Career exploration

Career development is a life-long, perpetually unfolding process. People are unique and have different life experiences, values, interests, skills, influences, and priorities. If you have questions about your future or you don’t know absolutely “what you want to do with your life”, that's not only ok, it’s normal. Explore your potential.

Explore the possibilities

Every day you have opportunities to learn about who you are, what your passions and interests are and are not (both equally important), what your talents are, and what opportunities exist in the world. With increased awareness about yourself and the world, you can refine your career and life priorities.

Every day you also face uncertainty. The fact that lives and careers can’t be perfectly predicted or controlled can be uncomfortable. Other things that you can’t control include the labour market, your competition, or the mood of the person who receives your resume.

Career development is a life-long, perpetually unfolding process.

You can, however, choose your attitude, and how open-minded, curious, adaptable, and positive you are.

You can choose how much effort you put into studying, networking, researching your fields of interest, taking care of yourself, gaining experience during school, reflecting on your experiences, and telling your story to others in compelling and meaningful ways.

You can choose how open you are to opportunities and what risks you take. You can also choose how willing you are to make contact with professionals working in the fields you’re interested in (Tip: these are called Informational Interviews and are priceless in terms of gathering information and building a network).

The process of career is ongoing; the world continues to change, and you will continue to adapt, evaluate, and respond.

Career exploration and development doesn’t happen overnight, but in an organic, non-linear evolution.

You’ll come to know yourself (through action and ongoing reflection), learn about the world of work (through research and interaction), make choices, and pursue options. Ideally you’ll move towards good “fits” between your talents and the world’s needs, and between your personality and professional roles and work cultures. The process of career is ongoing; the world continues to change, and you will continue to adapt, evaluate, and respond.

Questions to ask yourself

Writer and professor of world mythology Joseph Campbell encouraged people to live by the phrase “follow your bliss.” He suggested that each person could find their own meaningful and fulfilling life path. If you don’t yet know what “your bliss” is, the following questions may help you in your career exploration process:

  • What is important to me in my life and in my career? How does career fit into the greater picture of my life?
  • What am I passionate about or interested in?
  • Where do I have natural talent?
  • What experiences have I enjoyed, and what experiences have I NOT enjoyed? (e.g. volunteering, part time or full time employment, etc.). What can I learn from these experiences in terms of elements that I want to pursue, and elements that I want to avoid/limit, in my career?
  • What are my priorities in a job? (e.g. professional interests, skills, environment, compensation, location, etc.)
  • Which values, interests, and strengths are most important for me to express in my career?
  • What opinions and values have others in my life expressed about career in general, or about my work future? What is my reaction to that?
  • What career options am I interested in?
  • What steps have I taken towards learning about that career? (e.g. researching job postings, options for education, and potential employers, and talking to people in the field etc.)

An arts perspective: Peter Wrinch

Peter Wrinch was focused on a career in academia throughout his studies in Russian History. He now has a career in the not-for-profit industry as the Executive Director at Pivot Legal.

An academic's perspective: Marwan Hassan

Marwan Hassan is a Professor and Geography Department Head at the University of British Columbia. He gives insight into choosing a career in academia and methods of achieving a job.

An engineer's perspective: Veronique Hadade

Veronique Hadade has a Masters in both Mechanical Engineering and Management, which she has applied to a career in Business Development at MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.

Combining technical and business skills: Leslie Ng

Leslie Ng supplemented her undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering with an MBA. She now works for the City of Vancouver as an engineer and planner for the sustainability team.

From a CFO and Mentor: Kathryn Hayashi

Kathryn Hayashi is the Chief Financial Officer at the Centre for Drug Research and Development, with a career spanning a variety of industries from music to biotechnology.

Transferring technical skills to industry: Harish Vasudevan

Harish Vasudevan holds a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences from UBC. After deciding that academia wasn't for him, he focused his career on industries requiring high intellectual capital instead.

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