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Connecting your experiences to a career

April 7, 2017 — 

Reflecting on your strengths and preferences in your extra-curriculars – your employment, volunteering, and hobbies – may be the key to discovering or confidently confirming an appropriate career path!

At Career Services our goal is to help students plan for success.  The career planning process includes three main components:  knowing yourself, gathering accurate career information, and gaining relevant experiences.  Involvement in career-related activities is important for many reasons:

  • employers value experiences that complement your education,
  • through your experiences you naturally gather career information, and
  • your experiences help you to learn more about yourself and how you like to work.

Let’s focus on this last point.  Knowing who you are and what you like may seem simple.  However, you are constantly evolving and your preferences can change. During your time in university, have you discovered a new subject or topic interest? Have you developed new strengths?  When you think about the activities you take part in, what are you doing when you feel most energized, enthusiastic or when time seems to fly by?   These can be important factors in determining an occupational fit. At Career Services we help students to evaluate their work interests, values and personality traits. Use our Career Planner Workbook to get started.  

Take a moment to reflect on your prior jobs or volunteer choices: What activities did you enjoy and why?  For each activity, write down specifically why you liked it.  When you look closely, what elements were present?  Were you working with:

  • People (helping, influencing, team work or leadership),
  • Ideas (solving problems, researching, creating or designing),
  • Data (details, numbers, structure) or
  • Things (equipment, technology, working with your hands and/or being physically active)?

Identifying common threads in your experiences can provide insight into what future jobs will be most satisfying!  For example, if you’ve been planning a career in ecological fieldwork but all of your favourite pastimes involve directly helping people, it might be worth exploring a career in Education or Social Services.  To explore your work preferences further, meet with a Career Consultant or visit the Career Services centre to register for a standardized career assessment called the Strong Interest Inventory

Take time to also think about future employment, including summer jobs that will help you test the waters or take steps toward your future career goals. Career research can help to uncover what relevant skills and experiences are valued within an industry sector.  This research, combined with what you’ve learned about yourself, can help you determine how you’d like to grow.

In many ways “we are what we do”.  You’ve taken courses and become involved in extra-curricular activities and this says something about you!  Your experiences can demonstrate your personal characteristics, values, skill sets and work interests.  Remember that continual reflection is critical part of your learning and career management.  It can help to ensure that you are on the right track and opening the right doors for yourself!

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