Career Exploration, Part 1: The Research Sequence

What Is Career Exploration?

Career exploration is the first step to finding a job you’ll be good at and enjoy doing. If you’re new to the workforce or are thinking of switching professions, exploring the careers you’re considering will focus your job search and make you a more informed and confident job candidate. The career exploration process provides a structure for:

  • Defining your work-related personality traits and career goals
  • Researching the professional areas that are good matches for these traits and goals
  • Identifying the skills you’ll need to pursue a given profession or job successfully

The Benefits of Career Exploration

There are many benefits to thorough career exploration before you start your job search. Job seeking can be a long and challenging process, so it’s important to ensure that the positions you pursue are right for you, your background, and your interests. Career exploration will help you avoid:

  • Applying for jobs for which you don’t meet minimum training or education requirements
  • Pursuing positions in a profession, field, or work environment not suited to your personality, values, or lifestyle
  • Going for jobs where the average salary and/or opportunities for promotion do not match your career plan
  • Ending up in a position where the reality is not what you thought it would be
Photo of many books on shelves at a library
Photo of many books on shelves at a library

Career Exploration, Part I: The Research Sequence

After assessing your interests, skills, abilities, values, and personal network, you’ll want to identify and research jobs that complement what you’ve discovered about yourself. Below is the sequence of activities you’ll perform for this process.

The following are possible resources, which will vary depending on your location:
APH ConnectCenter For Careers, a free online resource for people who want to learn about the range and diversity of jobs performed by adults who are blind or low vision throughout the United States and Canada. It is a great resource for job search information and tips.

Libraries are an important resource for any job seeker. At your local library, you can find books in audio or other formats, access major online research databases, and find additional information and guidance.

Career Centers help people perform research to support professional goals. Colleges, universities, postsecondary, and vocational schools often have career centers, and many are available to the public. You may have to visit, call, or do some online research to find out what is available to you locally.

Vocational rehabilitation helps people with disabilities prepare for entry or re-entry into the workforce. Your local vocational rehabilitation agency will offer a range of programs, resources, and services to help you get to work. In most cases, these organizations exist to help you become job-ready and find employment. Some may also train you in independent daily living, orientation and mobility, and access technology. These organizations will also know about other available resources in your community and state. To find a local or state agency near you, use APH’s Directory of Services.

The O-Net Online website provides the latest statistics about various occupational fields. The site is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration.

Establish a detailed job analysis.

A job analysis is a process through which a job seeker collects information on the duties, responsibilities, necessary skills, growth opportunities, knowledge, environment and atmosphere relating to a specific job. It’s a collection of information from various sources and, when considered as a whole, creates a picture of a position that you can use to determine if a job is truly a good fit for you.

To perform a thorough job analysis, you will need first to identify the job you’d like to learn more about and then seek out information from publications, online sources, people, and organizations.

Job descriptions are a good entry point to learning about a specific position. A job description is the summary of an organization’s expectation for what the job entails; the major duties involved; the types of skills, special training, certification, or degrees preferred or required to perform the job; the reporting structure; wage information; status (full-time/part-time; temporary/permanent); hours; location; and other important information. Understanding the information contained in job descriptions is a central aspect of job analysis.

Generate a discrepancy analysis.

Identify the discrepancies between your skills and those required by your job of interest. Analyzing discrepancies will help you answer important questions. Given your current skills, is it possible to perform your job of interest? Do you meet the minimum skill levels required, or do you need more training before you apply? Are there aspects of the job that make it less appealing to you now that you know more about it? Does the job take advantage of your strengths and interests? Are you overqualified for the position?

A discrepancy analysis allows you to objectively examine what you might need to work on to make a given job or career a good choice for you. In order to be a successful job seeker, you must habitually compare your skills and aptitudes to those required by every job you consider.

Create a vocational action plan.

Based on your discrepancy analysis, steps may need to be taken in order to reach your career goal. These steps are your vocational action plan.

Creating a vocational action plan is an important step towards achieving your ultimate employment goal. The action plan will help you maintain self-awareness, be realistic about goal setting, and break down your required progress into achievable steps.

The Job Seeker’s Toolkit

This article is based on the APH Job Seeker’s Toolkit, a free, self-paced, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the employment process.

This article and The Job Seeker’s Toolkit are based on the 2nd edition of The Transition Tote System, by Karen Wolffe and Debbie Johnson (1997, American Printing House for the Blind).