Government resources that can give your job search a competitive edge

By Selena Dehne

The Labor Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook is a rich source of information that can help you plan your education and career and excel in the job market. But unless you're a career development professional, librarian or educator, you might not even know what the OOH is, let alone how to use it.

Here's a crash course in what you'll find in the OOH and how to benefit from its information.

The leading source of critical decision-making information
The OOH contains information-packed descriptions of nearly 290 major jobs in the United States. These descriptions discuss the nature of the work, work environment, job outlook through 2020, required training and education, related jobs, earnings and more.
The OOH can be accessed online at You can also find this information in book format from JIST Publishing at your local library or nearest bookstore. For a format that's even more engaging and reader-friendly, check out the EZ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

1. Five ways to use the OOHMichael Farr, founder of JIST Publishing, said, "I consider the Occupational Outlook Handbook one of the most helpful books on career information available." In his latest book, "The Quick Résumé & Cover Letter Book," Farr pinpointed the following five ways to use the OOH in career planning and job seeking.

2. To identify the skills needed in the job you want. Look up a job that interests you, and the OOH will tell you the transferable and job-related skills it requires. Assuming that you have these skills, you can then emphasize them on your résumé and in interviews.

3. To find skills from previous jobs to support your present objective. Look up OOH descriptions for jobs you have had in the past. A careful read will help you identify skills that can be transferred and used in a new job. Even earlier jobs can be valuable in this way. For example, if you waited tables while going to school, you would discover that this requires the ability to work under pressure, deal with customers and work quickly. If you are now looking for a job as an accountant, you can see how transferable skills used in an apparently unrelated past job can support your ability to do another job.

4. To identify related job targets. Each major job described in the OOH lists other jobs that are closely related. Each description also provides information on positions that the job might lead to through promotion or experience. And, because the jobs are listed within clusters of similar jobs, you can easily browse descriptions of related jobs you might have overlooked. All of this detail gives you options to consider in your job search as well as information to include in the summary section of your résumé.

5. To find out the typical salary range, trends and other details. Although you should almost never list your salary requirements in a résumé or cover letter, the OOH will help you know what pay range to expect and which trends are affecting the job. Note that local pay average and other details can differ significantly from the national information provided in the OOH.

To get more specific information on related jobs. If a job interests you, it is important to learn more about it. Each OOH job description provides helpful sources, including a cross-reference to the O*NET career information, related professional associations, Internet sites and other sources. 

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