Dos and don’ts before doing a careerBefore you commit to a career, you need to have a clear picture of what youre gettinginto. You need to get accurate information and evaluate it critically.Start by reading about the careers that interest you. The Occupational Outlook Handbookoffers detailed descriptions of almost 300 careers. It covers much more than just theiroutlook: Work activities, education and training required, and earnings, among othertopics, are all included. You can find the handbook online. The website CareerOneStop.orgis another excellent source of career information, including figures for local earnings andoutlooks. For many careers, it has links to informative videos.Get a taste of certain careersBut theres a limit to how much anybody can learn about careers from reading. You alsoshould explore careers through experiences, which can be very vivid and can allow you toexplore the issues that matter most to you. Because experiences are time-consuming, yougenerally want to use experiential learning after you have narrowed down your choices ofpotential fields to work in.A useful strategy is to do some kind of work in the same setting as the career youreconsidering. If you cant get a regular job in that setting or dont have that much time toinvest, you still can experience the setting while working as a volunteer, part-timer, tempworker, or intern. Youll learn what the work site looks, sounds, and smells like. You alsomay do some work tasks related to the career youre exploring or at least see them beingdone.The next-best strategy is simply to observe a work site. Students sometimes have thechance to do this as a "job shadowing" experience. If youre an older worker or such aprogram is not available, you may be able to make arrangements through personalcontacts or by talking to the human resources department at your employer. In somecases, insurance requirements or safety concerns may stand in your way. But if you do getan appointment, be sure to ask what style of clothing is appropriate, and then dressaccordingly. Show up on time and take notes on what you see and hear. Dont burden the
workers with excessive questions, idle chatter, or the sound of your cell phone. Afterward,send a hand-written thank you note, not an e-mail.Talk to people in the knowIf you cant actually visit a work site, you can at least talk to someone who works in a careerthat interests you. This is called informational interviewing. People are often happy to talkabout their work. The conversation can also help you to build a network that will bevaluable when you hunt for jobs later. Schools and colleges often have networks of alumnior other workers who are willing to talk to students or other alumni about their jobs. Takenotes on the conversation and be sure to ask how they prepared for their career. Again, ahand-written thank you note is appropriate after such an alumni meeting.Next, you need to evaluate the career. Consider the pluses and minuses of all importantaspects, not just the earnings. Make a list of the most important issues, such as thesuitability of the work tasks, your comfort level with the work site, and the amounts ofvariety, opportunities to work with others, stress, responsibility, creativity, and otherfactors. Set priorities, so trivial matters dont take on too much weight. As you evaluate thecareer, try to find out what is actually typical. Be especially careful if you judge the careeron the basis of personal experience. Sometimes conditions at one work site are unusualand give a mistaken impression of how the career feels to most workers.