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Exploring Cool Careers Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

Exploring Your Career Options

It's tough enough to choose your courses for next semester, never mind a career path you'll hopefully pursue for decades. Yet that's the kind of pressure it seems like you're faced with in the years before graduation. How do you find out what different occupations are really like before plunging ahead?

To start with, you can do some virtual investigating. The Web has all sorts of sites to help you assess your skills, interests, values and goals, then match them to career paths you might enjoy and do well in. Click over to www.youth.gc.ca, the Youth Employment Information zone from Canada's Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. You'll find tons of quizzes and resources. Then over to the superb online Career Development Manual from the University of Waterloo career centre, www.cdm.uwaterloo.ca.. After that, Job Futures (www.jobfutures.ca) gives you the lowdown on 226 occupations, including average salaries and prospects over the next few years. And if you like to watch, JobTV News has 500 videos on various careers at www.jobstvnews.com/careerVideos.asp. Readers can check out Career Options magazine at www.cacee.com.

But maybe you're more physical than virtual. That being so, you can discover a lot by meeting directly with people already in your field. How to do so, short of barging in to someone's office unannounced? Try job shadowing, for one. Visit your school's Career Centre to see if they'll set you up with an alumnus who'll let you follow them around for a day or two. Same goes for mentoring, where you team up with an experienced worker who gives you advice and possibly opens doors for you. There are always information interviews, of course. Short and sweet, you get to meet people who do what you hope to be doing, and hear what really goes on day to day.

Not hands-on enough for you yet? After all, there really is no substitute for experience. That's where temping and part-time work come in to play. If you can squeeze a bit of extra-curricular effort into your busy schedule, you could try to get whatever entry-level employment you can in an organization of the type you hope to work for some day. Likewise with the summer jobs you go after. And if you can't find paid employment, volunteering is a terrific way to learn about your areas of interest (and boost your resume as well). Finally there's co-op, internships and field placements. See if your program offers one of these and consider taking it on for a semester or two.

The key here is to get beyond speculation or assumptions on how you might fit into a certain realm. Not that this will guarantee longevity: The average graduate will have at least five jobs and possibly two or more careers in the 40 or so years of their career span. In other words, do the homework -- but don't sweat having to make a life-confining choice. There'll be plenty of time to change over the years as you gain experience and new, unimagined options begin to appear.

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