In order to make a good career decision you need two
"tools". The first is a clear picture of yourself. You need
this to know if a given occupation really matches you well.
Second, you need an efficient way to get more information
about careers. The section, "Clarifying
Your Characteristics" will help you with the first and "Getting Information About Careers" the
Clarifying Your Characteristics
Listing Your Experience
The best and only predictor of the future is the past. By
listing your past experience you will have concrete
situations to use to generate your list of characteristics.
On a separate piece of paper list all the paid jobs you
have had, any volunteer experience, courses you liked and
did well in, your hobbies and any other activity that you
did that could tell you more about yourself. For example,
tutoring your kid sister in Math, helping your uncle build
a canoe, helping a friend through a personal problem.
Anything that stands out because you liked it or were good
- 1. Abilities
- Take the first activity on your list and ask yourself,
"What skills, abilities and aptitudes did I prove I had
in that activity that I want to use in a future career?"
For example, organizing, working with people, solving
problems, using math, teaching, working with my hands.
Make a list of the skills abilities and aptitudes that
you find. Repeat this question for each activity.
- 2. Interests
- Again, take the first activity and this time ask, "When
doing that, what parts really interested me and help my
attention?" Examples might be, the business aspects,
helping people, working with animals, making things,
science. As before, make a list of these interests and
then go on to the next activity and ask the same
- 3. Needs
- For each activity ask yourself, "When doing that what
parts gave me a sense of satisfaction and
accomplishment?" For example, being challenged, physical
activity, working as part of a team, leading a team. List
these needs that surfaced from reviewing each activity.
- 4. Values
- "When doing that activity, what made me feel good?" Like
I was doing something worthwhile?" Examples would be,
working with kids, involved in education, environmental
work, create something. List the values that came to
- 5. Personal Characteristics
- "From doing that activity and thinking about my
reactions, what are the things that stand out about me?"
"How would others describe me?" For example, outgoing,
reserved, through, serious, energetic, artistic,
independent. Add theses to your list.
- 6. Goals
- This may be hard, but ask yourself, "What do I want to be
doing in 10 years?" "What do I want a typical day to be
like?" Examples would be, to be in business for myself,
live in a small town, lead a team. Add these to your
Your Master List
Go through your total list and put an "A"
next to those characteristics that you know you MUST have
in a career. You just would not be happy if you didn't have
them as part of your day-to-day work.
Put a "B" next to those that would
certainly make an occupation more enjoyable, but are not
Put a "C" next to those that would be nice
to have in your career.
Now, go and print "My
Characteristics". When you have it printed, under
the right heading first put down your "A"
level characteristics in capital letters. Next your
"B" level in lower case letters. If there
is still space, add your "C" level ones,
but put them in brackets.
Getting Information About Careers
Now that you have a more complete picture of yourself it is
time to start researching the occupations from your list.
As you do so, keep going back to your list of
characteristics and ask yourself: "Does this occupation
match me well or should I drop it?" Be sure to use your
expanded list of characteristics to sift through potential
occupations and careers.
- 1. Using The Literature
- Because new careers develop and older careers change, it
is best to begin your research by reading career books
and pamphlets. The nice thing is that you can go through
these books and pamphlets quickly, they answer your basic
questions, and they are convenient. The most popular ones
are listed below. These resources should give you a very
good start on deciding which occupations on your list you
should investigate further and which you should drop from
consideration. If you can not find these materials at
your school, try the public library, an office of Canada
Manpower, or a college or university counselling service.
- A. Job Futures (Volume I & II)
- These two books contain both information about
occupations and employment outlook statistics -
predictions about how many jobs in each occupation
will be available in the future. They are fairly new
and very useful.
- B. Text Books
- At college or university book stores you can find
many textbooks that will give you a good idea about
what you would be studying if you entered a given
occupation. Try them.
- 2. Using Teachers And Calendars
- Find out which schools, colleges, or universities have
programs in the areas you are interested in. Read their
calendars. Also, talk to the teachers at the schools.
They can tell you what the courses will be like and what
types of people succeed.
- 3. Using Professionals
- Professionals are those people who have been working in
an occupation long enough to know it well. The following
tells you why you should do "information gathering
interviews" with them, how to find professionals to
interview and what types of questions you should ask
- "Why do information gathering interviews?"
- (1) To get up-to-date information about occupations.
- (2) To get a personal feel for occupations.
- (3) To get information specific to your part of the
- (4) To enlarge you circle of contacts to get
information about occupations.
- (5) To gain self-confidence for future job
- (6) To establish contacts for later job interviews.
If you are hesitant, like many others are to do
interviews, why not practice on family and friends
first? Remember, this will be easier than you think.
People love to talk about what is important to them.
Many individuals will tell you that their occupation is
very important to them and they will welcome a chance
to talk about it.
Questions To Use In Your Information Gathering
- How to find professionals.
- (A) Networking
- (1) Write a list of all the people you know - your
friends, classmates, family, family friends, your
dentist, doctor, hairdresser, teachers, professors,
co-workers, etc. You might try using your address
book to start with.
- (2) Ask these people if they know about the field you
are investigating. If they do, interview them. If
they don't, ask if they know someone who works in
that occupation. If they do, ask if they would mind
asking that person if you could talk with them about
their occupation. Or, ask for that person's name and
telephone number, and phone them yourself. A
statement like the following might be a good opening;
"My name is __________. Mr./Ms._____________said
your are a ____________ and might be willing to
talk to me about your profession. I'm sure you are
busy, but I would appreciate it very much if we
could meet sometime."
See the "Questions" section later in this manual
for interview questions you might want to use.
- (B) Directories of Associations
- Visit the public library, college or university
counselling services, or Canada Employment Centres
and ask where you can find the names and addresses of
professional associations in your field of interest.
These associations may be able to refer you to
members who would be willing to speak to you about
the occupation or you could phone them yourself. You
could introduce yourself by saying something like:
"My name is ______________. I am trying to obtain
information about working in the field of_________
and I wonder if you could suggest people who would
be willing to talk with me?"
- C) Telephone Book
- Look in the yellow pages for companies and
organizations, and in the blue pages of government
listings for relevant ministries and departments that
might employ people in the areas in which you are
interested. A good opening is:
"My name is ____________. I am trying to obtain
information about working in the field
of______________. I thought you might be able to
direct me to someone in your area who would know
about that field".
The following questions should be used as a guide. If
you have any of your own be sure to add them. You
should not feel embarrassed about taking along a list
to refer to. It shows you are serious.
- (1) I know __________, __________, and __________
about your profession. Could you give me more
- (2) What do you find to be the best things about your
professions? The worst?
- (3) How did you get into this occupation? Get started
in this job?
- (4) How did you prepare yourself for this job? For
- (5) Which do you think are the best schools?
- (6) What classes or projects can I undertake to
prepare myself for this career area?"
- (7) What skills, aptitudes, interests and personal
characteristics are necessary in this career?
- (8) What is the most relevant major, course of study
- (9) What is the most valuable thing you learned
during your training?
- (10) Are there specific courses you would recommend I
- (11) How does the employment outlook seem here in
______________. How about elsewhere?
- (12) Would you advise people to enter this
- (13) What are some of the growing concerns in this
- (14) What is the typical salary ranges?
- (15) What are the specialties in this area?
- (16) What types of people do you work with?
- (17) Do you know other people or places where I could
find people involved in this career whom I might talk
- (18) Knowing what you know now, would you choose the
same occupation again? Why or why not?
At the end of your interview always say something like
Later, phone and thank them again.
- 4. Using Work
- This is your last and the most important resource. There
is not a better way to gather information about an
occupation then to get into the work setting. Whether you
decide to become a Plumber or a Physicist, seeing what
people do day in and day out will tell you if the job is
right for you. Get into the work setting by asking one of
the professionals you interviewed if you could visit and
observe, work as a volunteer, or even work and get paid.
If you follow the above steps you will gradually be able to
narrow your list down to several occupations. You will know
that these occupations are a very close match to you. It is
a long process, but it will be worth it! You will spend
many years working and being matched to the right
occupation will mean years of satisfaction.