There are some good free resources available that can help you in your understanding of yourself and what you might be looking for in a career. I have provided some that I think are particularly useful. Most of these are provided through, or sponsored by, public or government agencies. Some are through private institutes that typically have a strong service orientation. None are private profit-oriented companies.
Follow the links for E-Library→Careers→Career Cruising.
This site will take your through an inventory that will ask you to identify factors that are important to you in selecting a career. After going through the inventory a list of possible occupations that you might want to consider is generated. In addition to factors, you will have an opportunity to do an inventory that looks more at skills. Many people focus on the list of possible occupations; while these are useful, I think printing off the list of important factors that you develop is ultimately more useful for decision-making. In order to use this site you need to have an account with the Calgary Public Library. This is free if you live in Calgary. If you are not in Calgary your public library probably has a similar service that will take you to the Career Cruising Website. Once you go through all the steps of registering and logging on, you can use the career cruising tool.
Career Decision Making Difficulties Questionnaire (CDDQ)
Before seeing clients for the first session I will often ask them to go to this site and complete the Career Decisions Difficulties Questionnaire. I find that it can be help people break things down a bit to see where they may be getting stuck. The site provides a model and includes several inventories to help with decision-making and I think many of these can be helpful. Unfortunately the Making Better Career Decisions function has been discontinued. You can find it though at the Occupations Sort Inventory sponsored by the Arizona Career Information System (see the link below). The Career Cruising link (above) is also helpful for generating ideas about factors that might be important to you, and linking these to career options.
VIA strengths finder
This site allows you to take the VIA Strength Finder. You can get a very basic report for free, or you can pay to have more detailed reports. The Strength Finder comes from the positive psychology movement. While I have not read extensively in this area, and it isn’t absolutely clear if the 24 Character Strengths that it measures are personality characteristics or values, I think there is good utility in terms of understanding how you operate and what is meaningful as it relates to the type of work you might pursue.
Arizona Career Information System:
Career Cluster Inventory
This inventory provides you with a number of activities and asks you how much you would enjoy doing them on a 4 point scale ranging from like very much to dislike. After answering 80 questions it will provide you with a profile of career clusters that appear to be most interesting for you. Career clusters are ways of grouping occupations into general areas. These career clusters can be used to search the O*Net online Database to provide you with specific careers that fall within the clusters. O*Net online can be found at http://www.onetonline.org/ .
Occupations sort inventory (selecting factors)
This is an interesting activity from a couple of perspectives. First, it lists 28 factors that are often important to people when they are selecting a career direction. When you are selecting the factors it is important that you recognize you might choose a factor because you want a lot or little of it. For example, “Working with the public”. You might choose this because you want to work extensively with the public; you might also choose it because it is important that you never have to work with the public. The exercise begins with selecting and ranking 10 to 15 factors. Then it will go through each factor from most to less important and ask you to establish a level and a range that you are willing to accept. For each factor you go through it will reduce the number of occupations that match your responses. It is always important to be careful here. It is using a data base of about 560 out of 1100 identified occupations, and there are some factors, wages and employment demand in particular, that can be quite different in the United States than they are in Canada. Also, although it is sponsored by the Arizona government and developed through presumably well qualified researchers at the University of Oregon, there is no way of validating the algorithms or databases that they use. Still, as an exercise to help you generate occupational ideas and aspects of a work environment that are important to you, I think it is well worth the 30 to 60 minutes that it might take you to complete.
O*Net online Interest Profiler Short Form (online version)
Looks at occupationally related interests. Will help you establish which General Interest Themes you express the greatest amount of interest. The inventory is based on the Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional typology that is widely accepted in the career development field. O*Net is sponsored by the Department of Labor in the United States. This is the largest database of information about occupations that exists.
Alberta Learning and Information Services (ALIS)
This site provides users with a number of self-report inventories that can help them gain a better understanding of themselves. Exercises that will explore interests, abilities, values, and working conditions are included here. These inventories can help you develop a profile that can be used to explore various career options.