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Where to start Careers research

It can take a lot of time and effort to find a job. Maximise your chances by using a variety of different sources and strategies.

Our two bitesize podcasts discuss the importance of careers research and how to begin planning for your next role. They discuss the resources that can help you define and develop your skillset and experience, and the websites that house the latest job market updates, employer information and career opportunities.

Researching career ideas

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Hello, my name’s Leigh Fowkes and I’m a careers and employability consultant with The Open University. In this short podcast, I’m going to be talking to you more about how you can start researching career opportunities. So, the first step in this process is to generate some ideas and also, work with the ideas that you’ve got. So, perhaps you have some ideas already but you just want to find out more about them, or you just want to generate some new ideas, things you hadn’t thought of before.

A good starting point is a tool such as Kudos AD otherwise known as Adult Directions to help generate potential career ideas based on your answers to a set of questions. You can also use websites such as Prospects and Target Jobs, and of course the OU careers website can also suggest career ideas based on your degree.

Once you’ve got some ideas that you want to move forward with, you can start some basic research. Now, a lot of this research can be achieved on the web, so you’re going to be using websites such as Prospects or National Career Service to find out key occupational information and that’s going to be things like roles and responsibilities, the salary levels, the employers for that type of role and the entry requirements.

Now, you can also use job vacancy websites to help provide some of that information too. Now, this is a live, real environment so it’s giving you some really critical feedback. So, again, you can use websites that have been suggested by Prospects for particular jobs where you can find vacancies, but you can also use websites such as the OU’s opportunity hub or well-known platforms such as Indeed.

When you do search for jobs, you’ll be able to find out more again about roles and responsibilities, and also have access to the person specification which is the employer’s list really of things that they are looking for of potential employees. From there, you can start assessing where gaps may exist. You can also use LinkedIn as well, and social media to job search. Once you’ve got some ideas to move forward with, there may be some that you are more particularly interested in.

The next step then is to find out more and do more of a deep-dive, and go more in-depth into these jobs. A good tactic here is to start networking, so information interviewing is a powerful tool here, so this is asking questions of people who are already working in a role or have experience of a role. So, key questions here might be, what are some of the challenges in a role or how did you get into that particular role? You can also use internet forums to help with this as well.

A good example here is the TES for teaching. So, TES forums have thousands of people who are teaching, are teachers and can provide really valuable feedback. You can also use employer websites and their social media channels and recruitment pages to find out more about specific employers and how they recruit. You can use websites such as Glassdoor to read employee reviews and get feedback from real employees’ perspectives on working with a particular employer.

You can use YouTube and websites such as iCould to look and view real-life career videos and people talking about their experiences. Also, really crucial is to think about the labour market and think about is the role I’m interested in, is that in growth or is that in decline, and are there even any regional differences?

So, websites such as Nomis provided by the ONS or Prospects’ labour market reports can be really helpful when trying to get a bigger picture about your potential ideas. I hope this has given you some clear steps and some ideas to move forward with to help you research a particular career which you’re interested in now and in the future.

Why is career research important?

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Hi there, my name’s Leigh Fowkes, and I’m a careers and employability consultant with The Open University. In this short podcast, I’m going to be talking to you about why it’s important to research the job market. Well, there are lots of careers out there, that’s one thing that we do know and we also know that you need a way to be able to narrow down some of those options.

But actually despite this, I find that people often have a limited and sometimes narrow view of actually what is out there in the job market beyond their immediate experience or maybe what’s been seen on TV or on YouTube or by talking with friends and family. So, often the problem is knowledge and not knowing enough about what might be out there.

So, when you are considering a career change or looking to progress from your current role, or even starting out in a new role early on in your career, these are all times when it’s really important to research the job market. So, the big question then is, well, why? What does career research do to enable you to move forward with your career and ideas?

Well, first of all, research is all about finding out new information to help answer three really critical questions for your career. The first one is, what is out there? Second factor is, well, are any of those options right for me? And how do those options compare against each other so I can narrow those down and make some decisions about which I might feel is the right one for me?

So, more research opens up new lines of investigation and more sources of information and those sources of information are really important because they will tell you more about the roles and responsibilities of a job. They’ll give you more job titles, more ideas about what’s out there.

They’ll uncover employers, vacancy numbers, the entry requirements for a particular role and give you an understanding about the challenges and opportunities of a particular career. And also what the job outlook may be as well, so what the vacancy numbers might look like in one, two, or five years’ time.

So, when I work with The Open University students, I use the analogy that career research is actually no different to researching an assignment and I think we’ll agree that those are really critical areas in order to achieve a really good result. So, research allows you to uncover and fact-check those new ideas, to answer those three questions that I mentioned: what is out there? Is it right for me? And how do these options compare against each other?

So, the process of career research is actually as important as the end result. Finding out information as you research allows you to process that information consciously and unconsciously and you’re able to get feedback and gain a perspective from it, how good is that option or how bad that option may be.

This is why just asking for a list of jobs that you can do is ultimately not going to help you. That’s what happens if you shortcut that research process without actually knowing how you got to the end result. So, hopefully that gives you some ideas about why it’s really important to research the jobs market and invest some time in this critical process.

When thinking about a career it is also worth considering alternative work styles such as self-employment or portfolio working.

Here are some resources to get you started with your research.

  • Take a look at the section on jobs and work experience which covers issues you'll find useful during your research, including the option of working abroad.
  • Succeed in the Workplace, an OpenLearn course, takes you through the foundations of career planning with practical ideas to reconsider your future and help you plan your career goals.
  • Talk to family, friends, colleagues and employers about their experiences and job roles, and build a network of people who could help you in your career plans.
  • Prospects, a service that guides students to make the right careers choice, covers CV writing, applications and interviews advice.
  • If you live in Ireland, careers information can be found at Gradireland and Careers Portal.
  • My World of Work and PlanIt Plus are useful careers resources if you live in Scotland.
  • Careers Wales provides a careers advice and guidance service for Wales.
  • TARGETJobs provides a wide range of graduate-level careers information, plus vacancy and placement details in the UK and overseas. The Careers Sectors section gives advice and information on the major graduate career sectors.
Front cover of Your Career Planning Guide

Your Career Planning Guide

Deciding what you want to do with your career can feel like the start of an exciting journey, but it can also feel daunting if you're not sure where to start. Your Career Planning Guide (PDF 3.98MB) is available to all students, you'll need to be signed in to access the guide.

Last updated 5 months ago