In catching up on my news reading this morning, I saw several announcements mentioning that job-board giant has just launched two new tools designed to assist professionals who are interested in switching careers — so I decided to kick the tires of these sites to see if they were any good.

Before I share my findings, however, let me just say that the process of exploring new careers (especially for mid-career professionals) is a much more challenging, complex, and unpredictable exercise than most people initially realize.  For starters, while high school and college students often have the luxury/freedom of “starting from scratch” and pursuing whatever career path most interests them, many older adults are not quite so lucky, and have to take into consideration other factors such as maintaining a certain income level, finding time to go back to school, and/or uncovering a path around the “overqualified” stigma.  Additionally, every formal career test I’ve ever encountered has the built-in limitation of containing a few thousand occupational avenues in its database, at most, and therefore provides precious little insight into the 98,000 other job niches estimated to exist out in the marketplace — especially the newest, most exciting professions that are constantly emerging in the marketplace.

These bugaboos aside, though, there are definitely some useful websites out there that can help a great deal with the career brainstorming process, so I’m always on the lookout for tools that can help people explore their options from new and different angles.  So here’s what I thought of the two new offerings that CareerBuilder has just rolled out:

#1) CareerBuilder’s CareerPath Tool

This site is pretty straightforward.  You pick from a menu of choices related to your skills and knowledge, type in the level of formal education you’ve attained, and then hit the “search” button to see what comes up.  So when I typed in my own data as a test, emphasizing skills such as writing and knowledge of human resources, the top listing that came back was “Electrical & Electronic Equipment” assembler.  Say what?  Umm, that’s about 180 degrees off from what I’d expect or would ever be interested in.  And then, a bit farther down, the career of “coroner” made an appearance, which was pretty amusing — since another test I took a few years ago said I’d be a great funeral director.  At any rate, among my top 10 results, there were only three that seemed even reasonably on target, which were economist, editor, and education administrator.  So at first blush, I wasn’t too terribly impressed with the matching that took place between my competencies and the potential “ideal career” options that were returned, but the site is still in beta testing mode, so maybe the algorithm will improve over time.  Or maybe I should just bite the bullet, accept my fate, and cuddle up to some cadavers…

#2) CareerBuilder’s Tool

The second tool that CareerBuilder has whipped up for career-changers tackles the subject from a completely different angle.  On the CBSalary site, you simply answer two questions: how much money do you want to make and where do you want to work?  The site then spits out a list of all the job titles that fit your target salary range in the particular geographic region you’ve identified — which you can then refine by picking certain occupational clusters like Advertising, Beauty Care, Engineering, etc.  In some ways, this is a pretty rough-and-tumble approach to the challenge of career exploration, but I’ll admit that I like this tool even better than the one above, since the results are much deeper (there are many more niche job titles included) and the income level of a career path often tends to be the most important factor mid-career professionals first need to consider.  I know dozens of folks who would be terrific teachers, in other words, but who aren’t in a position — egoically or economically — to start their careers over at $34,000 a year!

So if you, yourself, are thinking about jumping into a phone booth and changing up your occupational identity, I’d strongly encourage you to play around with these two new sites to see what you think.  If nothing else, they’re totally free, and I’m also delighted that they don’t make you jump through a bunch of hoops before you can start generating results.  At the end of the day, I still don’t believe these kinds of sites are “the answer” in terms of how most mid-career folks should go about discovering their new calling, but they’re worth exploring, at the very least!