through vocational courses in public schools, local branches of state employment offices, or apprenticeship programs. Some occupations require a few months of training, while others may take many years of education and be very costly. Physicians, for instance, may spend as many as fifteen years and many tens of thousands of dollars to learn a specialty in medicine.
Colleges, schools, and training institutes readily reply to requests for information about their programs. Professional and trade associations have lists of schools that offer career preparation in their fields. Information on financial aid for study or training is available from a variety of sources—high school guidance counselors, college financial aid officers, banks and credit unions, the Internet, and state and federal governments. Directories and guides to sources of student financial aid can be found in guidance offices and public libraries. Some federal government Web sources include:
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) provides information on applying for federal aid (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/).
- Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid, a publication of the U.S. Department of Education, provides descriptions of federal financial aid opportunities, including grants, loans, and work-study programs (http://www.studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html).
- The U.S. Department of Education provides information on state education and financial aid offices in its Education Resource Organizations Directory, available online at http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list_by_territory.cfm
Individuals should research prospective jobs and take into consideration their common working conditions when making a career choice. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is available at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ and provides detailed information on hundreds of jobs. Some jobs are very stressful. Louise Jaggs in Skillsoft (“IT Pros More Likely to Suffer from Stress, Says New Survey,” May 2006, http://www.skillsoft.com/EMEA/news/19-May-06.asp) reports that a survey in 2006 found the top ten most stressful professions included, in order from most stressful to least stressful, positions in information technology, medicine, engineering, sales and marketing, education, finance, human resources, operations, production, and clerical. Work stresses included a high workload, feeling undervalued, and deadlines. Other studies, such as the Institute of Medicine's “Economic Influences and Socioeconomic Status,” published in Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative (2002, http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10398&page=205), have found that some professions are more at risk for suicide than others, notably physicians and dentists. These are important considerations when choosing a career path.
Sources of Career Information
The first step in securing a job—whether it is a part-time first job for a fourteen-year-old, or a mid-career change of fields for a successful business executive—is to research the job market. What jobs are available? What are the educational or experiential requirements needed for employment? Will a move to another part of the country be necessary to secure a job doing a particular kind of work? There are several ways to begin to gather this type of career information.
PERSONAL CONTACTS. Families and friends can be extremely helpful in providing career information. Although 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, how promotions were received, and the likes or dislikes of 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. Job seekers can begin by searching the catalog under “vocations” or “careers” and then looking 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.
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 important for the job seeker to find a number of sources, because one resource might glamorize an occupation, overstate the earnings, or exaggerate the demand for workers in the field.
THE INTERNET. The Internet provides much of the same job information that is available through libraries, career centers, and guidance offices. No single network or resource, however, 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 previously mentioned Web site of the BLS, where job seekers can find the 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 in-demand occupations within select industries that have projected high growth, including advanced manufacturing, the aerospace industry, the automotive industry, construction, the energy industry, financial services, health care, homeland security, 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) and their parents and career counselors, as well as toward people looking to change their careers. It 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.
COUNSELORS. 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
|Methods used as a percent of total jobseekers|
|Thousands of persons|
|Sex and reason||Total unemployed||Total jobseekers||Employer directly||Sent out resumes or filled out applications||Placed or answered ads||Friends or relatives||Public employment agency||Private employment agency||Other||Average number of methods used|
|*Data on the number of jobseekers and the job search methods used exclude persons on temporary layoff.|
|Note: The jobseekers total is less than the total unemployed because it does not include persons on temporary layoff. The percent using each method will always total more than 100 because many jobseekers use more than one method. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.|
|SOURCE: “34. Unemployed Jobseekers by Sex, Reason for Unemployment, and Active Jobsearch Methods Used,” in Employment and Earnings, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2008, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat34.pdf (accessed February 2, 2008)|
|Total, 16 years and over||7,078||6,102||57.4||50.7||16.0||21.7||17.7||7.6||12.9||1.84|
|Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs*||3,515||2,539||59.4||49.8||19.3||26.4||23.6||10.6||14.4||2.04|
|Men, 16 years and over||3,882||3,266||58.3||48.5||15.7||23.2||17.8||7.8||13.1||1.85|
|Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs*||2,175||1,559||60.3||47.5||18.4||27.7||22.8||10.3||14.7||2.02|
|Women, 16 years and over||3,196||2,836||56.3||53.3||16.2||20.0||17.6||7.4||12.6||1.84|
|Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs*||1,340||980||58.0||53.4||20.8||24.2||25.0||11.0||13.9||2.07|
ORGANIZATIONS. Professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, business firms, and educational institutions offer a variety of free or inexpensive career materials. Such reference books as Guide to American 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.
JOB SEARCH METHODS
How do people search for employment? Employment and Earnings, an annual publication by the BLS, has found that unemployed workers use a variety of methods to find new jobs. In 2007 most job seekers tried an average of 1.84 different techniques. (See Table 7.1.) Over half of unemployed workers (57.4%) approached an employer directly, and half (50.7%) sent out résumés or filled out applications. Other methods included seeking help from friends or relatives (21.7%), contacting a public employment agency (17.7%), placing or answering an employment advertisement (16%), and using a private employment agency (7.6%). Women (53.3%) were somewhat more likely than men (48.5%) to send out résumés or fill out applications, while men favored contacting the employer directly (58.3%) slightly more than women did (56.3%). Men (23.2%) were also more likely than women (20%) to solicit job leads from friends or relatives. New entrants in the labor market were more likely than other job seekers to send out résumés and fill out applications (52.3%) but less likely than other job seekers to use the other job seeking methods.
Successfully finding a job starts with knowing where and how to look for one. Most job seekers are familiar with the “Help Wanted” advertisements in the local newspaper. Although hundreds of jobs may be listed in the classified ads, however, this is not necessarily the most effective resource for job-hunting. Table 7.2 provides a list of sources of job listings, which are discussed in more detail below.
A good place to start a job search is by networking. Many jobs are never advertised—the only way to know about the opening is to ask family, friends, and acquaintances if they know of any jobs in your field. One should not be afraid to ask friends or relatives if they know of an available job. Many people get jobs through personal contacts. Often, a friend or family member will not personally know of available jobs but will be able to provide an introduction to someone else who does—the definition of networking.
|“Where to Learn about Job Openings,” in Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008–09 Edition, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2007, http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco20041.htm (accessed February 18, 2008)|
Networking is useful to job-hunters at any stage of career building. A young person's first job often results from a peer connection or a referral from a teacher or parent. Later on, word-of-mouth recommendations from professional peers may open doors to interviews, although they generally do not have significant influence on actual hiring decisions.
Internet Networks and Resources
Many people find that the Internet is a valuable source of job listings and job search resources and techniques. Internet resources are available whenever a job seeker has time to access them. No single network or online resource, though, will contain all of the information on employment or career opportunities, so the job seeker should be prepared to search a bit. Some jobs boards will provide national listings, and all kinds of jobs; others will be local listings, or contain jobs in only one field. Job listings may be posted by field or discipline, so searchers should begin by using keywords related to their field.
A good place to start the job search is at CareerOne-Stop (http://www.careeronestop.org/ ). This Web site, run by the U.S. Department of Labor, provides information on preparing résumés and using the Internet for job searches. It also discusses trends in the U.S. job market. On this site there are links to state job banks, private sector job banks, and veteran and government job banks. Job seekers also can post their résumés on the site for potential employers. Another valuable Internet source for careers is O-Net Online (http://online.onetcenter.org/). Like CareerOne-Stop, O-Net Online is run in collaboration with the Department of Labor and, according to its Web site, “serves as the nation's primary source of occupational information, providing comprehensive information on key attributes and characteristics of workers and occupations.”
Internet job search resources also include such popular Web sites as Monster (http://www.monster.com) and HotJobs (http://hotjobs.yahoo.com). These sites provide job listings, r´sum´ assistance, links to career advice, and a variety of other tools for job seekers. In addition to these Web sites, newspapers in many cities publish help wanted ads online, so job seekers in other areas can browse them remotely.
“Help Wanted” advertisements may provide leads to prospective jobs. The listings do not contain all of the job openings available in a particular area, however, and they usually do not provide very much pertinent information about the available positions. Ads generally offer little or no description of the jobs, working conditions, or pay. Some advertisements do not identify the employer. They may instead offer only a post office box to which a résumé should be sent, which makes follow-up inquiries very difficult. It also makes it difficult for the job-hunter to learn anything useful about the company. Furthermore, some advertisements refer job seekers to employment agencies rather than to actual employers. Those looking for employment by searching classified advertisements should keep the following things in mind:
- Classified ads can be useful resources, but they should not be the only source of prospective job information.
- Ads should be answered promptly; openings may be filled even before the ad stops appearing in the paper.
- The Sunday edition of a newspaper usually includes the most listings, but some jobs appear only in week-day editions; searchers should read the classified ads daily for the best exposure.
- Ads that emphasize “no experience necessary” are often for jobs characterized by low wages, poor working conditions, or commission work.
- It is useful to keep track of ads responded to; good records should include both the date of the ad and the date of response to it, and the specific skills, educational background, and personal qualifications required for each advertised position.
States operate employment services and workforce agencies in coordination with the U.S. Employment Service of the U.S. Department of Labor. These are local offices with free resources to help job hunters find positions and to help employers find qualified workers. Telephone listings under “Job Service” or “Employment” in the state government telephone listings will provide contact information for the nearest offices. As public access to the Internet becomes more widespread, government-funded employment service delivery is increasingly Web-based rather than located in a full-service office building. Web links to state career and employment agencies are located on the Career Voyages Web site at http://www.careervoyages.gov/links-bystate.cfm.
Private employment agencies can also be helpful, but they are in business to make money. Most agencies operate on a commission basis, with the fee dependent upon a percentage of the salary paid to a successful applicant. Either the newly hired employee or the hiring company will have to pay a sizable fee. Job seekers should find out the exact cost and who is responsible for paying the fees before using the service.
College Career Planning and Placement Offices
College placement offices assist in job placement for their students and alumni. They set up appointments and provide facilities for interviews with recruiters. Placement offices usually list part-time, temporary, and summer jobs offered on campus. They also list jobs in regional business, nonprofit, and government organizations. Students can receive career counseling, testing, and job search advice and can also use career resource libraries maintained by placement offices. Access to these resources is usually included in tuition fees.
Many nonprofit organizations, including churches, synagogues, and vocational rehabilitation agencies, offer counseling, career development, and job placement services. These are often targeted to a particular group, such as women, youth, minorities, ex-offenders, or older workers.
Job seekers who would like to work for a specific employer can approach that employer even if the company is not currently advertising job openings. Unadvertised job openings abound, and if candidates restrict themselves to just the advertised openings, they will miss many opportunities. To begin accessing this market, job seekers should research prospective companies in business directories, yellow pages, and online; “cold call” the prospective employer by telephoning or inquiring in person for potential job openings; and begin networking. When individuals search out unadvertised job openings, they have an advantage—not only will they face less competition for the jobs they find, but they will show the prospective employer their initiative.
APPLYING FOR A JOB
A job seeker must become qualified to work in a particular field, whether through education or experience, or a combination of the two. When it is time to seek a first job or a new position, the prospective employee should learn as much as possible about potential employers. Using this background of knowledge and experience, a job seeker should then prepare a good résumé. This will be his or her introduction to a potential employer. Finally, when an effective résumé results in an interview, the job seeker should be prepared to meet possible new employers with courteous manners, a good appearance, and sound interview skills.
Résumés and Application Forms
Sending a résumé (summary of a job applicant's previous employment, education, and skills) and filling out an application form are two ways to provide employers with written evidence of one's qualifications. Some employers prefer that prospective employees present a résumé, while others require a completed application form instead of (or in addition to) a résumé.
There are many ways to organize a résumé. Books on the topic are available in local libraries and bookstores. The Internet is also a good source for finding résumé writing techniques. Résumé writers should be sure to include any information about their education, experience, or activities that relates to the position being sought. Basic information that should be listed on a résumé includes contact information; any schooling and other training, such as degrees received and any coursework that is relevant to the position; extracurricular activities, especially if they relate to the desired position; volunteer work—even unpaid work counts as experience; awards or other kinds of special recognition; any computer skills or other technological skills; and references. If a company supplies an application form, it should be filled out completely and correctly.
A cover letter is sent with a résumé or application form as a way to introduce the job seeker to prospective employers. It should capture the employer's attention, follow a business-letter format, and include the following information:
- The name and address of the specific person to whom the letter is addressed
- The reason for the applicant's interest in the company and the type of job the applicant is seeking
- A brief list of qualifications for the position, including education, job experience, and unpaid experience, if applicable
- Any special skills
- References (if requested)
- A request for an interview
- Home and work phone number
|SOURCE: “Job Interview Tips,” in Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008–09 Edition, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2007, http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco20045.htm (accessed February 18, 2008)|
|Information to bring to an interview:|
An interview showcases qualifications to an employer. Table 7.3 provides some helpful hints about interviewing. Personal appearance and the information presented at an interview are very important, but being prepared is perhaps the most important aspect of interviewing. Adequate preparation shows that the candidate is knowledgeable and confident and helps the interviewee feel more at ease with answering questions and taking any tests required. Job candidates should learn all they can about the position they are interviewing for as well as about the company itself. They should also be prepared to answer basic questions describing their interest in the position and how hiring them would be of benefit to the company.
For every interview, a job candidate should be well groomed and appear polished and confident. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. One rule of thumb offered to potential interviewees is to research the dress policy of a company, and wear an outfit that is at the formal end of the company's usual range of attire. Candidates interviewing for a new position in their present company may be well served by dressing as if they have achieved their new position. Job candidates should never smoke, chew gum, or accept an alcoholic beverage at an interview.
Whether the position is offered or not, it is important that the job seeker follow through with a brief note of thanks to the interviewer. The note can also be another opportunity for the job candidate to “sell” his or her strong qualities. This is a courtesy that leaves a positive impression on a potential employer. If another job becomes available, the interviewer may remember the gracious gesture and approach the candidate about the position.
Many employers require prospective employees to take tests that measure skills, drug or alcohol use, or psychological traits in order to be considered for positions at their companies. Such tests are closely regulated by state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Tests must directly relate to the skills required for the particular job in question and must be given to all applicants for the position.
EVALUATING A JOB OFFER
When a job is offered, the job seeker must carefully evaluate the opportunity. There are many issues to be considered, including the salary, hours, responsibilities, and location of the job. Prospective employees should also consider the stability of the organization, the opportunities for training and advancement, benefits associated with the position, and the culture and business philosophy under which the enterprise operates. Information about large businesses, agencies, or organizations is generally available on company Web sites or in annual reports or company newsletters. In addition, in order to help job candidates become more acquainted with the company, employers often provide company background information, including its history, its corporate philosophy, its size, and the range of its products or services. Print resources for company information include Dun ' Bradstreet's Million Dollar Directory, Standard and Poor's Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives, and Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies. Internet databases that offer business and financial information are numerous, and the most comprehensive of these can be accessed through a library or school subscription.
When evaluating a job offer, a candidate should consider the likelihood of feeling satisfied in that job in the long term. Job satisfaction is often linked with earnings and benefits, as well as opportunities for advancement. It is also important to consider the work itself, the hours of the job, and whether overtime will be required and if such overtime is exempt from overtime pay (as in salaried positions). Benefits—such as health insurance, retirement benefits, and holidays and vacation days—are important as well.
|(2007 Aug. 13–16)||Completely satisfied||Total satisfied||Total dissatisfied|
|SOURCE: Joseph Carroll, “Now I'll Read a List of Job Characteristics. For Each, Please Tell Me How Satisfied or Dissatisfied You Are with Your Current Job in This Regard. First, Are You Completely Satisfied, Somewhat Satisfied, Somewhat Dissatisfied, or Completely Dissatisfied with [RANDOM ORDER],” in U.S. Workers Remain Largely Satisfied with Their Jobs, The Gallup Organization, November 27, 2007, http://www.gallup.com/poll/102898/US-Workers-Remain-Largely-Satisfied-Their-Jobs.aspx (accessed February 18, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.|
|Your relations with coworkers||74||94||2|
|The physical safety conditions of your workplace||73||92||8|
|The flexibility of your hours||68||90||9|
|Your boss or immediate supervisor||60||84||9|
|Your job security||56||87||12|
|The amount of vacation time you receive||55||79||16|
|The amount of work that is required of you||54||88||11|
|The recognition you receive at work for your work accomplishments||47||81||17|
|Your chances for promotion||39||68||21|
|The health insurance benefits your employer offers||36||64||23|
|The amount of on-the-job stress in your job||32||75||23|
|The retirement plan your employer offers||32||62||23|
|The amount of money you earn||29||75||25|
Worker satisfaction often depends on such factors as relationships with coworkers, flexibility of hours, one's boss, job security, amount of vacation and paid holidays, the salary and benefits package, recognition at work, opportunity for advancement, and the amount of on-the-job stress. An August 2007 Gallup Poll revealed that most American workers are satisfied with their jobs. Joseph Carroll reports in U.S. Workers Remain Largely Satisfied with Their Jobs (The Gallup Organization, November 27, 2007, http://www.gallup.com/poll/102898/US-Workers-Remain-Largely-Satisfied-Their-Jobs.aspx) that almost half of all workers said they were completely satisfied, with most of the rest of workers surveyed at least somewhat satisified; only 6% of workers were dissatisfied. As shown in Table 7.4, employees expressed most satisfaction with relations with their coworkers (94%) and their physical safety on the job (92%). Workers were also very satisfied with the flexibility of their hours (90%), the amount of work required of them (88%), and their job security (87%).
Workers have become more satisfied in recent years with two important aspects of their jobs: flexibility of hours and on-the-job stress. Although on-the-job stress is one of the lowest-rated items, the one-third (32%) of workers surveyed in 2007 that said they were completely satisfied with the amount of stress in their jobs is the highest since 1992. (See Figure 7.1.) Workers have also become much more satisfied with the flexibility of their hours, perhaps because companies are becoming more open to flexible work arrangements. In 2007, 68% of workers said they were satisfied with this aspect of their employment; fifteen years earlier, just 39% said they were satisfied with the flexibility of their work hours. (See Figure 2.2 from Chapter 2.)