What Should I Do with my Life? 3 Creative Ways to Generate Career Possibilities.
How many of us have lamented “What should I do when I grow up?” Career reinvention can happen at any stage of our career life cycle. Whether we are just out of college, mid-career, or nearing retirement, there may come a time when we start to wonder if there might be another career option out there that would fill us with joy.
So, how could you start uncovering career possibilities that might make sense?
Here are three easy ideas:
#1 -- Take a Survey
Take a poll of people in your life who know you in different ways (friends, family, colleagues, alumni, etc.). You can send an email and let them know that you are just starting to examine other career options and would they kindly answer a few questions for you. Here are some good questions that could get you started:
How would you describe me in 3-5 words
What careers do you see me in and why?
What career-related advice do you have for me?
Once you have gotten several responses, compile them and look for patterns. Are there any ideas you have not thought of that might be worth further investigation?
#2 – Figure out what people who share your degree have chosen for a profession
Researching alumni who share your educational background is a fascinating way to uncover career possibilities. LinkedIn has a wonderful resource to make this process really easy.
Choose the drop down menu “my network”. Then select the last option “find alumni"
That will pull up a screen of your college alumni. If you have attended multiple schools, it will default to the most recent but you can change schools if you want. In the screenshot below, you can see that mine shows Georgia State University. Across the top, you will see menus that show where these alumni live, where they work and what they do.
Then, there is a wonderful second set of menus to explore – look to the right hand side of the page for an arrow – when you hover over it, it says “next interactive graph”.
In this section, you will see menus for “what they studied”, “what they're skilled at” and “how you are connected”
In the section “what they studied”, find your major. You can scroll down to find it, or type it into the area with the magnifying glass. In my case, it is listed as counseling psychology. When I click on that, I see that of the 121,520 GSU alumni on LinkedIn, there are 1,991 that share my educational background.
Then, I can hit the interactive graph arrow on the left and move back to the first graph that shows me where those graduates live, where they work and what they do.
From there, I can start clicking on filters to narrow the list and begin my exploration. In the columns, I can select anything I want. Maybe I want to narrow the list to people more like me, so I can select Atlanta from the “where they live” list. Then, maybe I want to find out those who have chosen consulting as a profession, so I can select that from the “what do they do” list. That narrows my exploration down to GSU grads who studied counseling psychology who live in Atlanta and now work in the consulting field. All of a sudden, I can see interesting possibilities for where someone might work with my background. When I scroll further down the page, I can see the actual people that I could reach out to in order to learn more. You can try several different possibilities to uncover ideas for professions, functional areas of work, actual companies, etc.
#3 – Use Department of Labor resources
We have lots of internet resources at our disposal for research. Sometimes, all of these sources of information are completely overwhelming. There are two resources that have been around forever and are updated every two years by the Department of Labor. They actually contain a tremendous amount of well researched career information and can be quite helpful in learning about the nuts and bolts of a profession you are exploring.
This resource is described as detailed descriptions of the world of work for use by job seekers, workforce development and HR professionals, students, researchers, and more. There are lots of ways to use this tool.
One pretty intuitive option is to select the choice on the right that says “I want to be…”
Then you can browse careers by key word, industry, or answer a few questions to be shown career choices that fit your answers. Let’s say I selected “Browse careers by industry”. And from the drop down menu, I selected the industry “health and counseling”.
That would provide a list of lots of possible choices of career options in that industry and then I can click on the individual options to uncover all kinds of specific information about that choice.
Let’s say, I wanted to know more about the career choice “Diagnostic Medical Sonographer”. Below is a screenshot of all of the things I can learn, including other titles the role is known by, as well as the skills, abilities, personality, job outlook, and pay averages of the profession.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook -- http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
This is the second of two helpful Department of Labor sites. It shares some commonality with the O’net online, but it is more of a day-in-the-life-of approach to describing careers. Here is a screenshot of the homepage.
One of the most intuitive ways to search is to use the A-Z index to look up a particular job.
Let’s say, I chose the “M” professions so I could search for “Marketing Manager”. As you can see, there are lots of options for researching marketing.
If I select “Marketing Manager”, I can see a screen that will offer up all kinds of great information to help me learn more.
Putting it all together:
Choosing a profession is a daunting experience that most people think is a decision that they are faced with only once in a lifetime. Things have changed and people will likely be faced with career decision making and even career change numerous times in a career life cycle. The good news is that we live in the information age. With some focused research and realistic career knowledge, you can make an informed decision about those incredibly important next steps. Enjoy the journey!
Dana Maggi, Career Coach