Researching your Options means finding out more about the world of work in your area. If you are trying to find out about a career direction or a job to bring in some money, your research will differ.
Keep in mind that Researching Career Options is finding out about the kinds of work that are out there. When you Research Career Options, you will be looking in a more general way at the world of work. While keeping this general view in mind, you can make a decision about the type of work you want to do. When you Research Job Options, you will be looking more locally. You will be looking at the specific workplaces, positions, and employers that have jobs available. You will need to do this to know more about specific jobs that you might want to go after.
There are lots of folks and resources out there that can support you. Some online resources are below:
Explore potential occupations through the US Department of Labor’s informational guide to hundreds of careers.
Search a variety of occupations based upon criteria such as personal interests, work values, & work environment.
Career One Stop features a variety of information on various careers & fields of employment.
Career One Stop features this page, which contains materials such as self assessments, occupational resources, & industry information.
This website connects service members, veterans, & their families & caregivers with the resources & people who support them. Note: resources include vocational resources.
The Military to Civilian Occupation Translator helps service members match military skills & experience to civilian occupations.
Vocational specialists may be able to help, such as:
- Vocational Rehabilitation State agencies, as listed by the Employer Assistant and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion.
- Supported Employment Specialists, as described by IPS Employment Center at the Rockville Institute.
- US Dept. of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
- Other vocational specialists at your local mental health center. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Behavioral Health Services locator to help you find services near you.
Community resources that may be helpful include:
- America’s Job Centers (One-Stops)
- State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies
- Rehabilitation-oriented (ICCD) Clubhouses
- Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams
- The Ticket to Work (through the Social Security Administration) maintains a list of vocational rehabilitation providers (Employment Networks) and a description of their services.
There may be additional resources for special populations such as:
- People experiencing homelessness (VA) (Project Return)
- Transition age youth (18-25 years old) (U. Mass)
For those still in school, the school can be helpful in a number of ways if they know the person needs help. The school might provide part time employment through a work study program or internship. (NCSET)
Your work options are workplaces, careers, and educational/training programs. We often think that where we work is up to the employer, but the truth is, you also have decisions to make. When you are Choosing Work, research your options so you can make a decision. If you are looking to start working on this on your own, here are some steps that you can take.
- Identify any must-haves you want to consider, such as location, hours, type of work, issue-related (like disability-oriented, LGBT, peer-run, political, etc.), near the bus line, etc. (Cohen, et al., 1991).
- Do some research. So much information is available online these days. You can find out not only what employers are out there, but what their mission is, what they do/offer, and much more. Below are some online options for finding out about job options and career options. Don’t discount the power of talking with people in your network. Talking to people who have had different kinds of jobs, or who have worked for employers that look interesting to you can be very informative.
Another option is to visit businesses or organizations. You can ask for an informational interview. Talking to people who have had different kinds of jobs, or who have worked for employers that look interesting to you can be very informative. (See “Who can share their work-related experiences with me?”, below.)
There are two options to take advantage of when you want more information from people.
One is peer supporters who can also be seen as friends. They can share their personal experiences with recovery, vocational recovery, and work in general. Peer support is available in many places around the country, and one good national resource is Intentional Peer Support.
We may find it helpful to find out about what it’s been like for other people to choose a job, training program, or career. We may want to hear more about a person’s experience with a particular employer or workplace. We may want to get in the door and talk with an employer to find out more about the company, and to provide an initial meeting. One way to do this is to conduct an Informational Interview. While some people use this as a strategy for Getting into jobs, we can also use it to help us to choose the kind of job we want to do.
For whatever reason you conduct an informational interview, doing some of these steps may help you to feel more confident and prepared for success.
Decide on who to interview. Figure out who may have good information to share with you. This could be someone you know now, or someone you don’t know. Pick someone who has good information that you need – maybe the person works in the kind of job you’re interested in. Or maybe the person supervises people who do that job. Ask the person if they would talk with you for 15-20 minutes about what they do, in order to help you with your career decision-making.
Prepare for your informational interview by:
- Doing your homework ahead of time – look up the company and the person, make sure you know a few things about them so that you know what to ask, and you have some sense of the place and their mission
- Preparing the questions you want to ask. Think about what you want to know, and what questions they may be able to answer.
- Think about how you want to describe yourself and what you are doing. People generally like to talk about themselves and what they do for work, but you want to help the person get comfortable with you and what you want from them.
- Prepare to pay attention. Decide if you will take notes, or if you will focus on listening. Show the interviewee (remember, you are the interviewer!) that you are listening by summarizing what they say.
Here are some links to more information about informational interviews:
- Informational interviewing provides a potential job seeker with insight into a specific field, career, or company. Here, BU Career Services offers tips on all stages of the process.
- The Career Planning Curriculum has a section on conducting Informational Interviews, and is generally used in classrooms and groups.
- The Vocational Empowerment Photovoice curriculum is a curriculum also for use in groups, led by peer supporters, that includes a session on Informational Interviewing.
It is really important to get information that is as close as possible to the real place in which you might work.
For example, we can read about what it’s like to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant and get a lot of good information. Yet, if you were to talk to a CNA, job-shadow a CNA, or even work in a place that employs CNAs, you might get to know even more information. The information you get will be more relevant to you, and may be more “real,” since it is an actual person, place, and experience.
Consider the following if you want to research your options:
- What are you looking at? Career options? Job options? School options?
- Identify a few options that meet your criteria in things like location, offers the experience you’re looking for, $, etc.
- Figure out how you’ll do your research: are you going to go online to find out more? Talk to people in the environment? Go there to visit or shadow someone?
- Research what matters to you. Take a look at your preferences, and find out what each option offers in relation to those preferences.
- Track your research! Keep track of your answers so you can compare your options later.
When looking at what kind of company you want to work for, see if the company is friendly to people with disabilities. This is very important if you are planning to disclose your disability and/or ask for a reasonable accommodation. Disclosure is telling your employer about your disability, which they may not know about. Sometimes people tell their employer about their disability because they prefer that the employer know. Many times people disclose because they need an accommodation to level the playing field at work. Accommodations are adjustments to the environment that may help overcome the effect of the disability. These allow people to do the good work they are able to do.
Disability-friendly businesses are companies that are committed to hiring and accommodating people with disabilities. Check out the USBLN Disability Equality Index for more information on disability-friendly businesses.