Career Choice: Assess Your Interests and Your Job Skills
From test taking to experiential learning, there are many different tactics available to help you make a career choice.
A person that has absolutely no idea what to do as a career benefits the most from taking a career test. There are probably close to 10,000 named occupations available, so narrowing down your choices, or discovering more possibilities, is more manageable with a career test.
You can use several different types of assessments, from personality tests to interest inventories. Self-assessment, measuring your own skills and values in relation to a career, can help anyone, from a person just starting to make up her mind about a career, to an experienced worker who just wants a change but isn't sure what else he could do.
Online Career Resources
You can access a wide variety of free assessment and career research resources online. O*NET, from the U.S. Department of Labor, offers a career sorter that helps you explore different careers based on the skills used or the amount of education required. What Do You Like, another website from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just asks your favorite subject and then suggests possible careers based on that one choice.
A simple search on a search engine with the keywords "become" and the name of the occupation, such as "become a biologist," will take you to free resources prepared by post-secondary institutions and professional associations that offer detailed information about a career, including day-in-the-life profiles and career quizzes.
Not everyone likes tests. If career testing was not effective in the past, or you are choosing between one or two options, keeping a career journal will help. A paper career journal can contain photocopied exercises from career planning books, sample job postings that attracted your attention, your experience at work and your research. You can also create a private blog and make notes on your career experiences, test results and link to places where you find interesting jobs. A career journal helps to document your reflections and works very well for creative professionals or reflective learners.
Summer Jobs and Internships
Internships and summer jobs offer hands-on self-assessment. Career counselors use the term "experiential learning" to describe this type of work experience where students work in junior or pre-professional positions to determine if a career is suitable for them. Students can use this same tactic to examine potential careers.
For example, a student that wants to be a teacher should try to work with children in the summer, as a camp counselor or in a day care setting. Though these experiences are not exactly the same as being a teacher--there are no assignments to grade, and contact with parents and principals is minimal--but spending all day with children (managing, motivating and disciplining them) will tell the student if he is really cut out to work with kids. If the answer is no, he has only spent one summer finding that answer, not 4 years of school and a frustrating period after college as a teacher. If the answer is yes, he has relevant experience to add to his resume.
While on the internship or during the summer job, keep working on the career journal to see what pleases or frustrates you about the job, so you can look back at it later and use your reflections to evaluate potential jobs. If you are currently employed, you could become a volunteer or take a "vocation vacation" to determine if a career is suitable for you.
There are a range of self-assessment options, from a paper and pencil test to an active work experience, that will help you make a career choice. Try to choose the one that best fits your learning style or try a combination of approaches.