Strategically Plan your Career

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At the start of a new year, people commonly evaluate their actions and achievements in the outgoing year; and make commitments to improve by writing down their plans, goals, and expectations for the new year. This is called the new year resolution.  

What areas of improvement have you picked for yourself? Are you considering buying a house? Do you see opportunities of becoming financially prudent? Is changing your career path top on your list? Are you considering schooling to improve your chances of getting your dream job? Your priorities determine what makes it to your to-do list. What have you resolved to focus on this year? 

Immigrants, like most people often look out for opportunities to acquire relevant skills and better job offers. For some, the choice to go back to school is based on commentary from what friends and family have identified as a market need. To others, it is a function of how often such job titles are advertised in job sites. These reasons are basic without any in-depth research.  

Mr. F decided to take a certificate course in Occupational Health & Safety, although he is not new to this field. He has a master’s degree in Environmental Science from a University in the UK, and has acquired the mandatory NEBOSH International General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (IGC). On arrival to Canada, Mr. F conducted desk research and noticed that there were lots of vacancies for occupational health and safety experts. Without further research or consultation, he enrolled for a 12-month course at a polytechnic and secured school loan to make the learning process smooth. At least he did not have to bother about paying his school fees. 

On completion of the programme, job search began in earnest. That was when Mr. F realized that he needed a different certification (Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) to practice in Canada. Unfortunately, he could not quickly take the exams to earn the required certification, as he needed a minimum of two-year Canadian work experience in the field to qualify to write the professional exams. Mr. F is in a fix! He has a school loan to repay yet, he could not secure even an entry-level position to begin counting the required two years.  

There are a number of things wrong with Mr. F’s approach. He failed to conduct research for what applies in this market. He assumed that whatever certification acquired in the UK will work in Canada. He did not seek out students who have passed through this programme to learn the dynamics and requirements for practice. This is a learning point for all immigrants – permanent residents and international students alike. This mental torture could have been avoided if Mr. F had done all or some of the following: 

  1. Know Your Why 

If your why is strong enough, it keeps you going on those tough days when you want to give up. Will this course positively impact your career growth or extend your skill set? Or is it just a means to survival? Have you always dreamt of yourself in this field? Or are you opting for this because family and friends say this is the path you should follow? Do you get excited when discussions around this career path come up? Are you looking to diversify your knowledge or change career path completely? An honest answer to these questions would help you evaluate if this is a necessary resolution for the year.  

  1. Identify Your Academic Strength 

Be true to yourself! No one can do this for you. Do not start what you know you cannot commit time and effort to finishing well. The average cost of certificate and graduate programs is between $7,000 – $24,000 depending on the course. This is a huge cost that should not go down the drain. If you struggle with mathematics and don’t have a plan to overcome this challenge, then, do not consider going for a course in statistics. You would be setting yourself up for failure.    

  1. Research 

This can take varied forms. It can include but not limited to speaking with people in the field, going online or visiting the school’s admissions office to ask questions and read the prospectus, comparing various schools to see whose style and offerings fit what you want, and researching scholarship options. Also, if you have certificates from other countries, find out what is accepted in Canada and what is not. Note that this might also differ from province to province. 

  1. Entry Requirement 

How will you position yourself to secure the admission? Entry requirement might differ slightly from school to school so, be sure to identify what each school is asking for.   

  1. Job Opportunities 

This is critical as the end goal is to become financially independent. The return on your investment of time, effort, and money must be worth it, else the purpose is defeated. Even if the course is more of a passion, it should pay the bills. What are the job prospects? What is the minimum entry salary? Is it enough to cater for your basic needs? Beyond the initial certificate or degree, what do you need to secure a job in this field? Do you need certifications as you progress? What are the certifications and what additional opportunities would it offer you?  

  1. Network with Past Students 

Never underestimate the importance of networking with other students who have passed through this path. They know where the landmines are, can share their experiences to prevent you from making common mistakes they made. 

As you make your career or educational resolutions for this year, have you researched available opportunities? The bottom-line is to never make resolutions based on a fleeting emotional state. Be intentional, strategic and make decisions based on well thought-out research. Before you embark on that new course or training, be armed with the right information. Herein lies the difference between success and failure.  

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