Free Career Exploration Tools and Resources

When you decide that you would like to change your career, you may think that you must invest money in order to find resources to help you.

However, if you know where to search, you can find information about a career that interests you, like salary information, education requirements, and job outlook from the tips of your fingertips. Before you apply for a job that interests you, you need to have a resume and cover letter tailored to the organization, and you also need to know what to say and what to do on your formal interview.

Do not show up to a job interview unprepared, apply for the wrong career or hand over a resume full of typos and grammatical errors. No matter what industry you are looking to get information on, there are free career exploration tools and resources that you can use to narrow down your search until you have all of your questions answered. If you are interested in discovering free career exploration tools and resources, check out the six resources below that can offer you guidance and assistance as you explore your career options.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, is a publicly-funded career resource for job seekers, students, career professionals and businesses. CareerOneStop is a website that offers many resources and tools for job seekers at any stage of their career development process. Job seekers have access to a searchable directory of OneStop Centers so they can find local career development assistance in their area, if applicable. The program can help job seekers with self-assessment, educational options and getting information about specific occupations like salary and economic trends.

Through CareerOneStop’s current website, job seekers can also get employment information by exploring alternative and similar career paths and comparing salary data for different careers in their area. They can also get resources that can make them a better candidate, by learning which careers have the most demand and how to get resume writing and job interview tips. CareerOneStop can help you build up your resume and confidence so that you show up to job interviews knowing what to wear and also knowing what to say.

American Job Centers

American Job Centers (AJCs) provide free employment-related services to almost every type of job seeker. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), AJCs are located throughout the country to help job seekers find the tools and resources that they need to become top career candidates. The centers provide services to job seekers that include assessment of their skills, aptitudes, abilities and needs. These centers also offer career counseling, assistance with job search and job placement, training referrals and information on training.

There are two different types of AJC centers: Comprehensive centers, which provide a full array of employment and training services, and affiliated centers, which provide employment and training services but through limited services. Both types of centers offer services to almost every job seeker. Once you find a center that is close to you, you can visit the center in-person. Alternately, you can connect to a center online or through a remotely accessible kiosk if there is not a center close to you.

Careers.Org

Careers.Org is a website that offers resources for job seekers, such as job searches, career education and career advice. The online employment tool details information on many different occupations and includes details such as wages and skills requirements. Careers.org has the resources to help you learn about new careers and can help you link your education level to similar careers. If you are thinking about going back to school or finishing a long-forgotten degree program, Careers.org also provides detailed profiles on colleges and universities across the United States and abroad. The site also details the available academic programs, tuition and admission requirements.

O*Net Online

This online career resource allows job seekers to search for information about specific jobs, as well as provides detailed information about occupations that make up the US economy. It also lets users search for career information based on different criteria like skills, abilities, knowledge, industry and industries associated with that occupation. O*Net is produced by the federal government and is frequently updated to include both state and national information, such as wages, occupational outlook and similar occupations.

It can also research how to become successful in the careers that they are interested in and in related professions. The information that job seekers gather from O*Net can be used for career exploration and vocational counseling and to tailor job searches to their specific interests, skills and experience. Using the latest available labor market data, job seekers can explore careers based on job growth to determine their dream job.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

If you are looking for comprehensive information on specific industries and their skills and educational requirements, you should look at The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The BLS is the official agency that is in charge of collecting and analyzing the occupational data, which is updated every two years. Through the OOH, information about careers can be searched and filtered many different ways, such as by education level, training, job growth, and wages. Each occupation lists specific details, such as the types of duties workers in the occupation perform, the work environment and the education and training requirements. Also, the OOH provides the median pay for workers in the occupation and details about the job outlook for all occupations over the next ten years. Knowing the job outlook can better help job seekers determine if an occupation they are seeking has enough growth for them to enter.

Monster Career Advice 

Monster may be known for helping job seekers find employment, but it offers many more services for those looking to determine their career paths. Through Monster’s career services, job seekers can get help with job hunting strategies, negotiating a salary, and interview preparation and tips. You can also get help with career development and get information about what companies and industries are currently hiring.

Create a Wish List of Your Ideal Job

Get a piece of paper and write down the details of the kind of job will make you happy. Do you want to work for a company with 10 or 100 employees, or would you instead work remotely from your home? After you have thought about what your dream company looks like, think about the values you want your next job to honor, and if there are specific services or products that matter the most to you. Jot down at least ten criteria for your dream job, then start to look for a job that matches at least six. That way, when you begin job hunting, you are only applying for jobs at organization’s that align with your values.

Describe Your Ideal Work Environment

Depending on your personality traits, your ideal work environment will vary. Before you find your dream job, it is essential to determine your work style, since it can conflict with the position that you choose. Do you enjoy a job environment where you are micro-managed and given strict guidelines and deadlines or do you enjoy a more flexible work environment that allows you to complete projects at your own pace? Even if you do not realize it, you have a work style that you gravitate more to that will enable you to perform your job at your very best. Before you pick a career, determine which work style best suits you, that way you can steer your aim at companies and organizations that match that align with your preferences.

Determine Your Ideal Work Location

Ask yourself what kind of work location you prefer, such as a corporate office, a local office or a home office. If you have a young family at home and have many child-care responsibilities, you may not want to choose a career that requires a lot of travel. Or, if you enjoy traveling for work, ask yourself what conditions must be met before you choose a traveling job. If you need to be rooted in your home city, you should not apply for jobs that require you to visit clients in different cities frequently. If you determine your preferred work location, you can weed out jobs that do not match your lifestyle, so that you are not given any surprises when you start the job.

How much are you willing to commute?

If you decide that you want to pursue a job in an office setting, it is essential that you determine the proximity you are willing to work. If you found a job that you love but then find out that you will be commuting three hours a day, would it be worth it? To prevent any rush hour surprises, determine ahead of time how far you are willing to commute. If you are a homebody, spending your evening at home may sound ideal as opposed to killing time at happy hour while you wait for the traffic to die down.

Decide How Much Work Commitment You Want

If you prefer a 9 to 5 job, do not apply for any jobs that will require you to work nights or weekends, or that will continuously expect you to work overtime. If you are a person who values an equal work and life balance, you will want to look for a job that will not place a significant demand on you. By narrowing down the type of work and dedication you are willing to put in, you can save yourself from choosing a job that is not compatible with your lifestyle.

Ask Yourself If You Work Well Under Pressure

If you can handle the demands of a stressful job and a demanding boss, you should look for a career that you will find satisfying when you meet tight deadlines. Some people might thrive under the pressure of completing essential projects, and others many tense-up under pressure. If you think that you cannot handle a high-stress career, look for jobs that are more laid-back or that need people to work behind the scenes. Before you determine the career that is right for you, you need to assess your stress threshold and avoid any jobs that go over how much stress you are willing to take.

Determine How Much You Are Worth

If you did not have bills to pay, rent or mortgage payments, or childcare expenses, how much money you are willing to earn from a job would not be such a significant factor. But since most people pay their way, it is essential that you find a career that meets all of your expectations, including your financial expectations. Sit down and determine how much money you would need to make to keep up your lifestyle. Better yet, determine a salary that not only pays more, but that also offers bonuses or commission. By learning how much money you would have to make to cover your necessary household expenses, you are ruling out any jobs that would put you in financial stress. That way, you know that all the jobs you are applying for would earn you enough money each month to keep you and your family afloat.

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