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Plan Your Career

Career Research: DIY

Olivia, a graduating high school student, was looking for a summer job that might lead to something full-time. She enjoyed volunteering in her school library, and thought she might like to continue doing similar work.
As a first step, Olivia asked her school librarian about what sort of jobs there were in the library field. She learned that with her experience and education she could get a job as a library clerk. To understand the role clearly, she looked up the occupational profile. She met the educational requirements, which included a high school diploma, computer skills, and customer service experience. Olivia found both familiar and new job duties listed. She also learned that evening or weekend hours and some light lifting might be required. Olivia had many of the job’s ideal personal characteristics. 
When she later saw a job posting at a nearby library, Olivia applied and was given an interview. She prepared for it by calling some other libraries in the area and talking with other clerks about their daily work and supervisor’s expectations. Thanks to her research, in her interview, she was able to speak confidently about her familiarity with duties like sorting books, helping people find things, and repairing damaged books.
She was also able to ask questions about duties that would be new to her. The interviewer was impressed by her suitability and gave Olivia the job.


You want to learn more about your career options, but you aren’t sure where to start. There are several ways to research careers: you can look up information, ask people questions, or get some firsthand experience in workplaces.

You might get the best results by combining all 3 approaches. We call that the published/people/practice process.

Step 1: Published

In this step, you focus on gathering information, usually by reading. Here are some ideas:

Step 2: People

In this step, you focus on getting information by talking to people. You can do this over the phone or in person. You can talk to career-planning professionals or someone who does a job that interests you. It can be formal or informal. For example:

  • Talk to someone at an Alberta Supports Centre. Coordinators can answer your questions and tell you about career, education, and employment options. 
  • Ask your network—the people you know and the people they know—to connect you with others who work in the sector (or attend the program) you’re interested in.
  • Tell your friends, family, teachers, and co-workers what you’re looking for. Ask if they know someone who might be willing to chat about their experience.
  • Set up an informational interview. Contact people who are working or studying in your area of interest. Ask if you can meet them in person to talk about how they got to where they are. They’ll be more likely to open up to your questions when you’re face to face. Ask the people you interview for other contacts.

Step 3: Practice

This step involves getting practical experience that lets you “try on” a job. These steps can help you see firsthand if your interests, values, and aptitudes line up well with the work you have in mind. You could:

  • Arrange to job shadow. This means being with someone at their job for a day (or a half-day) to see what they do and what it’s like. This is a good way to find out not only what the work involves, but what the work environment is like.
  • Take a tour. Maybe you know someone who can arrange for you to visit a job site to get a sense of the workplace.
  • Volunteer. For example, if you might be interested in becoming a teacher, maybe you can offer to tutor newcomers to Alberta in English. Or you could work with younger kids as a volunteer sports coach.
  • Take a non-credit course. This can give you the chance to study an occupation or industry. It can also help you find more contacts and information.

In these videos, look for the various ways that Demi, Jason, and Lindsay research the careers they're interested in:

Exploring Career Paths: Pediatrics (3:00)

Demi is interested in pursuing a career as a pediatrician, a type of specialist physician. Through volunteering and job shadowing, she discovers how important it is to have an interest in science and enjoy working with children.

Exploring Career Paths: Law Enforcement (3:32)

Jason wants to pursue a career in law enforcement. He's volunteering with the police service to learn more about the skills involved in becoming a police officer and how they make a difference in the community.

Exploring Career Paths: Combining Arts and Sciences (3:30)

Lindsay is interested in pursuing a career that combines both arts and science. She's leaning toward anaplastology, a type of specialized medicine. Watch as she uses techniques like volunteering and job shadowing to explore her unique combination of interests.

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