Which Job is Right for You? How to Research Different Careers and Employers

how to find the right job for you
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You might be pondering what to do with your new bachelor’s degree, or still trying to pick a degree to aim for. Maybe you need some work for the summer or to pay the bills while you look for your ideal career. Whatever your situation, you probably already have a few ideas about jobs you might like. So how do you choose the job that’s right for you?

It’s not an easy decision, but gathering some information is a good place to start. First you’ll want to know about the work itself. Then you’ll have questions about wages. If you’re deciding on a degree, you’ll want to check the latest employment outlook statistics to see if you’re preparing for a job that may not be there when you graduate. Finally, you’ll want to learn about specific employers before you fill out an application.

Ready? Let’s get started with our guide to how to research a job.

Use the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, has one of the most useful websites for researching jobs. You can all sorts of useful information on any one of thousands of professions.

For example, the page for high school teachers has a chart showing that the median wage is $55,050 per year, you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, there are 955,800 of these jobs and the job outlook of 6% growth in the next 10 years is slower than average. Below that, there’s a paragraph of information under each of these headings:

  • What High School Teachers Do
  • Work Environment
  • How to Become a High School Teacher
  • Pay
  • Job Outlook
  • Similar Occupations
  • More Information

Those headings are clickable links to pages that go into much more detail, giving you a great overview of what the job is all about.

In my experience, Google gives better results than using the search box on the BLS website. To get as much information as possible, do both of these searches:

  • {job title} bls ooh
  • {job title} bls oes

The first search should pull up the appropriate page from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), which is where you’ll find all information described above. Look for results that have “ooh” in the URL. The second search will lead you to the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) for that position. These pages have a different set of information.

For example, if you search “high school teacher bls oes” you’ll find the “occupational employment statistics” page for “secondary school teachers” (the closest result — job titles don’t always match precisely). There you’ll see wage data by percentile, and learn that the top 10% of teachers have a median wage of $86,720. That lets you know how much you might make after a few years or if you work in the higher-paying districts.

The OES pages have additional information, including maps with state-by-state statistics. You can see that the median wage for teachers in New York is 45% higher than in Texas, as well as how many teaching jobs there are in each state.

Find Better Job Descriptions

The BLS is a good place to start, but for a better feel of what a job entails, use Google to search for personal experiences and to gather information on specific niches. For example, BLS information covers lawyers but not legal specialties. But if you search “I’m a patent attorney,” you’ll find practicing patent attorneys who have written about their experiences, which is much more useful if you’re considering that specialty.

Try a number of searches using search terms like these, with and without quotation marks:

  • “I’m a {job title}”
  • “what a {job title} does”
  • “being a {job title}”
  • “my experience as a {job title}”

Find Current Job Offerings

Even if you’re gathering information on a career you won’t begin for years, look at the current offerings. Reading through online job postings can clue you into what kind of work you’ll have, the benefits employers offer, and where the jobs are. Here are some of the job websites you can use for this research:

If you see a particularly good job description, make a note of the company. Even if the job is no longer advertised when you’re ready, you know it exists, so you can apply just in case there is an unadvertised opening.

Check Out Specific Employers

When applying for a job, you’ll probably hear only good things about the company from your interviewer. On the other hand, when employees review their workplaces anonymously, they share all the good and the bad. Here are three of the best sites for reading those reviews:

  • Glassdoor: Reviews, information on wages and interview processes
  • Indeed: More reviews than Glassdoor for some companies
  • RateMyEmployer: Reviews for Canadian companies

Glassdoor has actual interview questions for specific companies, which can be very useful when you’re getting ready to apply. The wage information is also good to have, and may lead you to seek a different position than the one you first considered.

Another way to check out employers is from the customer’s perspective. You can do that on these review sites:

Google the company name and “review” to find out more about a potential employer. Customer opinions of a company are especially relevant if you’re going to be working in customer service, because you might be on the receiving end of complaints. Try to get a feel for whether the company will let you resolve them (you don’t want to be on the phone with customers you can’t help).

Finally, if you can, go the location where you might work. Visit on a Monday morning to see if the employees look happy as they arrive at work. Talk to a few if you can, and ask about the things that are important to you, whether starting salary, the kind of work you’ll do, possibilities for advancement or even the atmosphere of the work environment.

Your Turn: How did you investigate your employment options and the company you work for before choosing your last job?

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).