7 Steps to a Super Effective
Career Research and Exploration Plan

A good career research plan is the foundation for collecting accurate data. Accurate data will make your personal career development plan more effective.

1. Why career research?

This is a good question.

Your career is one of the most important aspects of your life. It is also the source of your livelihood. It is what you spend most of your life doing.

With this in mind it is worthwhile spending some time collecting accurate, objective and up to date information about your career and your aspirations.

Good career research and exploration plan will help you get an accurate view of where you are today , where you want to be and the gaps. It will help you make informed decisions about your career.

In an entrepreneurial program that I did one of the lecturers said that good research is like "peering over the cliff to see what lies below so you can then formulate a plan for your jump".

Do the career research and exploration before you make the career jump!

2. Identify research objectives

Before you undertake any research establish the goals and objectives.

  • Why are you doing the research in the first place?

  • What information are you looking for and why?

  • What specifically do you need to find out about your career goals and aspirations, your current state and the gaps?

  • What do you need to find out about other career related issues?

  • What is the timeline for your research? In other words by when do you need certain answers and are there any deadlines?

Take a moment to answer these questions and write them down.

Once you have done this you need to establish how you are going to collect theinformation...

3. Establish data collection method

There are many different ways of conducting career research.

I have combined some of the more common approaches and grouped them into three broad categories:

  • On-line research
  • Off-line research, and
  • Real time research

Each of the categories serves a particular purpose. You should try and combine some of the approaches from all three categories in your research plan.

This will enable you to collect information from a variety of sources and make your career research more effective and robust.

A well thought through research plan will produce better and higher quality results which will in turn lead to better career decisions.

Let us look at each of the categories in a little more detail below...

4. On-line research options

On-line career research as the name suggests is research you conduct on the web. What wasnot available to career researchers a few decades back is now abundant on-line.The amount of information available and its transparency makes this kind of research an essential starting point.

Some of the more common types of research you would do on-line are:

  • Industry bodies/sectors - most industries are grouped into industry sectors and industry bodies such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, financial services, etc. You can collect information on the outlook for each sector and the leading companies in that sector.
  • Companies - almost every company today has an on-line presence. You can either enter their website address directly or search for them using a search engine. Once you get to their website there is a lot of information you can collect about the company even before you have interacted with them.
  • eZines and Blogs - e-Zines are on-line magazines and blogs are like on-linejournals which contain a lot of valuable and insightful information. You will find them onvirtually every topic under the sun and can search for them in eZine or blog searchengines.
  • Career and company guides - they contain valuable information about particularcareers, professions and companies. They are usually written by industry insiders and peoplewho have worked at or know about certain companies. A very good career research resource!
  • Career tests and inventories - they go almost hand in hand with career developmentand help you find out more about yourself, your interests, your personality and the typeof careers that will best suit you. They may not give you all the answers but they do giveadditional information which will help you make better career decisions.
  • Specific recruitment sites - there are many specialized recruitment sites andrecruitment companies these days that cater to certain industry sectors. They often containgood and up to date information on that industry sector and are a good resource for yourcareer research.

5. Off-line research options

Off-line research is research you would conduct on your own or involving people.

Some examples of off-line career research are:

  • Career conversations - are discussions or conversations you have with others about your career. They should include your immediate manager and department head and others who have a good idea about you and your needs.
  • Informational interviews - this is a very good source of collecting valuable data from others about your future career interests and needs. You should definitely include them in your research plan.
  • Friends and colleagues - friends and colleagues are also a good source of information and you should not discount their perspective either in your own company or in a different company/profession.
  • Human Resources department - most companies either have a department of people or at least one person in this area. They have a good idea about the department, or particular job in that department and it is useful to get talk to them. They are a good source of data usually at a high level and may also give you some interesting insights which will help you in your career research.
  • Books and journals - there are many books and journals available as a resource for you. It is useful to refer to them and you may pick up some good ideas or tips that will help you in your development.
  • Career and job fairs - are quite common these days. They can industry specific,company specific or even specific to a certain level in your career - e.g. graduate jobfairs targeted at university students looking for their first job. Look out for them andattend them. They may also help you establish further connections with others as youundertake your career research.

6. Real time research options

Real time career research is like getting a sneak preview of your job or profession. It isthe closest to getting a taste of what it might be like before you make the jump!

You will be able to see, hear, touch, smell, taste and feel the job.

Be sure to include this in your career research plan. It will yield very good results.

Real time research and exploration can include one or a combination of the following:

  • Shadowing - is where you are with the person who is actually doing the job or asimilar job/career you are interested in. You spend a few hours to several days with thisperson and follow them in their daily activities. Highly recommended.
  • A day or week in the real role - this is taking shadowing to the next level. Youset it up in such a way that you are paired up with someone but this time you actually getto perform in the role under the guidance of the more experienced person. This is the closestyou will get to do the real job. Highly recommended.
  • Taking on cross-department assignments - if you are looking at changing your careerthen this is a good way of getting your feet wet. You are still in your present job/professionbut you carry out a task or project that requires working closely with a person/team fromanother area/department. You then get to experience at close hand what it takes to work inthat area/department. Highly recommended.

7. Develop your career research plan

By now you should have a very good idea of the different types of research you should undertake. Look at your career objectives and gaps and develop a good research plan.

It is best to integrate this research plan with your career development plan template so it all stays together and in one document. That way it is simpler and easier to follow through.

To do this, take the career development plan template add your research plan to it so it becomes one overall action plan.

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