Research Your Field of Interest

Ever experienced a reality check first-hand? If you have, you know the feeling deep down, the disappointment, the frustration, the disillusionment. How is it, you ask yourself, that something which promised to be so exciting proved to be such a let-down?

Careers are probably one of the most common let-downs. You get in to a career with hopes of making it big, only to realize that a day on the job is simply not your cup of tea.

It's always difficult accepting that things are just not what you thought they were and the best way to deal with the eventuality of a let-down is to prevent it from ever happening.

Make sure that you never have to deal with the horror of years spent studying something that you don't like or getting stuck in a career that seems like a never ending nightmare. Whatever the field that you intend to get into, make sure that you research all your options early on and know exactly what the job or course entails.

Have you got your facts straight?

All too often, the media has a tendency to romanticize careers. Whatever your field of interest journalism, detective work or space research, you can be sure of one thing, the real thing is likely to be very different from what you fancied it to be based on your favorite Hollywood flick!

Research, using both primary and secondary sources, will give you an objective view of the field you intend to specialize in.

Primary and Secondary Research

Researching through secondary sources like trade publications or over the net is only too easy in the day of the internet. There are very good sources like O*Net Online and the Occupational Outlook Handbook that can give you an overview of the industry and help you with pertinent information like typical job duties, training and educational requirements, salary ranges, major employers in the industry and the job outlook.

Primary sources of information will give you an insider's view. Conducting informational interviews, meeting peer advisors, members of alumni, joining online forums and hooking up with a career counselor will pepper your findings with a good dose of realistic input. After all, you do want some subjective opinions to help you make up your mind.

The Value of Networking
It's always a great idea to leverage your network and find as much information as you can about the career or course you are contemplating. If there aren't people in your network who are already in the career of your choice, you could always try an online social networking site. For instance, if you are thinking of a future in graphic design and you're a member of a networking site like Orkut, you could always join a community and find people whom you can tap for information.

Joining forums and professional organizations can also help expand your network base and keep you informed about events and other changes within the career of your choice.

Constantly work at expanding your network and conduct informational interviews to find out more about your potential career.

The following resources can help you expand your network:

Associations on the Net
Gateway to Associations Online
WEDDLE's Association Directory

Conducting Informational Interviews
An informational interview helps you to understand an occupation or industry better. By talking to people who are working in the field of your interest, you are more likely to gain a better understanding of the occupation or industry, besides expanding your network of contacts. While a lot of the information gleaned from an informational interview can be found on the net or in a library, informational interviews provide an intimate, insider's view of the field. It's also the best way to find out about the job responsibilities and day to day functions within a certain role.

Professional Mentors
Hook up with a mentor who is currently working in the field of your choice. A mentor can open your eyes to the realities that you can expect to confront in your new career. If you are pursuing a degree, he/she can also tell you about the various careers that you can pursue and help you with internships. This article, Using a Coach or Mentor can give you further tips about getting into an industry or field that interests you the most.

Career Counseling
A career counselor can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses through various self-assessment tools. Based on your performance, he/she can help you find out if you have the necessary skill sets and interests to excel in the new course or career. He/she can also help you define your interests and suggest other careers that might interest you.

More resources to help you make a perfect fit!
The sites listed below contain valuable information about various occupations and employment trends in different industries:

  • Acinet - A great site including occupational outlook information, information on expected wage and employment trends, information about required skills and video "snapshots" of specific occupations.
  • CareerTV - Informative data in a video format.
  • JobProfiles.org - An insider's view from professionals across a spectrum of fields and industries.

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