How to choose a career

July 7, 2016

By Sheryl Smolkin

While selecting a future career at the end of high school or university may seem like a momentous, life-long commitment, the fact is that few people spend their whole life anymore in the same job or even doing the same type of work.

In a 2014 article on Workopolis Peter Harris noted that from 1990 through 2000 the number of people staying at their jobs for less than two years doubled from 16% to 33% of employees. That trend has only accelerated into the 2000s, almost doubling again from 33% to 51%.  In other words, job hopping is the new normal. In a subsequent Workopolis commentary Harris concludes that if the current trend continues, Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their lifetime.

So if you are starting out in 2016, or making a career change, how do you decide what field you want to go into and how to achieve your career objectives?

It doesn’t hurt to take advantage of vocational testing that may be available from guidance counselors or private consultants. In some cases the cost of these services will be pegged to your means. This will help you zero in on the kind of careers that you have an aptitude for and you are interested in.

You may also be able to leverage your hobbies. Playing in a band or singing in a choir can give you a great sense of satisfaction but these pursuits may not always be the foundation for a remunerative career. However, teaching music, audio engineering or music therapy may be more practical applications of your talents.

Similarly, if you like playing video games, consider becoming a video game designer or a programmer. Sports enthusiasts can become coaches, announcers, agents, trainers or sports event planners. Visual artists may opt for a career in graphic design.

Also, think about the subjects in which you excelled in school. A math whizz may enjoy a career as an actuary or accountant. An English major can aspire to be a journalist, an editor or a lawyer. And if you are good at fixing things or working with your hands, don’t rule out working in the trades such as carpentry, auto repair, construction or electrical work.

The Government of Canada’s Job Bank allows you to explore careers by low, medium and high wages in different parts of the country. When I searched for “Registered Nurse” in Saskatchewan, I found that in Saskatoon the hourly wages ranged from a low of $25.50/hour to a high of $46/hour, but in the Prince Albert Region the average hourly pay range is from $19.45 to $47.

When you have zeroed in on some possible careers you may be interested in, find somebody working in the field who can answer your questions about what it is really like to be an engineer or a plumber. Most people are willing to find time for a ½ hour “interest interview,” and some may even allow you to “job shadow” for a day.

Of course regardless of where your passion lies, it is wise to do a “reality check” to determine whether the career you are contemplating is in a growth area where there are lots of opportunities.  In Canada’s hot jobs, and ones to avoid Nathan Laurie, president of notes that anyone with a computer science, math or engineering degree will find lots of opportunity on the job market. “Those degrees can apply to industries across the board — finance, e-commerce, IT — there are lots of roles for those types of positions. In addition, areas including web development, design, robotics and big data are seeing a lot of growth,” he says.

You may also be surprised to find out that Canada’s Best Jobs 2016: The Top 25 Best Jobs In Canada ranks the following as the top five jobs in the country, based on median salary, wage growth, and five-year employee growth:

  1. Mining or Forestry Manager
  2. Urban planner
  3. Pharmacist
  4. Pilot or flying instructor
  5. Public Administration Director

But regardless of which career you train for and where you or your kids get their first or next job, chances are it won’t be the last one. Today’s workforce must be the CEO of their own careers. That means keeping an up-to-date resume, networking and continuously improving both generic and job specific skills. In this way you will always be ready to embrace the next, great career opportunity when it comes along.

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