Archive for August, 2012

Find Your Career Flare – Labour Market

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins,” said Benjamin Franklin, and look where he ended up. 

Your career choice should be driven by passion and interest, but not without paying attention to the economy, the local area, and how jobs are impacted.  Conducting research to obtain labour market information (LMI) is critical in having a full understanding of how any career might impact your life positively or negatively.  It can help you make the best decision for your short and long term goals, and help you decide the best course of action in pursuing them.  There is no point investing in a career that has no long term future.  However, there may be value in pursuing a career that holds your passion if you are exceptional in that field or there is likely to be a shift in the labour market.  Some people choose careers based on being in high demand as the priority.  While this may be wise, it alone should not be a determining factor in your career goal (see the Career Decision Wheel and this blog series for other factors).

LMI should tell you things that will help you make a decision about a career including:

  • Which industries, sectors, and employers are hiring and for what jobs
  • What trends are shaping today’s work world, including innovation, technology, and pop culture
  • What skills, education, and training is required for a particular career
  • What the working conditions are like for a potential job
  • What to expect in salary and benefits in a particular job
  • What barriers may impact you from obtaining work in a certain area
  • What job areas are growing now and in the future, and what jobs are likely to be sustained over the course of your next career choice
  • What companies are leaders in your area, and what companies offer realistic opportunities that fit your personal circumstances
  • What else is happening locally that may impact you

Here is where you can obtain local information that can impact your research:

  • Industry and sector websites, magazines, and journals
  • Newspaper articles and other news sources including Social Media
  • Experts’ blogs and via social media
  • Statistics websites, government agencies, and  educational institutions

Consider the Source

When evaluating information, it is always advisable to get as much of it as you can, and then to consider the source.  First, make sure that you get information from a variety of places, balancing government information with industry professionals and the like.  Often by the time government data is scrutinized and published, it is already out of date.  Industry professionals may have a better ‘finger on the pulse’ of what is happening, but be careful to ensure that you talk to more than one person so that you ensure a wider range or responses.  Some education institutions may provide data that suits their business agenda.  Be cautious with all information, and be careful not to create opportunities for self-fulfilling prophesies, where you get the answers you are seeking and rejecting important information that you don’t like.  Validate your research with industry professionals by means of an information meeting (without asking for a job); one of the best things about social media is that you can make contact with experts through a LinkedIn network or group, and connect on Twitter too.

Training & Education

Understanding LMI is particularly important when you are considering some form of additional training or when you are evaluating the investment you might be making in an education program.  Whether your grandmother pays for a career training or education program, you get a government grant, or pay for it yourself, you should have a solid understanding of the impact of that investment, and whether that money is truly well spent.  (It is generally  a good practice to evaluate and compare three programs/schools before making a decision.  You may also want to consider and compare class size, class composition, instructors, course delivery format, the school environment, length of program, technical support, school accreditation, credit for life experience, scholarship/grant opportunities, tuition, books, and other admin fees.)

Labour Market Gaps

Sometimes it can be helpful to know where gaps in the labour market exist to help you identify what fields may emerge over time.  Identifying trends can help you find a potential area for employment or help you craft a career differently than you might have otherwise.  For example, someone with a communications background might recognize that the health care sector has a shortage of workers and may position themselves in this area, or a tourism professional may move geographic regions to where the tourism jobs are as trends shift or seasonal work changes.

Labour Market in Career: A True Story

An IT professional working for a large telecommunications firm had a great job – one that he loved and that allowed him to work for a high income with great benefits that included a lot of international work and travel.  The company went out of business.  As an employee, he had specialized in telecommunications.  He and many of his colleagues were laid off and were competing for the same jobs.  He quickly found that his skills were too specialized for most of the jobs available on the market; they were not in demand.  Most employers were looking for more generalized skills.  He also found that his generalized IT skills had not been kept up to date.  He learned that he had to maintain his generalized IT skills in order to be competitive in the workforce.  He was unemployed for a longer term than his colleagues who had more generalized skills, and had to take a significant pay cut and demotion in order to get back into the job market, but over time rebuilt his career in IT by upskilling in a broad range of skills, and by specializing in areas that stretch across more than one industry.

Meanwhile, a recent grad had to move to a different province in order to get a position in her subject area.  She went to graduate school knowing this was inevitable, as she had done the required research to know that the short term plan was an out-of-province job that would lead her back home in a 3-5 year plan.

Labour Market Assessments

One way to assess labour market information is to make a list of the things you want to know (see bullet lists above in this article).  Create a spreadsheet, graph or table and plot out the information as you go.  Keep supporting documentation to help you along the way, and consider putting it in a career research binder or file folder along with other assessments you conduct along the way.  Here are some online links to help you jumpstart your initial research:

British Columbia

Work BC: http://www.workbc.ca/Careers/Pages/Careers.aspx

Professional Associations in BC:  http://www.amcdirectory.com/contact/associations/britishColumbiaA-C.shtml

A Guide to the BC Economy:  http://www.guidetobceconomy.org/

Province of BC Labour Market Information

http://www.labourmarketservices.gov.bc.ca/labour_market_information.html

Canada

Labour Market Information via HRSDC: http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/workplaceskills/labour_market_information/index.shtml

Working in Canada: http://www.workingincanada.gc.ca

Alliance of Sector Councils:  http://www.councils.org/sector-councils/list-of-canadas-sector-councils/

Alberta

Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS): http://alis.alberta.ca/

Ontario

LMI Ontario: http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/ojf/index.html

Next Steps

This concludes the Career Wheel series.  If you were late joining the blog, be sure to continue to go through each section for valuable tips on navigating a successful career and helping focus on your best career goal.  If you are still stuck, be sure to meet with a professional Career Development Practitioner.

Paulo Coelho wrote “Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.” Hopefully by following the career wheel you will do more than accumulate, but rather challenge your past plans and remember your dreams.  Good luck on your new adventure!

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Your Experience

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote: “I am part of all that I have met.” 

In your career, all of the people you have met and the work and leisure experiences that you have had, shape who you have become as a person.  It is only through the ‘ups and downs’ of some of these experiences that you gain insight into how to move forward in your next career.  In considering a new potential career goal, it is important to take stock of all your experiences and think about your stories – the ones that have impacted you both positively and negatively.  Consider what you want to avoid in the future, and what would give you the greatest satisfaction.

Your Work & Leisure Experience

According to career expert Jay Block, a person with a protean career is someone who is constantly aware of the labour market, anticipates trends, and gains the necessary skills to adapt to the ever-changing world of work.  However you proceed with your next career step, consider whether or not your approach to your career is protean in concept.  Then determine ways to incorporate this notion into your every day thinking.

If you have been gaining the necessary skills to adapt along the way, you may find it easier to transfer your skills from one industry to another without costly additional training.  Having professional development ideas on your annual calendar that you review and adapt as a part of your personal growth plan is critical to a lifetime of learning and professional success.

Work Experience

Your paid work is obviously important to consider when factoring how your past experience can shape your future career path.  Capitalizing on your strengths, skills, and qualifications is critical for long term success, as long as they fit your vision.  However, it is not the only place to look for expertise that you have developed.

Volunteer Experience

Consider any volunteer work you have done.  Focus first on what drew you to volunteer in a particular area and also think about what that says about who you are.  If you haven’t volunteered before, and you are interested in entering a different career arena, consider volunteer opportunities as a foot in the door.  This may give you the opportunity to meet key industry professionals and develop appropriate networks.  Volunteering may not lead you to a new career, but it may help you have balance in your career by doing something meaningful outside of your paid work, while contributing to making your community better.

Other Leisure Activities

Personal interests and hobbies may or may not be the ideal career path for some people.  Many hobbies are hard to turn into viable career options as they don’t provide enough income potential.  Alternatively, turning a hobby into paid work may take the joy out of your favourite pastime.  For some, though, looking to leisure activities can give you clues about what matters in your paid work, and may provide you with a nugget of information worth considering, such as an overlooked skill that easily transfers to another work area.

Taking stock of how you spend your leisure time may help you focus on your career goal to ensure you pursue the right goal, or pursue a goal that allows for your leisure activities to continue.  Work/life balance is another critical factor when considering career opportunities, so understanding the impact of a career choice on the rest of your life is important.

Lastly, employers may find that your leisure activities align very well with the culture and values of their company.  Farmers Mutual Hail, and insurance company in Iowa, was started over 100 years ago based on the principle stated in Galatians 6:2: “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”  This theme is still relevant to the company today in what they seek to do in the insurance business, but also as a corporate culture.  Any leisure activity that fits this theme would likely be noticed in the job search process.

Sharing Your Experiences

Depending on what life stage you are at, your career approach may look a little different and your depth of experiences will be unique.  To capture your work and leisure activities into a meaningful document that will help you in the future, consider creating a master resume.  Consider including many aspects of the career wheel, include your Dependable Strengths and focus on accomplishments and trends.  Portfolios are another way of capturing data that you can then use in your eventual job search.  It is not strictly for artistic careers, but also can be used to highlight works of accomplishment in a visual or written manner and provide evidence that supports any statements you make to employers.  There are online and offline ways of creating portfolios, but either option can be valuable in decision making and moving forward.

Work & Leisure Gaps

Having a gap in your work experience can be detrimental to your work search down the road, as employers make many assumptions about why you weren’t working, and worry about the risk of hiring you (health risk, employment risk, etc.).  Filling in these gaps with appropriate explanations is important in your resume, cover letter and/or interview as appropriate.

If you find yourself unemployed you may find that it is the perfect time to offer your volunteer time to keep your skills fresh and have a sense of purpose.  The time commitment is typically small, so you can still manage an effective job search while volunteering.  You can make new contacts or renew old ones which may help speed up finding employment.  Be sure to treat your volunteer work with the same grace as you would an employer, so that they offer a solid reference.

Your gap in employment should be factual, but you can put a potential employer at ease by minimizing their risk of employing you.  Share with an employer how you made use of the ‘down time’ and reframe it as appropriate as a sabbatical, health care leave or travel adventure – just be sure to show an employer why it is not a risk as you re-enter the workforce.

Work & Leisure Experience: A True Story

A recent business graduate had been working for a number of years in a middle management role.  When the next step in her career involved moving locations, she found herself having to make the decision to take the move or be unemployed.  She opted out of the move and found herself thrust into a job search, but spending most of her time in ‘retail therapy’.  At one of her favourite stores, the owner liked her spunk along with her enthusiasm for the products they sold.  Knowing she had been recently laid off, he suggested she work for him.  She agreed to come in part time, as she knew that retail jobs didn’t pay a lot of money, but this way she was able to meet some of her social needs and be in a retail environment without spending.  It also gave her free time to volunteer and job search.  She made the most of her time while ensuring any employment gap was filled with positive activities.

Work & Leisure Experience Assessments

If you want to assess whether or not your work and leisure experience is an appropriate fit for a potential career goal, you will want to stay tuned for the next blog on the labour market which will provide many excellent links and references to help you assess your career.  You know best what your past experiences have been, but if you are unsure of your past achievements, consider asking friends, family and colleagues to give you a SWOT anaylsis with the goal of using it to help you find success moving forward.

Next Steps

Start by creating your master resume and portfolio.  Stay tuned for next week’s blog on Labour Market Information before moving forward with your career goal, as it is one of the most critical factors in determining the most appropriate career path.  If you are stuck, or you just can’t wait for the next blog, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner who can give you some suggestions on how to gain information on your local labour market.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Your Education

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~Anthony J. D’Angelo. 

Education is a lifelong journey – some believe that when you stop learning, you stop living.  When you are considering a career option, there are many resources that will outline what educational background requirements are for that job.  There are many online resources such as Career Cruising or WorkBC that you can access from educational and employment centres at no cost to you.  Check the education or qualifications section to see what minimum requirements are needed.

On certain occasions, you may already have enough work experience and transferable skills to avoid going back to a full-time formal program, or may be able to pursue a different training option based on your experience.  In other situations, you may require a full certificate, diploma or degree for which there is no substitute.  For any career choice, confirm the educational requirement by talking to someone directly in the field by conducting an information meeting once you have done your own research.  One of biggest fallacies today is that you need a university degree to get the best career.  Some of the greatest paying opportunities or highest opportunity areas in BC’s labour market require a college or trade certificate – so before you go back to school, consider what specific training will truly enhance your ability to pursue your career choice. 

Educational Background – Gaps

If you are considering going back to school, there are a number of questions you should ask yourself first:

  • Do you know that there is a gap in your educational background?  Is this valid?
  • What do you hope to achieve by going to school? A promotion, better job, new employer?  What are the alternatives?
  • Can you afford to go back to school? Can you afford not to?  Are there alternative methods to pay for school, such as through your current employer or through grants/scholarships?
  • When is the best time to go back to school?  Should you start next month, or delay six months, or need a long term plan?
  • Do you have family support?  If not, what steps do you need to put in place?

If you determine that you have an educational gap, and going back to school is the best option, you may want to establish a learning plan.  You can talk to an educational advisor at an educational institution or talk to a career development practitioner to devise a plan.

Educational Background in Career: A True Story

A mid-career professional had pursued a BA in Education and Business, but found that she preferred working in a consultative role.  She worked for a large consulting firm for a number of years, but over time realized that her personal life was taking a toll.  She knew she had an extensive educational background, but wanted to move from a management and consulting role into human resources.  Using her network, she contacted people she knew well and let them know she was interested in finding work closer to home.  A previous colleague co-constructed a job for her based on her attitude and skills, knowing she would be an asset to the team.  She had to take a significant pay cut, but the change was worth it.  She didn’t need to pursue human resources training beforehand, as she had extensive business knowledge and was able to show it, along with having a successful consulting relationship.  Her training was supported on the job with a training and growth plan. 

Educational Background Assessments

If you are considering pursuing education at the college or university level, you may want to assess your academic readiness – some institutions may require that you do this before you are accepted into a program.  This readiness checklist is a great guide to helping you think through a number of additional important questions. You might also want to know your learning style so that you can make a choice that best fits your style.

If you have made the choice to go back to school, here are some considerations to make:

  • Determine what is right for you:  location, cost, length of program, style of class, class size, school setting, teaching credentials, program reputation, extracurricular activities, and any other factors important to you
  • Make sure your school is accredited – public universities and colleges in BC are accredited, and only consider private schools that are PCTIA approved.
  • Spend time researching the school and program of interest, and be open minded to ensure you consider the programs that have the best reputations and have the greatest chance of helping you reach your career goal.
  • One of the steps that many people forget to make is to talk to an independent financial planner to make sure that your education plan makes sense from a career, life, and financial sense.  Their practical advice can help you pursue a goal with a pragmatic timeframe, while keeping you grounded.

Next Steps

If at any point you are unsure of your educational background and whether or not you have the training and education for your career choice, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner.  They can help provide you with skills assessments and other tools to help you make the best career choices.  Stay tuned for the next Career Decision Wheel blog on Work & Leisure Experience.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Your Significant Others

Career Decision Making Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

Thaddeus Golas once wrote: “What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.”  This nature versus nurture debate also fits the world of work; knowing how you, and significant others in your life, will react to a particular career choice you are considering can be instrumental in gaining their support.

Your Family

If you have a life partner, you likely need their support more than anyone else, as your choices will impact them the most.  Parents typically want what is best for their children, and they believe that they know them best and what is best for them.  If you get feedback you don’t want to hear, it can feel deflating, and other times their pragmatic response is appropriate.  Consider including your extended family in these discussions.  If you are examining a few career options, talk to them about what you are considering and why you think it will work.  They could become your best allies, and support you with family naysayers.

Family may also help you financially, emotionally and otherwise if you are making a career choice or change, so having their buy-in can be critical for your success.  Involve them in your exploration and share your rationale with them.  If you are struggling with getting family support, consider inviting them to meet a career development practitioner with you.

Your Community

Community can also play a big role in your life.  If you live in a community that is resource-based, or limited in career options, you might think that you need to pursue a career that fits the community.  If staying in your community is a priority over other aspects of the Career Decision Wheel, then considering the local labour market is critical (see the blog on the Labour Market for more on this topic).

The values of your community have likely also played a big role in shaping who you are today – and your cultural community may hold some careers in high regard, while find others unacceptable options.  Consider what community activities you have participated in over your lifetime, and think about who has played a part in your life.  These people may be excellent resources in discussing your career options, given that they know you and are perhaps more objective than your innermost sphere of influence (family).  Ministers, sports coaches, teachers, counsellors, and others may be helpful (they are helpers by nature), but consider talking to anyone you admire in your community to get a sense of how they made their career choice.  You may want to ask them what other careers they considered and why.  Think about also talking to a professional Career Development Practitioner who can be objective, provide you with tools and information to learn more about the world of work specific to your community – it is their job to know about the world of work, so are a great resource to you.

Your Allies

In addition to your family, consider your friends and how they may impact your career choice.   Also look to the mentors you have had in your life for their support, encouragement and ideas.  Your schoolmates, colleagues, and professional peers can also be a great source of ideas, wisdom, and support.  Don’t hesitate to ask them for help – and be sure to thank them along the way.

Significant Others – Gaps

If you aren’t close to anyone, are new to a community, this might be time to take stock.  Consider if other factors are impacting your work and life.  Speak to a Career Development Practitioner as they can help guide you to people in the local labour market.  Consider also how you spend your free time and see if there are opportunities for developing meaningful relationships there.

Significant Others in Career:  A True Story

A middle manager found himself married with two children in his forties, and stuck in a job he hated. He had developed great skills – he was excellent with customers and staff, believed in the company he worked for, had a great salary to provide nicely for his family and a great pension.  Ultimately, he knew he had always wanted to be a teacher.  His dad wanted him to follow in his footsteps, and dismissed the idea.  The family did not have the financial resources when he was coming out of high school to pay for teacher’s college, so he worked part time doing his Bachelor of Arts on the side for a few years.  Then he became busy with work, had a family and had no time for school.  At a turning point in his forties, he quit on the spot.  As the main supporter of the family, his wife was very angry, and his frustrated father urged him to work for the competitor.  He ended up pursuing his passion, but not without significant cost.  His wife finally came around after eight months, but his father never approved of the decision and their relationship has since been extremely strained.  The family has had to make significant financial compromises, including the wife returning to work and selling their home.  He also has no guarantee of a teaching job at the end of his training, as there are more teachers than jobs projected at the end of his program.

Significant Others Assessments

There is no formal assessment process for this.  Talking to the people that matter to you is important if you want their guidance, but most importantly you may need their support if you are going to pursue something that involves them or requires compromise on their part.  Consider the following questions or make your own. Be sure to craft them in a way that doesn’t predict the outcome you want, but rather forces the responder to think hard about what is best.

Here are some questions to ask your family, community and friends to help you choose an appropriate career:

  • What do you think I am good at?
  • When do you see me the most joyful?  What activities am I doing?
  • What kind of careers do you think are best suited for me?
  • What kind of careers do you think I should stay away from?  Why?
  • What apprenticeships, internships, or other training do you see working for me?
  • What do you see that captures my attention?
  • When I worked at _____, you noticed that I _____. (Create your own personal questions.)

Here are different questions for you to consider on your own when they are not supportive:

  • Do they disapprove because they are embarrassed by the career choice?  Does that matter to you?  How can you overcome that?
  • Do they disapprove because it is in conflict with their values?
  • Do they have higher (or lower) aspirations for you?  Does that matter to you?
  • Do they think it’s a poor career choice for financial reasons?  Is this valid?  Do you need to speak to a financial advisor?  Career Development Practitioner?  Other significant people in your life?
  • What is the cost of doing what you want, instead of doing what they want?  What is the cost to you of doing what they want, instead of pursuing your true preferences?  What can you live with?
  • Are they paying for any costs incurred with a career choice or career change?  If so, does that dictate your choice?  What additional barriers comes with that?
  • If your family understands how passionate about a career option, will they truly disapprove or are you just assuming that they will?
  • At what cost are you willing to pursue this career path?

Next Steps

Talking to a Career Development Practitioner can help you develop some skills to overcome their objections.  Consider inviting your significant others to meet with a practitioner as well, so they are a part of the process, and they can hear an objective perspective too.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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