The O*NET – Your GPS to Career Success

By Earl J. Berksteiner

Navigating to career success can be a daunting and elusive trail for some people. The O*NET can be likened to a Global Positioning System (GPS) in career development. Most travelers have certain elements in common: a starting point, markers, and a final destination. People in the workforce, no matter where they are in their career, have things in common too. Workers begin their careers with the first job. They walk the trail of career growth where promotions occur, training opportunities are offered, life altering events happen, and they often arrive at retirement as the final destination. The O*NET (https://www.onetonline.org/) is an online tool bursting with the latest data regarding the labor market, occupational descriptions, profile assessment tools, and other aids to assist those in the workforce. Similar to a GPS, the O*NET guides us along the many waypoints of a career journey.

O*NET Products for the Journey

Students and other job seekers can access the O*NET’s products to begin the career development journey. Career Exploration Tools, O*NET Online, and the Skills Search  are some of the powerful tools to investigate over 900 occupations (National Center for O*NET Development, 2015). Information such as knowledge, skills, abilities, salary averages, occupational requirements, and training requirements are readily available. Are you not sure of yourself or your career direction? O*NET offers online assessment profilers that allow users to obtain an evaluation of their skills, personality, values, and other characteristics that will help in career decisions.

My Next Move  is a great product for those who have an interest in an occupation and want to learn more about it. Users have the option of searching by keywords or industry. This location is where users can find the Interest Profiler, which is accessed by clicking the start button on the Tell Us What You Like to Do section of the page. In addition, a hyperlink is included to a section on the Green Economy  as well as My Next Move for Veterans. Veterans can enter their military classification and the program will suggest civilian careers with similar work, an example of a “crosswalk” (National Center for O*NET Development, 2015).

Another product that is very helpful is Career Ladders and Lattices. This product provides a pictorial representation of job options available to users as they progress through a career. Included are descriptions of occupations and the experiences that are necessary to enable movement between jobs. Users of the product not only get a vertical depiction (ladders) of career promotion and options, they get a lateral depiction (lattices) of career movement as well. Career Ladders and Lattices serve several purposes. They show career progression beyond simply the point of entry, while also helping workforce development efforts to become more focused. In addition, interconnections between different jobs within an industry are revealed. Finally, users are apprised of training and other requirements that will empower them to accomplish their career objectives (National Center for O*NET Development, 2015). Career Ladders and Lattices is easily accessible from the O*NET’s home page by selecting the O*NET Sites tab, then selecting O*NET Resource Center, followed by Using O*NET, and finally choosing Career Ladders and Lattices.

The O*NET’s Versatility

A variety of audiences will find the information in the O*NET to be up to date, pertinent and very helpful. Counselors can use the O*NET to connect their clients to profilers and find information about specific occupations that will be a good fit for them. This tool is also appropriate for human resources personnel, who can use it to develop job descriptions or assist employees in recognizing skills needed for advancement. Web site creators and product developers can incorporate O*NET information into their applications. For instance, web site managers can insert O*NET graphics and URLs into websites and publications as a method of connecting their products to the O*NET website. Another appropriate audience is researchers, who can access more than 30 papers on the development and evolution of the O*NET databases and tools (National Center for O*NET Development, 2015).

Let’s Get Our Bearings

Navigating to career success does not have to be a meandering trail of uncertainty. The O*NET can be the GPS for job seekers and also the employed. It is a powerful career navigation tool that provides data to users so they can make informed decisions. This online system from the US Department of Labor is brimming with the latest data regarding the labor market, occupational descriptions, profile assessment tools, and other aids to assist those entering the workforce or changing careers. To access the O*NET go to http://www.onetonline.org/ and get your bearings.


National Center for O*NET Development. Overview. O*NET Resource Center. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from http://www.onetcenter.org/overview.html

National Center for O*NET Development. My Next Move. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from

National Center for O*NET Development. Career Ladders and Lattices. O*NET Resource Center. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from http://www.onetcenter.org/ladders.html

National Center for O*NET Development. Using O*NET. O*NET Resource Center. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from http://www.onetcenter.org/using.html

National Center for O*NET Development. Career Ladders and Lattices. O*NET Resource Center. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from http://www.onetcenter.org/ladders.html?zoom=1


Earl Berksteiner, Ed.D., CPCC, is a career coach at University Career Services, Savannah State University in Savannah, GA. He assists students and alumni in managing their careers by providing career development services. His past experience includes providing career services to military veterans and the general unemployed population. Dr. Berksteiner holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. He can be reached at Berksteinere@Savannahstate.edu.


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K. E. Harmon   on Wednesday 09/02/2015 at 08:40 AM

Excellent information and very timely as most of us need to remain abreast of what tools are available so that we may advance our careers or even make career changes effectively

Charles Lehman   on Friday 09/04/2015 at 05:19 PM

Earl, very good summary of this very useful career information system

jim mcdonald   on Monday 11/09/2015 at 09:25 PM

Dear Earl,
Thanks for taking the time to validate the utility of the O’Net - a premier resource for those facilitating change and those integrating change.
I am one the few lucky enough to be able to venture out of traditional HR management (FMC, Stanford Research Institute, Bechtel, IT Solutions, and URS), into career coaching and transition management. During the six years I consulted to Silicon Valley defense industry, I wrote a number of training manuals, including A College Student’s Guide to the World of Work, and, Managing Jobs and Careers in Transition.
I was enticed to rejoin corporate HR for an additional 15 years. After “retiring” I restarted a project I had left on the shelf – a practical self-assessment “in-take” profile, for those “lost” in transition, based on the premise that career development is achieved through use of five key behavioral strengths and five smart job strategies. The 50-item Readiness Profile relies on the O’Net as an essential career resource. The Profile will be included as an Appendix in the second edition of, Behavioral Strengths and Employment Strategies, due out in 2016.
Your article was timely. For one, it points out O’Net’s versatility, connected to Readiness Profile. Beyond its use to the career counselor, its use bridges HR and career counseling. As a senior manager of Human Resources, I can now see a number of useful applications that I wished I had considered as a practitioner. However, like most good resources, they really shine in the hands of an experienced counselor, who can guide the user through the maze of behavioral decisions and strategic options.
Again, thanks for a terrific review. I feel more confident than ever recommending users of my Readiness Profile, or readers of my book, to explore the many benefits and resources of the O’Net.
Jim McDonald

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.