By Deirdre Pickerell and Dr. Roberta Neault

Career Management Professionals (CMPs) can often be found delivering their services within government funded community-based agencies. The mandate of these agencies is typically to support unemployed Canadians as they identify career options, develop job search skills, and strengthen their ability to maintain employment.

Many CMPs are currently looking for career opportunities beyond government contracts. In some cases, they have been impacted by changing government funding priorities, resulting in shifting mandates and/or cuts to local employment services. In other cases, their interest is stimulated by a need for new professional challenges. It can be difficult, however, to identify where career services are provided outside of the traditional government funded programs.

This article highlights diverse arenas where career practitioners work and provides tips and strategies to “get there from here.” Several professional development opportunities are introduced that may help CMPs enhance their skills, transition between employers, or create a niche market by specializing in a specific area.

Where’s the Work?

Many career practitioners in Canada are employed in government-funded employment programs. Others work within the school system (K-12) or post-secondary institutions (both public and private). Insurers hire CMPs and vocational rehabilitation professionals to develop return-to-work and rehabilitation strategies for individuals who have been injured or become ill while at work, and for people with a wide range of disabilities. In an era of increasing skills shortages, many employers and unions have become more proactive in providing a full range of career services – employing recruiters, assessment specialists, career coaches, trainers, and other human resource professionals who specialize in career development, talent management, and employee engagement. Some career practitioners work independently as coaches, career counsellors, workshop facilitators, or trainers. Others provide curriculum development support or write content for websites, newspaper columns, or magazines. Although the following sections expand on each of these possibilities, this list is not exhaustive. Many more opportunities are waiting for you – there is plenty of work beyond government programs.

Community Programs

A large percentage of the CMP cohort works in community agencies. Typically, CMPs are employed on a contract basis; the funding agreement specifies such details as the mandate, service requirements, and clients to be served. Funding sources include: § Federal Government (e.g., Service Canada) § Provincial Government (e.g., Employment and Income Assistance, Apprenticeship) § Associations (e.g., Unions, Tribal Councils) Many community agencies are now looking at diversifying their services and identifying alternate ways to generate revenue while utilizing the same resources (e.g., office space, phone lines, Internet, staff). CMPs can create new work opportunities by supporting an agency to offer services to individual fee-payers or provide workshops open (for a fee) to the general public. Essentially, these are the same services as those offered under a funding agreement, but made available to those beyond the specified target group. CMPs can also be instrumental in helping community agencies to access new sources of funding (e.g., through the recent federally-funded requests for proposals related to Essential Skills and Workplace Skills initiatives).

Schools (K-12) – both Public and Private

Today’s students need career planning assistance that stretches beyond traditional academic advising. In British Columbia, for example, students are required to complete a four-credit course, Planning 10, in order to graduate, and many school districts are offering trades/apprenticeship programs to give students a “jump start” on their career goals (e.g., students begin studying auto mechanics while completing high school). In addition, middle and secondary schools throughout the country have career resource centres. Schools can use the services of a CMP to assist in the design and delivery of career planning curricula, set up and monitor on-site training programs, staff resource centres, and plan work experience placements.

In some instances, only a certified/registered teacher may be eligible to have direct student contact. However, even where such restrictions apply, teachers and administrative staff will need training and support as they provide new career services to students.

Post-Secondary Institutions

CMPs may also find opportunities within public and private colleges and universities. Some career services are housed within academic faculties and departments; career practitioners can assist in designing and delivering career-related curriculum as part of for-credit courses, non-credit required courses, and optional workshops/seminars. Career practitioners are also employed within co-operative education programs; their roles include identifying and supporting employers and preparing students for interviews, work experience placements, and internships. Most colleges and universities also employ career practitioners in their employment/career resource centres or counselling centres.

Insurers / Vocational Rehabilitation

A CMP can specialize in vocational rehabilitation and discover a wide range of employment opportunities. These may include working for private insurers, workers’ compensation boards (e.g., WorkSafe BC), prisons, parole boards, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres, women’s/men’s transition centres, mental health programs, and programs for people with developmental disabilities. People in each of these areas need to have access to the services provided by CMPs (e.g., self-assessment, identifying career possibilities, goal-setting, job search, interview preparation, and lifelong career management support). Career services may be an integral part of the total intervention being provided by a team of professionals (e.g., the CMP won’t assess physical capabilities but will work with an occupational therapist to identify opportunities within the physical limitations created by a workplace injury). CMPs may work for one agency or contract their services to a wide range of funders.

Employers and Unions

Some CMPs work with employers and unions to provide career management services. Though many may see this as a function of the human resources (HR) department, HR professionals, managers, and supervisors are often ill-equipped to have career conversations with staff. Career management in the workplace helps to identify the right person for the right job at a specific moment in time. This allows for the strategic management of staff and provides employees with increased understanding of opportunities both within and outside of the organization. CMPs are uniquely qualified to support recruitment, retention, and employee engagement strategies by contributing to a culture of career development – ensuring a “good fit” between individual and job.

CMPs can also design and deliver internal leadership development or talent management programs; provide individual career coaching and consulting; set up and manage career transition centres; assist with downsizing, mergers, and acquisitions; and support succession planning and retirement planning initiatives.

Self Employment

Some CMPs choose to become self employed. Depending on their specific skills and credentials, some open a private practice and provide counselling or coaching services to fee-paying individuals. Others contract their services to:

  • Facilitate professional development workshops for the public or intact groups
  • Speak on career-related topics at conferences and seminars
  • Develop and write career resources (e.g., print, software, videos, audio-tapes)
  • Design, develop, and instruct courses for career practitioners.

Transitioning: Getting There From Here

Richard Bolles, well-known author of What Color is Your Parachute, suggested making changes one step at a time. CMPs often give this same advice to clients and it applies just as well to professionals transitioning out of government funded programs. This model suggests making one or several small changes to transition to new employment. You may consider staying with the same employer, but taking on a new role (e.g., stretching your facilitation skills by offering workshops to a new client group). Another strategy could be to move to a new employer, but in a very similar position as within the government-funded program (e.g., facilitating job search skills workshops within a corporate career transition centre). To make room for new opportunities, you may also consider adjusting your work schedule (e.g., requesting a flex-time or part-time schedule that provides space in the work week to accept other contracts).

Some things to consider during a period of transition include:

  • Diversifying income sources
    • Minimize your risk by having several smaller contracts
  • Earning more from each contract
    • Begin to increase hourly/daily rate so earnings stay relatively constant
  • Using existing contracts and projects to generate new opportunities for work
    • Ask for referrals
    • Note: ensure that this does not create a conflict of interest with current employer
  • Minimizing preparation time by incorporating and building on previous work
    • Have a similar “look” for handouts, presentations, workshop materials to avoid having to recreate resources for each contract (workshop development time generally isn’t billable)
  • Using challenging work experiences to “learn while you earn”

Learning Opportunities

There are many ways to add to your professional toolkit as you prepare to transition your career beyond government contracts. Consider short certification programs that qualify you to use specific tools (e.g., Personality Dimensions® Facilitator and Facilitator Trainer Certification, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and Strong Interest Inventory® Qualified User Certification, BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory Certification). Other certifications qualify you to provide courses and workshops using specific models (e.g., Job Club Leadership Training, Survivability Workshop Leader / Coach Certification). There is training available to introduce you to the Blueprint for Life/Work Designs. There are also several comprehensive certification programs for career practitioners (for an extensive list see CERIC’s Directory of Career Counselling/Career Development Education Programs in Canada 20061.



About the authors:

Deirdre Pickerell, MEd, CHRP, GCDF has close to 15 years experience as an educator, manager and career coach. She assists clients in employee engagement, talent management, staff training, and internal career services. She is a 2006 recipient of the BC Human Resources Management Association’s Award of Excellence, chairs the BC Career Information Partnership and has served as an advocate, leader and innovator in creating a stronger bridge between the career management and human resources management sectors. Deirdre is a Senior Consultant with Life Strategies Ltd., and co-executive director of ENET (a professional association for BC career practitioners).

Dr. Roberta Neault, CCC, RRP, GCDF has almost three decades of professional experience in career counselling, corporate consulting, adult education and entrepreneurial endeavours. President of Life Strategies, and co-executive director of ENET (a professional association for BC career practitioners) she walks her talk, and has worked in a variety of arenas as a career management specialist. She is the 2002 winner of the Canadian Career Development Foundation’s prestigious Stu Conger Award for Leadership in Career Counselling and Career Development in Canada and a 2006 nominee for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award. Whether working with individuals, governments, universities or corporations, Roberta’s mission remains constant. She strives to empower others to positively and proactively manage their career and life changes.

Life Strategies specializes in training for career practitioners. For information on the internationally-recognized Career Management Professional program, Survivability Training, Blueprint Orientation, and “Level B” Psychometric Assessment qualification (all available fully online, in an instructor-led, facilitated format), as well as classroom based Personality Dimensions Facilitator and Facilitator Trainer Certification, visit the Train-the-Trainer section of our website at