The following Research Tip is geared toward people writing contemporary fiction.
There will inevitably come a time when one of your characters is employed in a profession you know nothing about. Do you really have a sense for the daily experiences of a Graphic Designer? A Mortician? A Lumberjack? A Librarian? Beyond a few stereotypes, most people could not really provide the answer.
Here is a fabulous resource: The Occupational Outlook Handbook. You can search the database by using the “search ooh” box on the middle left of the screen.
Provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, this site gives you an excellent overview of the training, pay, job requirements, and typical responsibilities of every profession from street-sweepers to brain surgeons. It provides practical insight into the daily life of a huge range of professions, and can help imbue your writing with an authentic feel.
Incidentally, this site is terrific for young adults who don’t yet know what they want to do with their life. For all those kids who think they are destined to be an artist or designer of video games, it tells them exactly which degrees they need to earn, and the competitiveness of landing a paying job. Young kids are usually stunned to see how much computer and engineering skills this requires, rather than merely being good at playing games! It is also a terrific resource for college students who have not picked a major yet, or people considering a career change.
*Photo courtesy of Mr. Plakboek.