Be choosy

Ca­reer sym­po­sium can help fo­cus on ‘skills theme’ or oc­cu­pa­tional range

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

IT wasn’t too long ago that the ca­reer choice for men was to fol­low in their fathers’ foot­steps. For women, the choices were lim­ited to sec­re­tary, nurse or teacher. Ac­quir­ing a bach­e­lors’ de­gree meant you had reached the great heights of ac­com­plish­ment. Those who went on to achieve a mas­ter’s or doc­tor­ate de­gree were few and far be­tween.

Rarely did grad­u­at­ing high school stu­dents have ac­cess to ca­reer coun­selling ser­vices; rather if they didn’t fol­low in their par­ents’ foot­steps, then their choice of oc­cu­pa­tion was of­ten at­tained by the old fash­ioned “by gosh or by golly” se­lec­tion ap­proach.

While most of these work­ers are suc­cess­ful to­day, if you ask any of them how they got to where they are in their ca­reer, you may be sur­prised to learn that many are not work­ing in their orig­i­nal cho­sen oc­cu­pa­tions. Their route to suc­cess has not been a straight line — there have been many twists and turns along the way. prac­ti­cal ser­vices, science, health and tech­nol­ogy, and trades and trans­porta­tion as well as em­ploy­ment ser­vices and train­ing and post sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions. In ad­di­tion, par­tic­i­pants can at­tend a se­ries of one-hour pre­sen­ta­tions and meet ex­perts in the var­i­ous oc­cu­pa­tions.

How­ever, as you might ex­pect, at­tend­ing a fast paced, two-day sym­po­sium can feel over­whelm­ing. As a re­sult, it is im­por­tant to pre­pare your­self for at­ten­dance and de­velop a plan for de­brief­ing your ex­pe­ri­ence. Prior to at­tend­ing the sym­po­sium, do some think­ing about what you are good at and what you like to do. Thanks to tech­nol­ogy, there are plenty of free as­sess­ments on­line that can help you to as­sess how you think, how you learn and to be more spe­cific about what you like to do.

On the other hand, there is noth­ing wrong with the good old-fash­ioned pa­per and pen­cil ex­er­cise, es­pe­cially for adults who are look­ing for a ca­reer change. To do this, you need to list all of the jobs you have had so far in your ca­reer. For each job, iden­tify the spe­cific tasks and then ask your­self “how” you ac­com­plished these tasks. Once you have an­swered the how ques­tion, then fo­cus on iden­ti­fy­ing the skills you uti­lized in each task. Con­tinue with your list un­til you be­gin to re­peat your­self; this is the sig­nal the list is com­plete. Next, group your skills and pri­or­i­tize them. You will find that the list will be re­duced to five to seven skills or com­pe­ten­cies. This be­comes your oc­cu­pa­tional checklist.

BE­LIEVE it or not, job sat­is­fac­tion comes from do­ing what you are good at and what you like to do 80 per cent of the time. And in my view, en­sur­ing that you have job sat­is­fac­tion is your re­spon­si­bil­ity; it is not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of your em­ployer.

There is a lot of talk these days about “em­ployee en­gage­ment,” which refers to whether em­ploy­ees have a pos­i­tive emo­tional at­tach­ment to their job and put con­cen­trated ef­fort into their work so that the in­ter­ests of the em­ployer are ad­vanced. While em­ploy­ers can in­deed in­flu­ence your level of “en­gage­ment,” I also con­tend that em­ploy­ees have a per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity in this area, as well.

In other words, it is em­ploy­ees’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure they are work­ing in a job where they are mo­ti­vated, en­joy their work, have the de­sire to con­trib­ute and want to con­tinue to learn and con­trib­ute. For this el­e­ment of ca­reer man­age­ment, I turn to an as­sess­ment of per­sonal mo­ti­va­tion. What re­ally drives you? What is im­por­tant to you?

Once again, these type of as­sess­ments are avail­able on­line. How­ever, you can be just as suc­cess­ful in think­ing through a num­ber of el­e­ments on your own. For in­stance, do you pre­fer to be given gen­eral guide­lines and then be left alone to do the work? If so, this means that you pre­fer an en­vi­ron­ment where you have a sense of in­de­pen­dence and au­ton­omy. If you were of­fered a job far from your cur­rent home, per­haps in an­other prov­ince, would you ac­cept? If not, you ap­pear to be driven by a geo­graphic mo­ti­va­tor; in other words, it is im­por­tant that you re­side and work in an area where you are com­fort­able, are fa­mil­iar with and/ or have fam­ily nearby.

Do you en­joy or­ga­niz­ing and co-or­di­nat­ing peo­ple or do you pre­fer fo­cus­ing on de­tailed tech­ni­cal tasks? One mo­ti­va­tor leads to man­ag­ing peo­ple while the other drives you to­ward a spe­cial­ist or ex­pert type of oc­cu­pa­tion. Are you al­ways ask­ing why, why, why? If so, you are the type of per­son who is al­ways try­ing to change things or fix things. You need an oc­cu­pa­tion where you are con­stantly chal­lenged. Per­haps you are an en­tre­pre­neur. Or do you find your­self al­ways help­ing oth­ers? If so, then a so­cial ser­vice, health care or legal pro­fes­sion might be the best path to fol­low.

Mak­ing a ca­reer choice in to­day’s fast-paced global world is dif­fi­cult, to say the least; there are just so many pieces to the ca­reer puz­zle. And, these de­ci­sions should not be made lightly. My ad­vice is to ex­plore, ex­plore, ex­plore. Don’t be pushed into a spe­cialty too soon, but keep a broad view of things un­til you can see how all the puz­zle pieces fit to­gether. Take ad­van­tage of the 2011 ca­reer sym­po­sium, it will broaden your ca­reer hori­zons.

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