Let’s face it. Not every student enters university with a crystal-clear career path in mind. In fact, many students do not even begin thinking about where their degrees can take them until graduation is around the corner.
“Study what you love, but don’t wait until your final year to think about your career options,” says Susanne Thorup, manager of Concordia’s Career and Placement Services (CAPS). “Think about this early on, so you have time to explore – through internships, summer jobs, part-time work, volunteering, anything to get experience outside of the classroom.”
Not being in a job-specific program like computer science or engineering means that you’re open to discovering new skills and interests, and that’s a good thing, says Dale Robinson, manager of Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services. She suggests booking some time with a career counsellor to help kick-start the process of figuring out which career path to take.
“The first place to start is always with an increased awareness of who you are, which sounds simple, but simple isn’t always easy,” says Robinson. “Starting with who you are means: what are your interests and hobbies? What kind of courses are you drawn to? What kinds of movies do you like? What do you read?”
Robinson’s team also looks at what role a career will play in your life, and what values are attached to that career. “Will you live to work or work to live? Do you want to make a difference with your career? Make money? I know that this can feel daunting for a student, but you don’t need to know everything. Start from what you do know,” she said.
Every academic major comes with a set of skills that makes you marketable in different areas, adds Robinson. “For example, philosophy gives you a good background in terms of knowing about logical arguments. It’s not wasted; it all depends on how you apply it. What else are you bringing to the table? It’s not only about your major.”
After an initial interview with a student to discuss his or her background, interests, values and skills, the counsellor will conduct a series of tests to evaluate what kind of work environment would best suit the student’s needs. “We then take that information and prioritize the top careers by looking at where there’s overlap between all of those assessments. The more tests that indicate certain careers that match your interests, skill set and values, the more confidence we can have in those careers,” says Robinson. “It’s a very interesting process. It’s like looking at pieces of a puzzle, figuring out how all those pieces fit together.”
At the end of testing, students are encouraged to visit the Career Resource Centre, where they can find information on hundreds of jobs.
“University is a time to have fun, but do give some thought to the beginning steps you’re going to need,” says Robinson. “You don’t have to decide everything, but making an appointment or two with a career counsellor to flesh out some of these ideas is a really good thing to do. Then you can check in during second or third year, just to make sure you’re still on the right track.”
• Counselling and Development
• Counselling and Psychological Services Career Planning Steps
• Career planning workshops