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Choosing A Career

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This section provides some guidelines that you can use to increase the quality of your career decisions.

Some career experts are predicting that people can expect to change their careers from seven to nine times in their working lives. Given this reality, the most important thing to learn is the process of how to make meaningful career decisions. If you learn effective career development skills, you will have a much better chance of thriving in this new world of work!

What is Career Development?

"Career development is about growing through life and work; about learning, experiencing, living, working and changing; about creating and discovering pathways through one's life and work."
- The Blueprint for Life/Work Designs.

In our rapidly changing world, the definition of "career" is changing. When it is done consciously, career development is about actively creating the life you want to live and the work you want to do - it is a continuous process throughout life. "Career" no longer refers to particular pathways through work or to an occupational title. Everyone has a career. Work and life are intertwined and the boundaries between the two are blurring.

Planning a Career for the New Economy

In the last few decades, the world of work has dramatically changed how people earn their living and plan their work lives. This new labour market is evolving at accelerating speed as old industrial-age jobs are replaced by knowledge-based work and information technology continues to alter how we work, play and learn. This dramatic change in how goods and services are produced and distributed has been labelled the "New Economy." The old economy was based on resources; the New Economy is based on knowledge and is driven by technology and information.

Working in new ways: In this New Economy, new forms of work are being created, as employment in a "job-for-life" is replaced by a variety of "work alternatives." These work alternatives can include working part time, contracting, consulting or owning a business where you hire your own employees.

In British Columbia, more and more people are working in this way, and economists are predicting that this trend will continue in the future. Career counsellors are encouraging people to prepare for these work alternatives rather than for just a full-time job. Workers will need to develop new skills to market themselves in this dynamic world of work.

New thinking for a new millennium: The New Economy demands that we change our thinking about the labour market. Traditional job patterns that we took for granted for most of the last century have disappeared. Letting go of the way things used to be in the world of work is one of the hardest challenges that career planners face today. Here are some trends that all workers will have to adapt to:

Change: Rapid change will be constant in the workplace of the new millennium. Those who understand change and can manage it effectively will be more successful.

Just-in-time training: In the information economy, it is impossible to learn everything you need to know ahead of time to do a job. Rapid learning will be commonplace. The advantage will go to those who can learn - and instruct - the fastest. Workers must commit to continuous learning throughout their life/work.

Fusion: Job classifications and occupational titles will become less important. The jobs of the future will be hyphenated; in other words, there will be a fusion of titles like carpenter-architect, accountant-sales rep, or graphic designer-webmaster. Being able to combine a variety of skills to apply to a particular task will be increasingly important.

Self-reliance: Work is becoming more "entrepreneurial" in the sense that workers have to be prepared for a variety of work alternatives and take the initiative to market their skills more creatively. As a result, people will need to be more responsible for their own career development. The notion of "career self-management" is emerging as a means not only of surviving in the New Economy, but also of thriving and making the best of its new opportunities.

Emphasis on skills: Workers can no longer expect long-term job security, but they can rely on "skills security." If workers keep their skills up-to-date and market them effectively in areas of the economy that are growing, they will be able to find work. An essential ingredient of career self-management is knowing and developing skill sets and then finding areas of work where they can be applied. The section, entitled Workplace Skills, offers information about what these skills are and some steps about how to identify and develop them.

Balance in life/work: Information technology is fuelling the accelerating pace of change. We are "plugged in" to work more than ever before through communications (e-mail, phone, fax, pagers, the Internet). To maintain their health and well-being, workers will have to rethink how and where they work and find balance between earning a living and living their lives.

Finding opportunity: In this New Economy, it is beneficial for people to use their creativity to find new opportunities where they can apply their skills and abilities. This means keeping an open mind about where and how you work.

The New Economy is very different from the old. It offers even more opportunities to find challenging, rewarding and satisfying work. If you spend time and energy planning for this new reality, you will be able to create a career plan that offers excitement, anticipation and hope for the future.

Getting Started with Planning Your Career

The rest of this chapter will describe in more detail the three steps involved in the career planning process:

  1. Self-assessment
  2. Using labour market information
  3. Making decisions and managing your career

The information below will help you understand what each step of career planning involves and give you guidance and resources that will you help continue with your exploration and decision-making.

Choosing A Career: - Self-Assessment

"Only by knowing yourself will you be able to make the right decisions about your career - decisions that reflect your most important personal values and concerns, rather than being driven by external measures of success such as status or income."
- Barbara Moses, Career Intelligence

Know yourself: Self-assessment is the first step in career decision-making. It means learning about your interests, values, goals, aptitudes and skills. What you learn through self-assessment will help you lay the groundwork for identifying the kinds of work you will find most rewarding.

Expect to work hard: Self-assessment is the most important part of career planning. It is also the hardest part. Most of us want a fast and easy way of choosing a career or occupation. Many people flip through a college calendar and pick a program that looks interesting. Unfortunately, some discover that after devoting precious time and money pursuing the choice, it isn't personally fulfilling or satisfying!

If you want to make an informed career choice, there are no shortcuts, but the payoff to spending time in career decision-making is worthwhile. People who spend time learning about themselves in relation to the world of work usually have the most satisfying and successful careers.

Remember that the self-assessment step of the career planning process is particularly important in the current labour market. The only constant you have is your own sense of direction and purpose. Knowing who you are and where you want to go will serve you well.


Follow Your heart: The place to start with self-assessment is to focus on asking yourself what you care about most. What do you love to do? What are your proud of in your life? How do those values and accomplishments relate to the world of work? People who work from a sense of passion and commitment are usually the happiest in their careers.

Get help: Self-assessment is difficult to do on your own. You should use as many resources as you can find to help you: Internet resources in this publication, self-help books from your local library, and career planning courses in your community. Career counsellors in schools and post-secondary institutions can offer assistance to students, and private career counsellors can work with clients individually to help them with career change - look in the Yellow Pages under Counsellors and Career and Vocational Counselling.

Take courses: Most communities offer short-term career planning and work search courses. Doing career planning in a group setting is very useful to help you learn about your career strengths. Check out your local community college, school district, YM/YWCA, and Human Resource Canada Centres for information about career planning courses.

Assess your skills: One of the most important parts of self-assessment is identifying your employability skills. As "skills security" replaces "job security," it is essential that workers be able to identify their skills and be able to talk about them with confidence. See the section on Workplace Skills for more information.

Talk to others: Talk with friends and family and ask about the kind of work they think you would be good at. Ask them to make a list of the skills and abilities they think you possess. Talk to people who are passionate about what they do and ask them what brings them satisfaction in their work.

Redefine success: Career success in the old economy included job security, a benefit package, promotions, pay raises and climbing the corporate ladder. Since long-term job security no longer exists, you need to rethink what career success means to you. A new definition of success can be based on proving your worth that comes from your own standards and expectations, rather than those of others. For many, a successful career includes not only rewarding work, but also emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well being.

Keep a journal to record your journey towards self-discovery: Get into the habit of keeping a record of your career exploration activities and reflections. In the Choosing a Career section of this chapter, you will be introduced to the career portfolio concept. Keeping records of career planning activities in your career portfolio will help you every time you have to "redesign" your life/work and change your career direction.

"Identifying your lifework is no longer an escapist fantasy. It is a condition for being successful. You now have to discover your lifework if you are to have a chance of creating a satisfactory and satisfying work life." - William Bridges, Creating You & Co.


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