Career exploration can be both clarifying and confusing. It can be an opportunity to forge a new identity for yourself by gaining a clearer picture of the work you’d like to pursue. But it can also be confusing, especially when you are weighing multiple career options and considering all the pros and cons.
Feelings of confusion and overwhelm are not wrong. They are a normal part of the career exploration process. However, if we aren’t patient with ourselves during this process – if we insist on quick fixes – we run the risk of trusting our assumptions about the options before us, instead of the facts. It is easier to assume what we think we know about a career path because verifying our assumptions takes extra work. But our assumptions are often mistaken.
For example, consider the follow statements I have come across in my coaching practice:
“I can’t keep pursuing a degree in finance and mathematics. My real passion is to work with families.”
“I can’t teach without first earning my provincial teacher certification.”
“It’s useless trying to become an Ontario police officer if I don’t have a degree in criminal justice or law.”
This list could go on, but the truth is that none of these statements has been verified with accurate job information. They are just assumptions. First of all, a degree in finance and math is perfectly compatible with family work, as family credit counselors can attest to. Second, teachers working overseas or in colleges may not need certification, even if their counterparts in elementary and high schools do. And third, formal education in law, criminal justice, and psychology are helpful, but not required, for passing your Ontario policing interviews. As you can see, assumptions aren’t always accurate, and if we put too much trust in those assumptions, we end up biasing the career exploration processes in favor of a quick fix.
So how can we check our assumptions? The answer is simple: collect accurate, up-to-date labor market information. You can access this information online using websites like Career Cruising, O-Net, and Career Outlooks. Even better, you can reality-check your assumptions using face-to-face methods, such as conducting informational meetings, attending job fairs, volunteering, job shadowing, and the like. Again, it is not enough to simply imagine what a job would be like or to trust what well-meaning friends have told us. We need to “test drive” our assumptions in order to discern which career paths are best for us.
Collecting reliable labor market information can take several weeks, or even months, to complete depending on how busy your schedule is. I get that. It is definitely not a quick fix for feelings of confusion and overwhelm. But it is well worth the effort if you can be patient with the career exploration process and allow it to bear fruit. As a Career Coach, I regularly see just how much my clients benefit from investigating their options thoroughly. And I truly believe that with the same effort and dedication, those benefits can also be yours.