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Use Reflection and Research to Uncover a Rewarding Career Path

by Crystal Campbell, ACPC, PCC

Identifying a satisfying career path and your next step can often be linked to an important axiom: Know what you want, and what’s available. Reflection and research are two invaluable tools that can assist you resolve what you’re looking for, and what’s obtainable, no matter what stage in your career. Use the seven questions below to help guide you, create clarity, and generate a list of career choices that can propel you toward the work and vocation that’s right for you.

1. What do I want?

Examine what it is that you want for your career and life. What does success look like to you? Are you where you thought you’d be at this stage of life? Did you, or do you now go home at night with a sense of meaning, purpose, and accomplishment? Do you want different results? If yes, what will you change? Ask yourself if you want or need to:

  • Work in the same industry in the same role in a similar organization?
  • Work in the same or comparable role, but in a different sector?
  • Make a career change that may require developing new skills?
  • Switch to a new way of working? Do you want to be a consultant, freelance worker, temp, contractor, etc?

2. What’s a good fit?

To find the best match, look for work that aligns with your personality, values, passions, personal purpose, career objectives, strengths, skills and abilities. As well, think about which companies and industries will be most fulfilling. Do you want to be employed by a company with 20 employees or 2,000? A profit or non-profit organization? A manufacturing or service company? A start-up organization or an established one? Would you prefer a company in health, retail, finances, or some other sector?

3. What’s my reality?

Take stock of your current situation. Check your family commitments, your financial obligations, your ability to travel for work or to pursue additional training, etc. These factors can tip the scales as to whether you choose to stay in your field of experience or head in a new direction. Even if you can’t manage a full-blown career change today, you can start taking steps to move forward and switch professions while working in your current occupation.

4. What’s available?

Business needs and appetites change continually. If your sights are set on securing the same type of position that you’ve held in the past, and you’ve been unemployed for some time, check that it’s still in demand. Job search engines like CareerAim allow you to select and examine job postings by date. You can review the availability of the position you want, in the community you want to work in, over a certain time frame. If there haven’t been any postings within the last six months, you’ll likely need to change directions and look for a new career.

5. What’s required?

You can gain great insight into what employers want from candidates without a crystal ball. Review the current job postings for the type of work you’re seeking. You’ll discover what businesses require in the areas of education, certification, experience, skills, competencies, etc. Use this information to assess if there are any gaps between what you have and what’s required to land the job or career you want.

6. What’s on the horizon?

Technological innovations and economic changes can create new employment opportunities. Examine which occupations are emerging and consider which ones will be in high demand in the future. While security is a slippery concept in today’s volatile work environment and economy, looking at labour information and statistics can help you learn about current employment patterns, see which sectors are booming and what shifts are occurring. Canadian government websites like Labour Market Information, Making Career Sense of Labour Market Information, and Job Futures can be helpful.

7. What’s next?

When you’re ready, take the next step and develop your career strategy and job search plan. If you’ve been contemplating numerous career paths, now’s the time to narrow your focus to one, or at most, two careers. Determine the types of roles you’ll be searching for. Be as specific as possible. Keep in mind that different companies have different variations of jobs within the same career field.

If you plan to take an interim position while you develop the credentials you need for the work you really want, be precise about what’s required. Make a list of the types of qualifications you need to facilitate your next career move. This may include receiving additional training, certification, or experience. Develop a timeline to achieve each requirement, and be sure to set detailed goals and priorities.