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DWYBA: Researching Careers

Once you have a clear idea of which job you'd like to pursue, it's time to do research in your field.

Outside Factors

These factors can include your current level of education, where you want to live, and the availability of jobs in this field. By asking all of these questions, our goal is not to discourage you and force you to abandon your newfound hope, but to empower you to make intelligent career decisions that are the result of a well-thought-out plan.


The educational requirements for the career are perhaps some of the most important factors you need to consider. Although these requirements can be more flexible for some careers (many business related fields) than others (medical or legal professions), they are required or recommended for a reason. They take into consideration the skills and experience that are needed in order to be successful in the job. Do you already have the right type and level of education for the career you chose? If not, you’ll need to ask yourself several questions.

  • Can I afford to go back to school? Consider the cost of tuition, books, loss of income from not working, family expenses, how long it will take you to complete your studies, and student loan options.
  • Is there a program that meets what I’m looking for? Consider schools who offer flexible programs.
  • Can I take online courses? Start an Internet search for accredited courses in your field. Distance learning is an excellent way to expand your opportunities beyond the course offerings at schools in your immediate locale, and the flexibility to work on a self-determined schedule and the convenience of receiving classroom lectures at home.
  • Will I be accepted into the program I want? Talk to the administration to find out if there are any prerequisites -- tests and residency requirements are two common prerequisites.

Market Conditions

You don't want to invest a lot of time and money only to find that there aren't any jobs. Look into industry trends in general that apply to your area of interest. The smartest course of action is to focus your attention on careers that offer many opportunities.


If there aren't a lot of jobs in this field in your area, you're most likely going to be successful in your job search only if you are open to the possibility of relocation. You should also think about your preferences regarding location. Even if you don’t need to relocate, you’ll want to consider how your life will be affected if you need to travel extensively. You may also need to make arrangements for someone to help out with your family, or you may need to deal with any discomfort you have regarding flying, or any number of things that would be important to you in this situation.

Physical Requirements and Preferences

You do not want to set yourself up to fail if there are physical or other requirements that you don’t meet. For example, don’t set your goal on working as an airplane pilot if your vision is impaired. And be sure that you’ll be happy over the long haul with your choice. If you’re more comfortable sitting during the day, you may want to rethink those careers that are more physically demanding. On the other hand, you won’t want to be cooped up in an office if you prefer the outdoors and wide-open spaces.

After you've taken all of these factors into consideration, we suggest that you take some time to discuss your situation with the person who knows you the best, either personally or at work. Confide your results to this person and ask for a reality check. Perhaps give her several possible careers to choose from, yours included, and ask her to pick what she thinks you’d be ideally suited for. If she picks the one you’re interested in, terrific! If not, ask her to explain why. Then share your choice with her afterwards and get her opinion. Hopefully this will serve as confirmation that what you chose as your career can really turn into reality!

Know Your Field

It’s also important that you know enough specifics about the career you chose so that you’re not disappointed when you do begin working. You’ll need to get more information about the types of companies that have these positions and the specific duties that you’d be performing on the actual job.

If your community has a local Chamber of Commerce, call it or go there. Chamber representatives will be able to identify the businesses in the area (if any) that are within your career choice. They should also be able to give you details of those businesses, such as size, age, and financial stability.

Once you have a list of businesses, contact them to see if they hold tours or have scheduled open houses. This is an easy way to find out if you'd like the environment.

Another good way to get the feel of a job is to join a professional organization in the field. This could give you access to newsletters, events, or online listservs. Through these listservs, you can "lurk" in the background and get all types of information about what’s relevant and timely, as well as general attitudes.

When you’re ready to get really serious, there are also people you can talk to and connect with who can give you more information. You could talk with job counselors at your local unemployment office. Not only will they have a good idea of what the job requires, but they also will be able to offer insight about market trends and the long-term outlook for your field. In addition, you can get even closer by interviewing someone who currently holds the position you’re going to be seeking. Here are some questions you can ask someone currently working in your field:

  • Describe the tasks you complete each day.
  • What is the greatest challenge you face in this position?
  • What skills, knowledge, and abilities are needed to be successful in this position?
  • How do you interact with your peers and supervisor?
  • What was your background, both in education and experience, that qualified you to be hired into this position?
  • What do you like the best about this position? The least?
  • Are there opportunities for career advancement?
  • If you were to hire your own replacement, what type of person would you be looking for?
  • Is what you do at this company typical of how the job would be performed at other companies? Why or why not?
  • If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career?

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