My Career Counseling Secrets REVEALED!

Did you know that some of the best resources available to a professional career counselor are available to anyone, and for free?  True.  I learned of some of them firsthand during my tenure at the US Employment and Training Administration, whose charge includes the development, training, and retraining of the American workforce; and at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose primary charge is to gather and report unbiased statistical data in all areas of labor and employment.  Familiar terms such as “Job Corps, “One-Stop Career Centers,” and “unemployment insurance,” are directly related to the Employment and Training Administration (ETA).  When you hear statistics such as “the national unemployment rate is 9.3 percent,” those come from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as do the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Occupational Outlook Quarterly. 

I’m not merely being biased when I say that the resources designed and offered by ETA and BLS are excellent.  They are touted and used by the National Career Development Association (NCDA) and thousands of career counselors. NCDA itself is another goldmine of no-cost resources, many of which are available to non-members and non-professionals–more on NCDA shortly. 

What follows is a sampling of government resources I have found invaluable in counseling job and career changers.

My Next Move is a free site from ETA for helping you explore career possibilities from three different angles.

ETA funds another useful resource, O*NET.  The O*NET Resource Page includes an even wider array of self-directed career exploration/assessment tools to help you consider and plan career options, preparation, and transitions more effectively. These tools are also designed for students who are exploring the school-to-work transition. The assessment instruments, which are based on a “whole-person” concept, include:

  • O*NET Ability Profiler
  • O*NET Interest Profiler
  • O*NET Computerized Interest Profiler
  • O*NET Interest Profiler Short Form
  • O*NET Work Importance Locator
  • O*NET Work Importance Profiler

You can access this page at

The O*NET Online page,, offers you the opportunity to

  • browse groups of similar occupations, explore by industry, field of work, science area, and more,
  • focus on occupations that use a specific tool or software,
  • explore occupations that need your particular set(s) of skills, and/or
  • connect to a wealth of O*NET data, “crosswalked” with the above information.

Once you have identified a particular occupation of interest, you can learn from the next resource I describe whether that occupation (and industry) is growing, stable, or declining.  You can learn how many job openings are expected in that occupation over the course of a year.  You can also investigate the wages for a given occupation, both nationally and regionally. 

Let’s walk through an example.  Let’s say that your My Next Move and/or O*NET explorations led you to the job of “school teacher.”  On the O*NET Online page ( you could enter “school teacher” in the “Occupation Search” field.  That would take you a list of occupations matching or similar to the occupation of school teacher, each with its own SOC (Standard Occupation Classification) code.  The occupations that have a sunshiny yellow asterisk are “Bright Outlook” occupations, i.e., occupations that are expected to grow rapidly or are projected to have large numbers of job openings.  Good to know.  Clicking the blue-highlighed job title then takes you to a new page that lists an abundance of information for that job, information that is collected by BLS:

  • The Tasks or fundamental content of the job
  • Tools & Technology that a person in that job must be able to use or must learn how to use
  • Knowledge required of a person in that job
  • Skills required of a person in that job
  • Work Activities (beyond what is described in Skills) involved in the job
  • The Work Context , or qualities and environmental characteristics of the job, such as decision making freedom, level of supervision, amount of face-to-face contact, etc.
  • The Job Zone, or level of training, preparation, specialized experience, etc., that may be required to get such a job
  • The level of Education usually required for that job
  • The category or categories of Interests that this type of work matches.  Your explorations with the tools listed earlier will have demonstrated that your primary work-related interests fall into one (or more) of six interests–or preferences for work environments and outcomes.  This Interests section tell you wether the occupation or job title you’re exploring is a good fit for your interest profile.
  • Work Styles called for in this kind of work, e.g., dependability, self-control, concern for others, attention to detail, etc.
  • Work Values that a person in this job typically possesses, e.g., relationships, achievement, support, etc.
  • Related Occupations are useful in providing other, similar avenues for employment
  • The Wages & Employment category gives you invaluable information of the wages generally paid for this job nationally and regionally and the precise statistical and numberical outlook for getting employment in this occupation
  • The last category on that page is self-explanatory: Sources of Additional Information.

Earlier I mentioned the National Career Development Association.  NCDA’s rich list of career development and job hunting resources can be found here:

Does this all seem overwhelming?  If not, you may be the type of career changer or job seeker who thrills in researching possibilities and who can go it alone without professional support.  If you do find it overwhelming, you’re not alone.  Some people find this universe of information easy to get lost in.  There’s no shame in getting professional support.

Of course, after identifying the job, career, or field comes the challenge of getting the job, which some consider an exciting and worthy challenge, but which sends others collapsing into a state of near immobility. 

There’s also the possibility of acquiring additional education to prepare yourself for a new job or career.  My upcoming blogs will cover the job hunt and some resources to help you find your way through the vast dimension of higher education.