Because you’ve entered this page we’re assuming you have questions about how to make career decisions and how to career plan for success. Lots of students and non-students have questions about career decision-making and planning and we hear these questions every day. Some of the more common questions include:
- What is the best “thing” to go into?
- What can I do with a degree in _______ (place your degree of choice here)?
- What are all my options?
We can help you find answers to these and other career questions and we’ll do this by sharing some important career planning keys and discussing career planning strategies.
Career Planning Key #1: Start by looking at yourself
Career planning and career decision-making best begins by looking at yourself and identifying what you would like in your future work. You are the expert in what you need and want in your career. Being an expert in what you need and want in your career means considering:
- your interests. No great surprise here – you’re probably already trying to do this. Don’t just look at what careers or occupations interest you and don’t restrict yourself only to courses you’ve liked in the past. Take a look at your entire life and consider what attracts your attention and what you enjoy reading about, watching or talking about. In other words, what gets you energized? For example, do you find yourself passionate about environmental issues? Perhaps you’re a person who reads articles on the internet on the environment. Perhaps you’ve participated in environmental projects in the past. Perhaps this is an important value for you.
Unsure of your interests? You may need to try new and different activities to explore your interests and overall identity. Remember it is important to spend time with interest areas to help them grow.
Also, consider attending the Career Planning Workshop – during this workshop you will assess your interests and use this information to identify relevant occupational options. Following the Career Planning Workshop you could also take the Strong Interest Inventory (SII). The SII is perhaps the most accurate method available to evaluate your career interests using the concepts presented by John Holland. This tool will not only evaluate your career interests – it will also suggest specific occupations for your consideration along with more general occupational areas.
- your career values. That is, what do you want from your career? We’re guessing that you want to be paid so let’s go beyond the money (Do you know that money is rarely mentioned as the most important reward from work by those people who are happy in their careers?). Consider what factors will help you feel motivated to go to work everyday. Some career values identified by students as being important include wanting work that is satisfying, fulfilling, stimulating, and meaningful. The challenge here is that you need to decide what is satisfying, fulfilling, stimulating and meaningful to you!
- your personality preferences. You probably don’t need to be told that there is quite a range of personalities in the world and that every personality style has relative strengths and relative weaknesses. We encourage you to consider your personality preferences and style and how this connects with your future career. Keep in mind that your personality preferences likely work fine in hundreds of occupations but not well in all occupations. For example, it may be challenging for a highly extroverted person (someone who enjoys and is motivated by lots of people contact) to work in a highly introverted work environment. As well, it may be challenging for a person who is not detail oriented to work in a highly detailed occupation such as accountancy or pharmacy.
Unsure of your personality preferences? Having difficulty describing your personality preferences? Consider completing the Myers-Briggs Type Indictor (MBTI). The MBTI has been used extensively to help with career planning and will provide you not only with greater insight and awareness of your personality preferences but also with specific career recommendations.
- your aptitude. What is aptitude? Some people see aptitude as referring to “natural” ability or skill. Others view aptitudes as referring to specific capacities and abilities required from a person to perform a task or job duty. There are many definitions. Lots of people begin career planning with this factor because they want to know what they’re good at but……you’re probably good at many things. Some career theorists even go as far as asserting that most people have the capabilities to work in 90% of the jobs in the world or more………if they want to. Our perspective is that aptitude should be considered in the overall career planning process but shouldn’t be the only factor. Note: don’t just look at your grades to determine your aptitude because doing poorly in a course doesn’t necessarily indicate poor aptitude.
- your life experiences. Your life experiences can be an incredible source of information about your interests, values, personality preferences, aptitude and more. Reflect on any work and volunteer experiences you’ve had and consider what you’ve enjoyed and disliked about the activity. Reflect on the occupations you saw and the work involved. Consider how you felt as you were working and what motivated you. We also encourage you to go beyond work and volunteering – reflect on all of your life activities and how this may connect to your future career. For example, do you help out with your younger sibling’s sports team? Does this mean you enjoy teaching and working with children?
Looking for new and different life experiences? University study offers great opportunity to explore and experience new things. You can join a student group, study abroad or attend new lectures/presentations. There always seems to be something happening on campus that you can check out.
Have your past and/or present life experiences been challenging? Looking for help with these? Consider connecting with the Student Counselling and Career Centre’s personal counselling services. Note: these services are only available for current University of Manitoba students. Check out this link to our personal counselling services.
- your cultural values - this can include your family’s values. We recognize that there is great diversity in the world and that this impacts individual career planning. If your culture’s values are important to you, don’t ignore this when career planning!
- your life goals and dreams. Most of us have life goals and dreams and these can be helpful to identify when career planning. Perhaps the most important consideration here is to reflect on whether or your not your career planning is consistent with your life goals and dreams. Sometimes, people can disconnect career plans from life goals and dreams and this can be a problem later on.
Career Dreams: Some career theorists have suggested that reflecting on our career dreams is an effective strategy for identifying career options and for career planning. What are your career dreams?
Career Planning Key #2: Identify career paths and occupational options based on who you are.
This may seem like a simple concept but it is amazing how many people begin career planning and career decision-making by almost haphazardly identifying occupations. Identifying career paths and specific occupations is best done after there is some indication of what a person needs and wants in a career. This is because there is no universal “best” occupation that all people would enjoy. You can find happy and unhappy workers in most, if not all occupations, and it is clear that an individual’s job satisfaction and success is not determined solely by the job itself. Some things to remember as you identify occupations:
- There are knowledgeable people who can help you identify career options if you can identify your career needs and wants. Connect with our Career Advisors in Career Services for help in identifying career options.
- There are probably many occupations that you would enjoy. Don’t feel that there is only one job for you and don’t be afraid to expand your options before ultimately choosing one.
- You will never choose an occupation if you are not aware of it! Most of us know only a few of the options that are available so look beyond your knowledge.
- There are more than 30,000 occupations listed in the National Occupation Classification. If you really want to know all your options, start with this tool. A firm knowledge of career preferences can help effectively narrow the search.
- It is important to be “open-minded” about potential options. Some people eliminate viable options before they can be considered because of incorrect information or belief in career myths. Check out this link to see some commonly held career myths.
Career Planning Key #3: Know what you’re picking!
Many people select career goals and make commitments to specific paths with incomplete and inaccurate information about occupations. For example, we’ve had students report that they didn’t know that chemistry was involved in pharmacy or that nurses usually work in environments requiring shift work. We recommend never selecting your career path until you’ve talked to at least one person in that specific job. If that person doesn’t seem to like their job, talk to another person – remember that you can find unhappy and happy workers in virtually every occupation. Check out this link for more strategies for exploring specific occupations. University of Manitoba students are encouraged to use the Career Mentor Program.
Career Planning Key #4: Strategize for Success
At some point you will need to select a career path to follow. This can be daunting and challenging. Remember that the career path you select right now does not have to be your career “for life.” Thinking about career decision-making and career planning in this way creates lots of pressure and pressure never makes decision-making easier. Reviewing your career needs and wants, consulting with others about possible career options, exploring those options and then reflecting on whether this is the right path for you can help you make a decision.
Also remember that sometimes your initial career decisions may be general rather than specific. For example, some students decide when entering University study that they plan to explore a number of areas of interest and take courses to keep “options open.” Other students may decide to pursue a degree and engage in activities as they study (e.g., volunteering, consulting with career advisors, etc.) that will help them identify specific paths. You don’t need to have a specific occupational goal identified when you begin university study – you should, however, have a plan about how you will get decided.
Once you’ve selected a career path you should consider developing a plan for success. Strategizing for success means that you should do more than attain a university degree. Some ideas for strategizing for success include:
- Talk with workers in the occupation you’ve chosen to learn their views on what “extras” are needed for success.
- Search for volunteer, part-time and summer jobs related to your career goal.
- Investigate whether or not there are professional associations related to your career goal that you can join.
- Develop and/or enhance your communication skills – employers value this!
- Speak with an employment advisor about strategizing for success.
Career Planning and Decision-Making Frequently Asked Questions