Each and every one of us is a mixing bowl of potential, filled with individual talents and skills, dreams and desires, goals and an eagerness to accomplish something. But how do we blend all those ingredients together to end up with a career we excel at and enjoy?
This question, and the adventure we undertake when we answer it, can arise at any point in a person’s life, but it begins for most when they are entering their senior years of high school. It’s a common rite of passage: students facing choices when several post-secondary directions beckon. Which field should you pick? Where do you want to go to college or university? Is going directly to employment after secondary school an option? What about apprenticeship training?
No one can speak for everyone, but it is clear that making those choices at that early age can be a heavy burden.
However, there are ways to reduce the anxiety – people and services you can turn to in order to help you make the smartest decision for your future.
When we look for sources of help, we find that the options are virtually unlimited. Let’s forget that the online world exists and go traditional for a moment. To start, make a list of all the people in your life that you could go to for advice about anything. By the time you are finished, the size of the list will almost certainly amaze you. Don’t leave anyone out – parents, friends, other family members, coaches, teachers, and guidance counsellors. Include them all. Each will have different perspectives and offer you different styles of advice.
Speak to each of them and compile what they say into an overall picture. Evaluate what they say carefully. All this is important, because you’re making a choice that will shape the rest of your life.
Yes. Go and speak to a career counsellor
Of course, there’s another choice that in some ways is simpler. You can go and speak to a career counsellor who works at one of the local post-secondary institutions. They answer these questions every day and are always happy to help someone shape their future. A good example of someone who’s benefited from career counselling is Ally Bottero, a 22-year-old public relations student at Algonquin College in Ottawa who started her post-secondary career taking film studies at Carleton University. After a couple of years, Bottero realized that, though she loved film studies, she wanted to make a change to something else.
“I went into the registrar’s office at Carleton and ended up speaking with one of their career counsellors. I told her that I didn’t know what direction I was going and I thought that maybe I needed a change. We chatted for almost an hour and through the entire chat we somehow ended up talking about the PR program at Algonquin College. It turns out I have the right mindset for communications. I don’t know if I would have found my way there if I hadn’t spoken to a career counsellor – and I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made,” said Bottero.
Granted, the personal conversation approach won’t work for everyone, but there are useful online tools and services that are available all the time and make an excellent fallback option. Such services can be a less subjective and more comprehensive source of career counselling information. For many, it’s produced great results.
It’s a Juggle
It’s a Juggle (www.itsajuggle.ca) is an effective and easy-to-use career counselling and advancement tool available free for anyone. The original concept for It’s a Juggle came from Dr. Linda Pardy, Senior Partner at The Pardy Group, who conceived it as as a toolkit for building sustainable career success.
“We design sustainable student success for the 21st century workplace,” Pardy says. “To do this, we work with higher education and business leaders to support learners in achieving ongoing success in a complex economy.” As a professor of communications and a business partner, Pardy straddles the worlds of business and education, giving her a rich perspective from which to offer help. That help is crucially important, she says, because it helps learners “build better life stories.”
Essentially, the site offers a step-by-step planning platform that can help you answer all of the questions that arise while you plan your future. Everything from academic planning, career assessments, career planning, advice to both entrepreneurs and small business owners, all the way through to managing your mental health throughout the process can be considered through using this tool. After reviewing what the site has to offer – and knowing that I am already happily placed in my dream career in communications – I can see how much easier the path would have been if I had known about this at the beginning.
Life is complex. Tools help
There are some extremely specific tools online to help with individual aspects of your plan. Educationplanner.ca is offered to students in British Columbia. It isn’t your typical “college finder” app because it has a far more personal feel. This planner will walk you through the process of finding the perfect post-secondary school, allowing you to search out programs and schools by asking about your interests, the subjects you like, and any schools you might have your heart set on already. I believe this to be a far more pertinent way to go than just trying to answer the cliché question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Obviously, careers are not what they used to be, nor are the people who pursue them. Rarely do you see students coming fresh out of high school with all the answers – though they might think they have them—and moving directly onto their life’s pursuits. The world is just not that simple anymore. It’s quite typical for people to follow multiple career paths, by choice or by circumstance, before they eventually retire from the working world.
Career counselling makes life easier for all demographics. We all face challenges moving through life and no one can truly say they knew or know where exactly they should be heading. Ask the questions, find the answers, and plan your future. Not an easy task, I know, but there are many services available to help you make the important decisions.
Author Alex Scantlebury is the founder of EBM Professional Writing Services and a graduate of Algonquin College. Follow him on Twitter @ebmprowriting.