Saturday, October 9, 2010

Career Exploration Resources: Interest and Values Profilers

I had mentioned in a previous post that middle school is a good time for students to start exploring their future careers.  I ran into an interesting online source that might help them in that task.

The O*NET Online website, developed by the US Department of Labor, bills itself as "the nation's primary source of occupational information."  It has a wealth of information about different occupations, skills required in different fields, and such topics as apprenticeships and education.  The information and assessment tests on the site are linked to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' comprehensive database entitled the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011.  The Handbook projects the job outlook for a plethora of different occupations up to 2018, as well as containing such valuable information as average salary, educational or experiential requirements, etc.

My favorite part of O*NET are the online career assessment tools they have.  One, the Computerized Interest Profiler (CIP), asks questions about what you would or would not like to do for work, and then suggests occupations that fit with your interests.  It categorizes your specific interests into six different themes that suggest what aspects of jobs are most important to you personally.  So, for example, when I took the test, I scored VERY high on Social, fairly high on Artistic and Investigative---and got ZERO (0) points in both Realistic and Conventional (scores that I'm sure will shock those who know me).

The other assessment is the Work Importance Profiler (WIP), which is more an assessment of the values that are important to you....that is, such factors as job security, on-the-job training, recognition, or advancement, the ability to work alone and/or independently, those sorts of things.  I think this one might be trickier for students to answer, because you have to rank things in relative importance, which is harder than just saying whether or not you like to do something.  I think it may also be hard for them to consider some of these factors if they haven't had any experience working.

But still, I find these things fascinating.  In my case, my top work values were, in order:
Achievement--The Achievement work value involves the need to use your individual abilities and have a feeling of accomplishment.
Relationships--The Relationships work value includes the need for friendly co-workers, to be able to help others, and not be forced to go against your sense of right and wrong.
Independence--The Independence work value refers to the need to do tasks on your own and use creativity in the workplace. It also involves the need to get a job where you can make your own decisions.

My less important values, in order, were:
Recognition--The Recognition work value involves the need to have the opportunity for advancement, obtain prestige, and have the potential for leadership.
Support--The Support work value involves the need for a supportive company, be comfortable with management's style of supervision, and a competent, considerate, and fair management.
Working Conditions--The Working Conditions work value refers to the need to have your pay comparable to others, and have job security and good working conditions. You also need to be busy all the time and have many different types of tasks on the job.

Again, I would say that assessment is pretty spot on.  After all, no one who highly values Recognition, Support, and Working Conditions would ever end up homeschooling!

You can download the CIP and the WIP from O*NET to run on your own computer, but I also found two state employment agencies where you could just do it online.  The information links to job or educational opportunities in that state, but I think the overall suggestions for matching occupations are the same, and I didn't want to bother with downloading and installing the software.  So I took the CIP at the Washington State Employment Security Department site and the WIP at Career Zone California.

It is a fun exercise to do, just to see what they suggest.   For example, according to my WIP results, I should be working in music theater....which is funny, because it is a love of mine, but I lack the talent to work in that field.  Being a middle school teacher, while not incompatible with my values, was way down on the list, but being a postsecondary teacher was fairly high up.  And one of the top suggestions for both my CIP and WIP was Meeting and Convention Planner, which is a job I think I would enjoy--and, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, would make from 50-100% MORE than being a school teacher.

Anyway, I think such tools are a good way to diversify students' viewpoints about the careers they might consider.

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