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5 Popular Career Planning Tools


Career planning no longer has to be frustrating or complicated with the many free and paid tools available. If you have the time and are willing to engage in self-examination, you can be on your way to finding a rewarding career path. Here are 5 popular career planning tools to help you get started:

1. SWOT Analysis

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are the elements of a SWOT analysis. These are the factors that help or hurt your efforts to launch your career. Your strengths and weaknesses concern your skills, abilities, personality, ethics and character traits. The opportunities and threats concern your competition, the marketplace, the economy, potential employers, federal and state laws and more. Evaluating these in your professional and personal life will help you to plan a strategy for success.

2. Career Testing

There are companies that specialize in helping you explore career options that best fit your talents and abilities, including careers you may not otherwise consider. Some offer "career testing," which is a test you take to help identify your career interests and the types of jobs available. For example, LiveCareer offers a free career test that takes 30 minutes to complete. Upon completion of the test, you'll get a report that shows you many things including matching jobs and options for education and training.  Taking a career test can be fun, but more importantly, it can help you narrow your career options and job prospects.

3. Self-Assessment

No one knows you better than you. No computer software or test can work better in helping you discover your interests than you, if you'll take the time to think hard about your career. There are many free self-assessment exercises that you can find online to help you. For example, the Massachusetts Institute for Technology Human Resource Department offers the following downloadable self-assessment exercises that can be completed in 20-30 minutes: Accomplishments Exercise (a writing activity that will help you identify your skills, values and interests) and Value Clarification Exercise (to help you clarify what influences your career choice and job satisfaction).

4. Your Local Library

Once you've narrowed your options, you should do as much research as you can regarding the industry and related job opportunities. Your library will have books on your career choice, and if not, ask them to order a copy or request one from another library. You should also ask your reference librarian for any reference books and audio/visual materials that would be useful to you. If going to a library is not feasible, check Amazon and other online stores for used books on your industry. 

5. U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics

This government agency collects industry data that can be useful to you. On the site, you can find information about wages by occupation, state and local unemployment rates and productivity. More importantly, you can find out about projected job growth in a career and the rate of employment in your field. Having access to the extensive career information on this website can better help you think through your career options.

There are other tools for career planning, and it can be easy to get stuck in planning mode. Make sure you set a goal for completing the planning process. The planning is just a means to an end: landing a job.

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Daphne Mallory, Esq. is the co-owner of Mallory Writing Services and has written more than 100 articles helping home based business owners and entrepreneurs start and market their business. You can learn more about her here.

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