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Find Your Way on a Shifting Career Path

People used to go to school, train for a job, start work, and retire after 40 years with the same company. That step-by-step form of career planning has mostly disappeared.


In the past, workers often made either/or choices: to be a nurse or a teacher, a millwright or an electrician, an employee or an entrepreneur. All they had to do was learn what was involved in the job, figure out if they had the marks and the drive to do it, and create an action plan to achieve that goal.

Not anymore. These days your career path is more like a trail through a forest, with twists, turns, obstacles, and new directions. While the more orderly way of making career decisions can be a starting point, you also need to incorporate all the changes and choices that pop up in your life.

This approach, sometimes called career building, recognizes the role of feelings, intuition, spontaneity, and chance in decision making. Career building allows you to consider different options and the many things you can do in your lifetime.

As you go through this process, you will often need to quickly package and repackage your career assets in different ways. Career assets include your:

Once you’ve identified your career assets, you can match them to what an employer needs.

Career building involves 2 basic strategies: exploring and navigating.


To explore or meander is to wander or take an indirect path. It involves discovering new routes or ways around obstacles.

You will wander as you explore your career assets. Instead of simply identifying your current work-related assets, you should explore all the assets you’ve gathered on different occasions over your lifetime. You should also explore the world in general for things that look interesting.

This type of exploring is extremely important. It’s an active process that asks you to look at different work options that might interest you. As well, you should pause to reflect and exchange information with others. Take your time, read your favourite newsfeeds, listen to information podcasts, and see if any interesting career ideas pop up.

This will open a broader range of educational and work opportunities. Exploring allows you to expand your identity and your sense of possible work alternatives.

Moe was a plastics processing technician. While she was identifying her assets, she read a career-planning article. It profiled a refinery and upgrader process operator with a salary and benefits better than her own. “This looks interesting,” Moe thought.

To determine how her career assets would transfer to this new area, she decided to talk to an expert in the field. Moe made a strategic move and found an expert to interview— someone who worked for a firm she would like to join. In doing so, she combined the career building processes.



At some point during your explorations, you will see something that interests you. That’s when you will need to navigate or position yourself to act decisively and take advantage of the opportunity.

Many people are surprised to learn that these processes are ongoing and can happen every day. As you explore and identify your career assets, you can also begin to navigate or manoeuvre to match them to other possible work roles.

How to repackage your career assets

As you navigate, you will need to pick and choose from your career assets to fit potential school and work opportunities.

It’s much like picking what to wear from your wardrobe. You choose different clothes to play baseball than to wear to a wedding. By mixing and matching the pieces you already have, you’re ready for most occasions. But if you decide to take up a new hobby such as long-distance cycling, you might add a pair of bike shorts to your wardrobe.

Your career assets are like the clothes in your wardrobe. You can review what you have, select assets that suit a particular work opportunity, and mix and match them again for different prospects. You can also learn new skills to add to your career assets.

Your master resumé will help you keep track of these assets. Whenever you update your skills or experience with something new, you can add it to this resumé. Think of it as the wardrobe of your career assets. You can pull details from it whenever you need to write a new resumé or prepare for a job interview.

People often fall into the trap of believing that their skills only fit a single work role, such as nurse, farmer, or musician. Some roles do require specific training. But, too often, people needlessly limit what they think they can do. They don’t realize that combining your assets creatively can open up many more opportunities.

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