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Getting a Job

Sources Of Career Information

Personal Contacts

Families and friends can be extremely helpful in providing career information. While they may not always have the information needed, they may know other knowledgeable people and be able to put the job seeker in touch with them. These contacts can lead to an "information interview," which usually means talking to someone who can provide information about a company or career. This person should have the experience to describe how he or she trained for the job, received promotions, and likes or dislikes the job. Not only can the person advise what to do, he or she can advise what not to do.

Libraries and Career Centers

Libraries offer a great deal of information about careers and job training. Begin by searching the catalog under "vocations" or "careers" and then look under specific fields of work that match areas of interest. For instance, those who like working with animals can find descriptions about the work of veterinarians and veterinary assistants, zoologists, animal trainers, breeders, groomers, and others whose occupations involve working with animals. Trade publications and magazines describe and discuss many kinds of work in various fields.

Most school and public libraries own current editions of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which describes hundreds of occupations in detail and is revised every two years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor. The 2006–07 edition is available at http://www.bls.gov/oco/. School career centers often offer individual counseling and testing, guest speakers, field trips, and career days. Information in career guidance materials should be current. It is wise to find a number of sources, since one resource might glamorize the occupation, overstate the earnings, or exaggerate the demand for workers in the field.


Counselors are professionals trained to help clients assess their own strengths and weaknesses, evaluate their goals and values, and determine what they want in a career. Counselors can be found in:

  • High school guidance offices
  • Placement offices in private vocational or technical schools
  • College career planning and placement offices
  • Vocational rehabilitation agencies
  • Counseling service offices offered by community organizations
  • Private counseling agencies
  • State employment service offices

The Internet

The Internet provides much of the same job information that is available through libraries, career centers, and guidance offices. However, no single network or resource will contain all the desired information. As in a library search, one must look through various lists by field or discipline or by using keyword searches.

A good place to start an Internet search for career information is at the Web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where job seekers can find the aforementioned most current edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This resource contains specific information and statistics on occupations from aircraft mechanics to zoologists. Topics covered range from the type of education or training required, to working conditions, earnings, prospects for career openings and advancement, and a description of what workers do on the job.

Since October 2003 the U.S. Department of Education has operated the Career Voyages Web site (http://www.careervoyages.gov/). Information focuses on indemand occupations within select industries that have projected high growth, including advanced manufacturing, automotive, construction, energy, financial services, health care, hospitality, information technology, retail, and transportation. In addition, the site highlights such emerging industries as biotechnology, geospatial technology, and nanotechnology. Career Voyages gears information to students (including a special section directed at those still in elementary school), career changers, parents, and career counselors, and offers advice on how to begin a job search, how to qualify for a particular career, which industries and occupations are growing, and how to pay for education and training.


Professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, business firms, and educational institutions offer a variety of free or inexpensive career materials. The Guide to American Directories, The Directory of Directories, and the Encyclopedia of Associations, found at local libraries, are useful resources. Trade organizations are particularly useful sources of information if one already has a job and is seeking another or fears being "downsized" by one's present employer.

Education and Training Information

All jobs require some kind of training, even those that primarily utilize simple, everyday skills. Many people acquire these most basic job skills during the process of growing up and through compulsory education. Additional on-the-job training is often sufficient for success in a first part-time job. Most career jobs, however, require more education and training than can be provided through basic life experience and new employee orientation programs.

Free career training for some fields may be available through vocational courses in public schools, local branches of state employment offices, or apprenticeship programs. Some occupations require a few months of training, while others may take many years of education and be very costly. Physicians, for instance, may spend as many as fifteen years and many tens of thousands of dollars to learn a specialty in medicine.

Colleges, schools, and training institutes readily reply to requests for information about their programs. Professional and trade associations have lists of schools that offer career preparation in their fields. Information on financial aid for study or training is available from a variety of sources—high school guidance counselors, college financial aid officers, banks and credit unions, the Internet, and state and federal governments. Directories and guides to sources of student financial aid can be found in guidance offices and public libraries. Among federal government Web sources are:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) provides information on applying for federal aid (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/)
  • The Student Guide, a publication of the U.S. Department of Education, provides descriptions of federal financial aid opportunities, including grants, loans, and work-study programs (http://www.studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html)
  • The U.S. Department of Education provides information on state education and financial aid offices in its Education Resource Organizations Directory, available online at http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list_by_territory.cfm


Successfully finding a job starts with knowing where and how to look for one. Most job seekers are familiar with the image of a prospective employee poring over the "Help Wanted" advertisements in the local newspaper. However, while hundreds of jobs may be listed in the classified ads, this is not necessarily the most effective resource for job-hunting. Table 7.1 provides a list of sources of job listings; some of these are discussed in more detail below.


Where to learn about job openings

  • Personal contacts
  • School career planning and placement offices
  • Classified ads
    • National and local newspapers
    • Professional journals
    • Trade magazines
  • Internet networks and resources
  • State employment service offices
  • Federal government
  • Professional associations
  • Labor unions
  • Private employment agencies and career consultants
  • Community agencies

SOURCE: "Where to Learn about Job Openings," in Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006–07 Edition, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 20, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco20041.htm (accessed January 28, 2006)

Personal Contacts—Networking

A good place to start collecting information is from family, friends, and acquaintances. One should not be afraid to ask friends or relatives if they know of an available job. Many people get jobs through personal contacts. Often, a friend or family member will not personally know of available jobs, but will be able to provide an introduction to someone else who does. This kind of networking is useful to job-hunters at any stage of career building. A young person's first job often results from a peer connection or a referral from a teacher or parent. Later on, word-of-mouth recommendations from professional peers may open doors to interviews, although they generally do not have significant influence on actual hiring decisions.

Classified Ads

"Help Wanted" advertisements may provide leads to prospective jobs. The listings do not contain all of the job openings available in a particular area, however, and they usually do not provide very much pertinent information about the available positions. Ads generally offer little or no description of the jobs, working conditions, or pay. Some advertisements do not identify the employer. They may instead offer only a post office box to which a résumé should be sent, which makes follow-up inquiries very difficult. It also makes it difficult for the job-hunter to learn anything useful about the company. Furthermore, some advertisements refer job seekers to employment agencies rather than to actual employers. Here are some helpful reminders about using classified advertisements in a job search:

  • Classified ads can be useful resources, but they should not be the only source of prospective job information.
  • Ads should be answered promptly; openings may be filled even before the ad stops appearing in the paper.
  • The Sunday edition of a newspaper usually includes the most listings, but some jobs appear only in weekday editions; read the classified ads daily for the best exposure.
  • Ads that emphasize "no experience necessary" are often for jobs characterized by low wages, poor working conditions, or commission work.
  • It is useful to keep track of ads responded to; good records should include both the date of the ad and the date of response to it, and the specific skills, educational background, and personal qualifications required for each advertised position.

Internet Networks and Resources

Many people find that the Internet is a valuable source of job listings and job search resources and techniques. Internet resources are available whenever a job seeker has time to access them. However, no single network or online resource will contain all of the information on employment or career opportunities, so be prepared to search a bit. Job listings may be posted by field or discipline, so begin the search by using keywords.

A good place to start the job search is at America's Job Bank (http://www.ajb.dni.us/). America's Job Bank, run by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, provides information on preparing résumés and using the Internet for job searches. It also discusses trends in the U.S. job market and, as of 2006, lists more than 2.1 million job openings. Job seekers also can post their résumés on the site for potential employers. Internet job search resources also include such popular Web sites as Monster (http://www.monster.com) and HotJobs (http://hotjobs.yahoo.com). These sites provide job listings, résumé assistance, links to career advice, and a variety of other tools for job seekers.

Public Employment Services

States operate employment services and workforce agencies, sometimes called the Job Service, in coordination with the U.S. Employment Service of the U.S. Department of Labor. These are local offices with free resources to help job-hunters find positions and to help employers find qualified workers. Telephone listings under "Job Service" or "Employment" in the state government telephone listings will provide contact information for the nearest offices. However, as public access to the Internet becomes more widespread, government-funded employment service delivery is increasingly Web-based rather than located in a full-service office building. Web links to state career and employment agencies are located on the Career Voyages Web site at http://www.careervoyages.gov/links-bystate.cfm.

Private Employment Agencies

Private employment agencies can be helpful, but they are in business to make money. Most agencies operate on a commission basis, with the fee dependent upon a percentage of the salary paid to a successful applicant. Either the newly hired employee or the hiring company will have to pay a sizable fee. Job seekers should find out the exact cost and who is responsible for paying the fees before using the service.

College Career Planning and Placement Offices

College placement offices assist in job placement for their students and alumni. They set up appointments and provide facilities for interviews with recruiters. Placement offices usually list part-time, temporary, and summer jobs offered on campus. They also list jobs in regional business, nonprofit, and government organizations. Students can receive career counseling, testing, and job search advice and can also use career resource libraries maintained by placement offices. Access to these resources is usually included in tuition fees.

Community Agencies

Many nonprofit organizations, including churches, synagogues, and vocational rehabilitation agencies, offer counseling, career development, and job placement services. These are often targeted to a particular group, such as women, youth, minorities, ex-offenders, or older workers.


It is possible to apply directly to employers without either a referral or a posted job opening. Potential employers can be found in the Yellow Pages, directories of local chambers of commerce, other publications that provide information about employers, and in Internet listings of employers in any given geographic area.

Additional topics

Jobs and Career OpportunitiesCareers and Occupations: Looking to the FutureGetting a Job - Sources Of Career Information, Applying For A Job, Evaluating A Job Offer