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Career Focus

Adapt or Abandon

By LISA TRUDEL - September 10 2018

My workday consists of assisting unemployed jobseekers prepare for employment. Whether discussing resume applicant tracking systems, or providing advice about LinkedIn Profiles, there is often a common theme among everyone: the decision to abandon career dreams cultivated as a youth, or to adapt to present circumstances.

Many newcomers encounter this theme when struggling to find employment, however, many 10th generation Canadians such as myself have lived through this career crossroads or turning point moment too. 

I am originally from Vancouver, B.C. and when I graduated from High School in the early 1970’s my dream was to fly away on a jet plane to Hollywood to become the world’s most famous actress and screenwriter. I didn’t get very far.  I travelled by transit across the city and studied acting at Studio 58, Western Canada’s prestigious Theatre School at Langara College.  After graduating with a Diploma in Theatre Arts, I was ready to take on show business. However, I only knew about the “show” not the “business”.  I eventually abandoned my dream, moved to Toronto at age 31 and kept my public speaking talents hidden away.  I could not adapt.  I could only stumble around in misery and shame.  My income came from pounding the keys of a typewriter as a secretary. 

Then I had my turning point moment. It was when I heard the words “transferable skills” for the very first time. I also discovered that volunteer work could be a bridge to a new career ambition.  It was a vision that was new, refreshing and reinvigorating.  I adapted. I became a volunteer workshop facilitator and continuing education teacher by using my transferable communication skills to write lesson plans and speak in front of classroom audiences.  For 10+ years in the evenings, I studied Career Counselling, Adult Education, and Life Skills Coaching. Eventually I became a Career Coach. My story of adapting instead of abandoning, is told to inspire and reassure those who are at a turning point or career crossroads.  

If you are aiming for what you studied in school or what you once had, consider the advice in the Canadian Immigrant Magazine one of Canada’s best published resources for newcomers and for all jobseekers. (www.canadianimmigrant.ca)  Suggestions include developing social media skills, finding local resources, and considering volunteering.  

In the current issue, there is an informative article about Generation Z the most ambitious generation in history.  These are people born between 1995 and 2010, and many are already in the workforce. This generation has grown up using multiple social media platforms so now even for the most basic receptionist or office position, examples of job postings state: “Seeking receptionist with social media Ninja skills” and “Extensive experience with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest”. Thus, keeping pace with technology is more important than ever before.

In addition to keeping current with social media and database communication, here are 6 points to assist with your employment preparation if you are adapting to a new occupation, or if you are aiming for your original career goal:

1) Get Organized:  gather all your identification documents including your Work Permit or Permanent Residency info, and your Social Insurance Number. To legally work in Canada these documents are usually requested.  If you don’t have a resume, you will require one, so write out all of your education and work experience.  If you want someone to assist you with revising your resume, the more information about your professional story the better.

2) Gain Canadian Credentials: you might already have credentials suited to your original career goal, however, this does not always help you get a job. Canadian employers can have difficulty determining if foreign credentials meet their requirements so find out if your education is equivalent to Canadian education standards.  Whether you are a newcomer or Canadian-born, you might have to return to school to gain new credentials either during the day or in the evenings like I did, in order to adapt to a new occupation.

3) Learn How to Research: read newspapers such as Learning Curves and magazines such as Canadian Immigrant, and add another vital research method:  talking with others. By speaking with others you can  find out the real truth about occupations and how to navigate your path to employment success.  Researching also involves learning how employers screen candidates. For example, do they use an applicant tracking scanner system that searches for key words in cover letters and resumes?  Or do they only use LinkedIn?  Or do they only hire internal employees?  Every company uses something different and all candidate screening is organizationally-driven.

4) Improve your networking contacts: Becoming a joiner isn’t for everyone especially if you are an introvert.  The power of two is often more fun, so find an extraverted friend and attend events and meetups together.  One of the most useful groups I joined was Toastmasters International a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills that was started more than 93 years ago. 

5) Consider volunteering:  I would not have become a Career Coach without volunteering and I seldom meet a successful Canadian who does not give back to the community in some way.  One of the great things about Canada is that work experience is respected whether paid or unpaid, and one of the great things about 2018 is that volunteer work can be traditional or virtual.

6) Apply for work:  many jobseekers do this first; however, there is only one chance to make a good first impression.  So before going to a job interview get organized, be proud of your credentials, feel confident about the employer research you have done, recognize that you have lots of networking contacts to support you, be ready with a targeted  resume and memorable LinkedIn Profile, and be prepared to discuss how your recent volunteer experience connects to the job you are aiming for.  

The decision to either abandon youthful career dreams, or to adapt to present circumstances and rebuild your professional identity will be different for every jobseeker.  There are no right answers. There are only turning points.  

This article was submitted by Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training. She works at their Parliament Employment Services location in the Cabbagetown district of downtown Toronto. If you want to find out if you meet the criteria for one-to-one career coaching, she can be contacted at: ltrudel@tcet.com 


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