According to clichés, most students entering college list their career goals as doctors, lawyers, or teachers because those are the only career options that they are aware of. While I wouldn’t stereotype students to that degree, I do think there is a kernel of truth behind that overstatement — college students, and many working professionals, simply don’t know what a mind-boggling array of career opportunities exist in the world.
Take the namesake of this article, for example. Chick sexer. Sounds funny, right? A bit risqué?
In fact, a chick sexer is an individual who is trained in the methods of identifying the gender of chicken hatchlings (hat tip to my colleague Jeff who mentioned this job title to me). I’m not suggesting you become a chick sexer. I am, however, suggesting there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of job titles within fields or careers of interest to you of which you may not be aware.
Research skills are one of the great talents you develop through a college curriculum. But, for some unknown reason, many students don’t think to apply those honed skills toward directing and selecting a career path. As a culture we have developed a romanticized notion that the best approach to a career search is to narrow and narrow and narrow until we find our “one true calling.” In fact, I think most people are best served by the opposite approach — widen and widen and widen, while allowing your vision to get more and more granular.
This “widening” approach can be intimidating. It’s often most comfortable to begin by narrowing. But, in doing so, you remove the unknown, and in the case of potential career paths, these unknowns are ripe with opportunity.
So, widen your view. Take off the unnecessary blinders.
As a next step, I suggest you visit O*Net Online. This is a site run by the U.S. Department of Labor. It used to be in printed format and called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. So, if you think the O*Net site is a lot of information to navigate, let me remind you how lucky you are that you don’t have to flip through a well-worn printed version in your library. I still have nightmares about that.
O*Net isn’t perfect, but it’s a decent place to start. Once you’re on the site, notice the search box on the top right. You can begin simply by typing a keyword. When I type “sport” I’m given 55 occupation categories. Note within each of these, there can be many additional job titles. I have to click into the “umpires, referees and other sports officials” listing before I see the title of “dressage judge,” which is a type of equestrian judge (I had to research that one myself!). You can also do a search based on skill set or technology/tool utilization.
If you aren’t happy with the results you’re getting on O*Net, I recommend you visit your school’s career center to get assistance and to learn about other resources that may be available. There are also many great resources for similar, if less-indepth, exploration on the web. See Dan Schawbel’s interview series, Roadtrip Nation’s YouTube channel, and Willy Franzen’s OneDayOneJob blog.
Before you know it you may be off the path of teacher or lawyer and onto the path of actuary or linguist or … chick sexer.
Gary is a 15-year veteran of higher education in variety of student services and managerial roles at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Georgia State University and the University of Washington. His areas of expertise as a student services professional include dynamic group presentations, internships, and department marketing, strategy and technology utilization. He is currently assistant director for business-related internships at University Career Services at UNC-Chapel Hill.