Work: Overcome The Fear Of Missteps

By Consuelo Solar

Do you often feel that there is a wall between you and the ideal job, and if you move any bricks it might collapse and forever block the pathway to success? If so, you might be a victim of the paralyzing fear of making wrong decisions, and might be settling for just a job instead of going after your dream career. In his job-hunting manual What Color is Your Parachute, career guru Richard N. Bolles advises starting your job search with yourself, rather than with the job-market. He says the best work for you is one that uses “your favorite transferable skills, in your favorite fields, in a job that offers you your preferred people environments, your preferred working conditions, with your preferred salary, working towards your preferred goals and values.”

But when you are a new immigrant with no connections and plenty of pressing responsibilities, how can you even dream about landing that job in a new country just by filling out applications? Is it possible to defeat that feeling of drowning in an ocean of possibilities, while the perfect work seems like a tiny dot in the horizon?

Most career counsellors will tell you that anything is possible as long as you take the time to plan your career. “The key to fulfillment is career planning,” they’ll say, but what exactly do they mean by career planning?

Carolyn Steele, career development coordinator at York University’s Career Centre, explains that we are in a transition period historically, where we are changing from a completely manufacturing-based economy into a knowledge economy that produces ideas and concepts. “The workplace itself is much more dynamic and a career path through such a workplace is much less linear,” she observes, and adds, “Having a clear idea of what your priorities are, what your strengths are, what your abilities are, what’s important to you now, and what’s going on in your sector, becomes critical. That’s the career development part of the equation.”

This doesn’t mean that answering job posts and sending out résumés isn’t effective anymore, it just means that there are many other ways to find work, and clearly knowing what you want helps you get there. Steele says, “While traditional job-seeking techniques are certainly used in the knowledge economy, especially in government, corporate and unionized environments, it is just as likely that you’ll get a job through a conversation at a networking event, through volunteer work, through job shadowing, or through informational interviews. These are the kinds of activities that are most likely to result in a job, as opposed to filling out applications.”

Wendy Molotkow, manager of program support at City of Toronto’s Employment and Social Services, summarizes the career planning process in three main stages:

  • “Who Am I?”: An exploratory stage that involves getting to know yourself;
  • “What’s Out There?”: An exploratory stage that involves researching the labour market and narrowing down possibilities;
  • “How Do I Get There?”: An action stage that involves the implementation of your career plan and the various components of a job search.

“Individuals develop an appreciation that making decisions involves uncertainty and they should expect to review and revise their plans throughout their lives,” says Molotkow.

Where Do You Start?

Molotkow advises job-hunters to seek out the guided support of staff in Employment Resource Centres (ERC). She says, “ERC staff are trained in helping individuals make sense of the “ocean of possibilities” and how the information applies to each individual’s situation. ERCs offer a number of career planning workshops, so individuals can connect with group support. Toronto Employment and Social Services’ ERC staff are career and employment information specialists, with career and life planning model training.”

Employment and career coach, Denny Medeiros told us, “In making career decisions, one of the most important things is to try to make the right decision at the right time and it consists of looking at many factors. In the case of new immigrants, some extra steps must be taken to successfully plan a career: learn the process to becoming employed in a new country, learn where to get employment help, and face many potential barriers that require much perseverance.”

Medeiros describes the kind of help you can get from professionals: “An individual would come to be assessed, to know whether they are in need of assisted services with a career coach. They will have access to one-on-one assistance, and will establish an action plan with the help of the career coach, who will monitor, follow-up and assist each individual throughout the process of completing their plan.”

Andrea Davis, employment counsellor at Times Change Women’s Employment, works with clients from all levels of education in workshops and one-on-one sessions, and she observes that, in general, professional women tend to job hunt first rather than taking some time to plan a career. “With immigrant women, this may reflect the urgent need to find work as quickly as possible to support themselves and their families. So, economic need often determines how much time is given to career planning,” she says, and adds, “Time can actually be saved and frustration lessened if some thought is given to understanding the existing labour market and where their qualifications, skills and experience will fit within this labour market.”

Time constraints are not exclusive to women or immigrants, and it is often used as an excuse to postpone career planning. Fortunately, there are “do it yourself “(DIY) alternatives for those who don’t have the time to participate in a program. For example, at Times Change, clients can buy a career-planning workbook. Many self- assessment tools are available free on the Internet, including podcasts and webinars; and libraries offer print resources and informal learning opportunities. For example, Toronto Public Library (TPL) offers a workshop on Web 2.0 and a career and job search blog (http://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/jobhelp). You can incorporate social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) as a way of networking and collaborating with a variety of individuals with common interests.

Davis advises people who are already working to contact their professional associations. “They provide networking opportunities, as do educational institutes, community centres, friends, relatives and acquaintances. The objective is to identify individuals who are working in your field and who would be willing to provide you with an informational interview so that you can gain current information about your profession and additional contacts,” she says.

Keep in mind that career planning is a lifelong process that does not stop when you get a job. One goes through life gathering their interests, skills, abilities, experiences, and education; a life’s history. Carolyn Steele concludes, “If you focus on what is uniquely you because of what you are, you can access multiple job markets and are much more likely to land in some place where you actually want to be. If you do that as a starting point, where you go from there is anywhere.”

10 Steps To Successful Career Changes

  • Evaluate your current job satisfaction.
  • Assess your interests, values and skills.
  • Brainstorm ideas for career alternatives.
  • Conduct a preliminary comparative evaluation.
  • Read about different fields and conduct informational interviews.
  • Job shadow professionals in fields that interest you.
  • Find volunteer and freelance opportunities to give a field a trial run.
  • Investigate your educational opportunities.
  • Look for ways to develop new skills.
  • Consider alternative roles within your current industry.

Source: Progress Career Planning Institute (PCPI)

Consuelo Solar

Consuelo is a journalist, screenwriter and story editor. She has worked as field producer for CNN, and reporter for The Miami Herald and other international media outlets. She currently works as a correspondent for Terra Networks and is involved in independent film projects.