In Part 1, Career Exploration: The World of Work I reviewed resources for researching the world of work so as to assist students and job seekers in understanding industries, occupations, and jobs. Tools housed within those resources allow users to research occupational titles and job descriptions and to compare how these are both similar and different across various industries. For undecided students, those wishing to change their majors, or anyone seeking work in an economic downturn, it is important and encouraging to know there are many industries where one’s skills and abilities are needed and valued. In Part 2 of this blog, we will be looking at the second area of Career Exploration – Career Assessments.
Career assessments (sometimes called Inventories) can help students who are still exploring as well as those seeking to change their major. For those who have not declared a major, taking the time to explore career inventories and learning about the skills one has, where these skills fit in the world of work, then matching these with one’s unique interests and preferences can have multiple benefits. The knowledge gleaned can reduce both the time spent in college and tuition costs, while also allowing a student to choose wisely between club memberships and organizational activities, understand which career competencies need development, prepare for internship experiences, and build a targeted network of mentors and advisors.
The decision to change one’s major can be a bit more complicated. Some students are easily motivated to make the change because they realize they have a greater aptitude for another field of study, or they had an internship and through that experience realized they didn’t enjoy the work. Even so, many students seeking to change majors often hesitate, citing financial concerns as one reason to stay the course in their current field of study. Extra time in college does mean increased tuition costs, as well as delaying the start of earning a professional salary. However, selecting a field of study to forge a career track that aligns with your core values, engages your best skills, challenges you to continually develop your abilities and expand your knowledge is a winning design that more often than not leads to a lifetime of career and professional fulfillment. Undertaking career exploration can definitely help!
Ready to leap?
In a nutshell, career assessments attempt to help a job seeker discover their values, interests, preferences, skills, and aptitudes. Let’s first look at these words and why they matter in career assessments, along with some other common terms often used when discussing career exploration, such as abilities and knowledge.
Values – Refers to what you have a high regard for, your core principles, and what is important to you. In the world of work this refers to qualities you are drawn to in an industry, occupation, job, or at a company. Perhaps you value an industry that promotes good works in the world over one that seeks to innovate, or maybe you value a job that allows you flexible work hours over one with a strict 9-to-5 schedule.
Interests – Those things in the world that draw your attention. Knowing your interests will help you to determine industry and occupational clusters to explore.
Preferences – A cousin to interests, knowing your preferences allows you to choose from among your interests. Substituting the word priority for the word preference can help to take a long-term approach to your career: “I prefer to work in the big city first, then move to a smaller town.” “I prefer to break into my field as a technical writer, then move into project planning.” This can also refer to work style. For example, some people like to work in total silence, some people like to have music playing, while still others can work easily where noise and interruptions are part of the workplace culture.
Skills – The ability to do something well, typically used to describe those things one comes to through practice and are learned.
Aptitudes – Natural abilities and potential that are innate rather than acquired.
Abilities – The capacity or level of a skill over time, measured in present time.
Knowledge – In career exploration this might refer to the practical understanding of a subject, a field of study, an occupation, or an industry. Most occupations have an historical knowledge base that is being continually explored, updated, and expanded.
There are thousands of career exploration and assessment tools on the Internet. In order to encourage you to start using these assessments, rather than read about them, this article will cover two websites that offer accessible and free assessments that interact with the resources covered in Part 1. These are O*NET Online and Career OneStop. For those seeking additional or specialized assessments the National Career Development Association offers a list of assessments that are updated and reviewed every few years by professionals in the field of career development and counseling. If you have questions or concerns about assessments you find and are considering taking, please reach out to your Program Manager in Career Services – we are happy to assist you.
As mentioned in Part 1, O*NET is a database developed for both job analysis and career exploration. It offers detailed definitions about occupations and worker requirements across industries, describing occupations in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as tasks, activities and more – allowing students and job changers alike to learn about the skills, education, and certifications necessary to enter an occupation. It has many, many uses but career explorers can navigate to the O*NET Interest Profiler and the O*NET Work Importance Locator for self-assessment tools that reveal work activities and occupations that match both your interests and preferences. You can use these results to explore broadly the world of work or to drill down to jobs housed in databases linked to O*NET. An additional feature in O*NET is the My Next Move function, which allows you to search careers using key words or browse by industry. These will also lead to the same job databases, but the strength of O*NET for career exploration lies in the individual webpages and summary reports for specific occupations. These are invaluable for learning about occupations and the skills needed to thrive in them. To view a sample for mechanical engineering click each of the links above.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Career OneStop is similar to O*NET although some people find it more accessible and easier to use. It also offers tools and advice for starting a business, financial aid information, resources for writing a resume, and includes veteran and military job matching tools. Career assessments are found in the Toolkit area of the website under both the Careers and Skills tabs. Additionally, the toolkit offers links to professional associations, resources for laid off workers, information on industry trends and the labor market, and much more.
If you prefer to listen rather than read information, the Career OneStop Video Library reviews more than 500 topics related to career exploration, including work tasks, settings, and education requirements, as well as career clusters and industry trends in about 90 seconds each. Some of these are also offered in Spanish.
Rarely a straightforward path, career exploration has no clear-cut formula, worksheet, or workbook to give you direct answers or ‘place’ you in a major or in an occupation. As you use career assessments keep in mind that these are meant as guides intended to help you explore your career questions. Your best thinking, in consultation with others you trust, can help you discover the answers that are right for you. It is oftentimes helpful to review your assessment results by having career conversations with your network of helpers: Career Services Program Managers, your parents, professors, advisors, alumni, and mentors. Anyone in the Embry-Riddle family can assist you with career exploration. Indeed, learning about careers from multiple perspectives will serve you well. Many times, career exploration leads to further investigation and to meeting new people – so enter with a sense of adventure, exploration, curiosity, and fun!
Erin Minta MA LPC, serves as a Program Manager/Career Advisor in the Office of Career Services at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. She holds certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and is a Certified Career Coach (CCC) through the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the National Career Development Association (NCDA). Prior to her role at ERAU, she was the Co-op Advisor at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. A native of Michigan, Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Communications with a minor in Theater Arts from Western Michigan University, and her Master of Arts degree in Community Counseling from Eastern Michigan University.