[Online Exclusive] Career Development in a Career Development Agency
By Judy Braun
How do we support our own staff in meeting their career goals?
At 11-years-old, you get invited to participate in a program that takes place on Saturday mornings at the university campus across town with kids from all over the city. You try out 80 different careers. You put on a lab coat and explore being a research chemist. You walk across stage and recite lines like an actor. You pull out a notebook, take descriptive notes and discover what it’s like bring a crime scene Investigator. You discover your likes and dislikes. You meet new friends and you get comfortable being on a university campus. This is Career Trek.
Career Trek is a non-profit organization that helps young people discover the importance of education and career development by providing career-oriented programming in educational settings across Manitoba. The goal of Career Trek is to expose children to occupations and professions that ignite their passion for learning and inspire them to recognize their own potential.
Career Trek has a full-time staff of 17 people and a board of directors of 11, who range from those who have just entered their careers to the mid-to-end stage of their career journey along with those who are retired and are solely board members. Career Trek annually employs over 100 part-time staff across Manitoba who are post-secondary students and many are program alumni. Career Trek has a full cross-section of people on their career journey.
This varied staff and board inspired a quest to understand career journeys and paths in our career development organization and understand how prepared staff members are to mentor younger participants. As a career development organization, Career Trek strives to be on the forefront of experiential career development. A survey was created to understand this journey and see where Career Trek team members fall in the spectrum.
The primary objective of this survey was to assess the staff’s (self-declared) level of knowledge of career development to determine if they are capable in career mentoring young participants. Other objectives of the survey were to assess the level of need/want by staff to have additional career development support, determine the types of career development supports staff are looking for, and assess the relationship between Career Trek part-time staff and their respective post-secondary career centres.
The survey happened between April and November of 2017 with 239 participants and a completed response of 70%.
Survey findings showed that 87% of participants would rate their knowledge of career development as good or excellent, and that 95% have a partial career development plan while, 46% have a complete and developed career development plan.
This same survey also exhibited that 74% of participants responded “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they are looking for help in developing/refining their personal career development plan.
Of the 95% that have a career development plan, only 17% are clear on what they need to pursue their plan. A large majority of the survey participants are university and college students in their early 20s – so it may not be surprising that 50% of participants get their career development information from social media and online services.
Educational institutions ranked as the number one source for career information, with 71% citing educational institutions as their primary source across every demographic. Campus career services appear to be somewhat less popular with 45% stating that they have never used their school’s career development/counselling services, though they have used personal experience, private individuals and social media or online services.
The results of the survey remain the same, regardless of gender, region and role at Career Trek. Survey participants have a strong sense of self-efficacy when it comes to career development, though other responses suggest they have a strong desire for additional assistance. It is also important to note that although our survey participants said they had a career development plan, these same participants did not know what additional support they would need.
Based on the outcome of the survey, it stands to reason that additional help for our front-line staff will results in improved career mentoring for young participants. Career Trek’s further response to the survey has been to investigate what a career development program could look like that would aid employees with existing school-based services already in place to avoid duplications.
Career Trek has recently developed course at the University of Winnipeg titled Career: Life/Work Planning. This course was developed as a direct response to the need for career development in a university setting for students and educators. The purpose of the course is to encourage students to reflect on and develop their own career development journey. It provides students tools for communication and self-assessment, as well as skills for resume writing, interviews, accessing labour market information, creating career portfolios and more. The course is in its second year and continues to evolve and grow into something that provides the tools for students to tackle their career path – regardless of where it takes them.
Career Trek strives to guide staff, program participants and their families to pursue their career goals. This means that Career Trek needs to continue to find ways to connect with people throughout their career journey and this survey proved just that.
Career development doesn’t end – regardless of where you may be in your career journey. People are consistently looking to develop their careers and seeking out ways to do that, even in a career development agency. With the results of this survey it remains clear that Career Trek needs to be a part of ongoing career development – regardless of where one may be on their career journey. Be that as an 11-year-old participant or a 68-year-old board member, career development doesn’t end, and Career Trek wants to provide better services and opportunities to all.
Judy Braun is the Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator at Career Trek Inc. in Winnipeg, MB. Having worked in radio, arts and now education – she loves being able to connect with any audience. All research for this piece conducted by Darrell Cole (Founder of Career Trek Inc.) and Ane Cristina De Faria.