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Research & Test Your Ideas

A (semi-) scientific approach

At some point in your academic career, you most likely took at least one science class where you used the scientific method to make and test a prediction.

When considering a career transition, alumni make (and should then test) predictions or hypotheses. The true test of whether we will be successful and happy in a new position, promotion or new company what occur until we are immersed in that new experience, but we can still make educated hypotheses and test them before making the change.

1. Formulate a Question
First decide the question you are considering:

  • I've been thinking about Career A, would that be a good move for me?
  • What other industries need my ___ skills?
  • I don't like Career A, what else can I do?
2. Do Background Research
Research the careers and areas that you are considering utilizing the following web resources, analyzing actual jobs, consulting professional associations and reviewing the profiles of people in the field.

Occupational Outlook Handbook – Details about the nature of work, the environments, typical earnings and trends for a range of occupations that represent 91 percent of U.S. jobs.

Dictionary of Occupational Titles – An alphabetical list of more than 12,000 jobs, with access to a descriptive paragraph. Much of the information is related to manufacturing, hands-on technical and service occupations, with very little in current IT fields.

O'NET, the Occupational Information Network – Skills assessment, followed by occupation lists and analysis that fit with your interests, skills, aptitudes, values and work activities.

Job Analysis Worksheet (PDF) - Utilize this worksheet to analyze a group of job descriptions or a specific description and any related strengths or gaps in your experience, knowledge or skills.

LinkedIn Alumni - An expanded took to help you explore alumni from the University of Illinois by skills, function, company, education and geographic location. By reviewing the profiles of others who have done the work that you are interested in you can gain a better idea of typical career paths, skills and credentials.

3. Construct a Hypothesis
Based on your research of the field, the market, your strengths and your preferences, make an educated hypothesis about next steps:
  • Based on my skills and background, Career A would be a good fit for me.
  • Career A and Career B need my ___ and ___ skills.
  • I don't like Career A, but I am still interested in the industry, Career B could be good alternative.
4. Test Your Hypothesis
To test this hypothesis and your understanding of the field, job market and fit with your knowledge and skills, talk to experts in the field:
  • Example: An engineer who was interested in transitioning into teaching math needed to talk to math teachers to learn more about what teaching was actually like.
For suggested questions to ask or other tips on networking, visit the "Building Connections" tab in the UIAA Virtual Career Center.

5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
Based on your networking conversations, decide whether if information supports your hypothesis or whether you need to revise your hypothesis.
  • Example: The alumnus exploring a job teaching math realized that while he would enjoy teaching adults, he would not enjoy managing a classroom of children.
6. Communicate Your Results
Plan your transition and conduct your search.