folded newspaper on wooden table beside coffee cup and cellphoneCareering

Career Briefs

Cannexus20 offering discounted registration until Nov. 6

CERIC’s Cannexus National Career Development Conference, taking place Jan. 27-29 in Ottawa, is shaping up to be even bigger and better in 2020. Delegates can save $50 on the regular one-day or three-day rate by registering by Nov. 6, 2019.

Cannexus will feature more than 150 education sessions on a wide variety of topics in career counselling and career and workforce development. With more than 1,200 people expected from across Canada and abroad, attendees will also have the opportunity to connect with peers from a cross-section of the career development field.

Cannexus20 will host keynote addresses from Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Tristram Hooley, Director of Research for the UK-based Careers & Enterprise Company; and Zita Cobb, Founder & CEO, Fogo Island Inn and Shorefast Foundation.

Learn more about Cannexus20 and register at

Future Skills Centre takes steps to support mid-career workers facing transition

The Future Skills Centre is spending $7.65 million to fund 10 projects aimed at helping mid-career workers adapt, retrain and/or upskill to be successful amid a changing labour market. The projects include:

  • Helping prepare oil and gas workers in Calgary to take on jobs in the growing tech sector;
  • Testing training models to upskill cashiers for higher-skilled jobs in food and retail;
  • Exploring upskilling opportunities for workers with disabilities across Canada;
  • Identifying skills needed for auto workers in Oshawa, ON, to transition to high-demand jobs in the trades.

More details are available at

CERIC to fund project that demonstrates how career development can improve mental health

Led by Life-Role Development Group Ltd., with the support of Simon Fraser University and the Career Education Association of Victoria in Australia, this project will produce a handbook for career practitioners that addresses their role in supporting or improving client mental health. Expected to be released in early 2020, the book will help career practitioners learn about:

  • How their work bolsters mental health and potentially intervenes with mental illness;
  • How they can more effectively strengthen clients’ mental health;
  • Ways to measure mental-health outcomes in their practices;
  • Ways to communicate to stakeholders the vital role of career development in enhancing mental health.

Visit to learn more about the forthcoming resource.

Study explores ‘emotional tax’ carried by people of colour at work

A study of over 700 Canadian women and men of colour by Catalyst found many experience an emotional tax in the workforce, described as a combination of being on guard against bias, feeling different from peers at work and the associated effects on well-being and ability to thrive in the workplace. Among the findings:

  • 33% to 50% of Black, East Asian and South Asian professionals report being highly on guard to protect against bias;
  • 50% to 69% of those professionals who are highly on guard against bias have a high intent to quit;
  • 2% to 42% of those who are highly on guard against bias report high rates of sleep problems.

Read more about the findings at

Popular CERIC-funded Computing Disciplines guide to see update in 2020

CERIC is funding a project for Mount Royal University to update its popular guide to computing careers, which will now add two emerging areas: data science and cybersecurity. The second edition of Computing Disciplines: A Quick Guide for Prospective Students and Career Advisors will also expand on training opportunities such as college programs and coding camps, as well as incorporate profiles of diverse alumni. The aim of the guide remains to support career counselling for students interested in technology.

The new guide is expected to be released in early 2020, and once again will be made available for free download.

The current guide can be found at

Compiled by Lindsay Purchase.


Request for Proposals on Career Development in Children: Identifying Critical Success Conditions and Strategies

CERIC is issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to invite interested researchers to submit a proposal to validate the fine work teachers are doing to introduce, nurture and develop the foundational skills that help their students – in Grades 4 to 6 – to thrive. In particular, CERIC seeks to showcase this work to highlight what strategies and interventions are currently employed by educators. Such strategies and interventions require closer examination of the potential impact on children’s future career development and potential to thrive.

Identifying what factors lead young people into sustainable, fulfilling employment and to productive and happy lives is complex. We can posit that if a young person is thriving between K – 6, they are more likely to thrive throughout their education. However, what strategies and interventions are likely to be effective practice with children in terms of preparing them for later-life success? What is the longer-term impact of such strategies and interventions on children as they mature and move through later grades (ie, Grades 10, 11, 12), and subsequent transitions into their post-secondary education? What foundational elements does one need to thrive through childhood and on into all phases of life and career planning?

CERIC’s interest in this project is three-fold:

  • To understand the landscape of what is happening in elementary education across Canada related to introducing/building career related foundational skills
  • To use a mixed-methods approach to explore the impact of these conditions and strategies on career development foundational skills
  • To develop a teacher’s aid toolkit that validates teacher practice

Deadlines for this RFP are as follows:

  • Request for Proposals released: October 2, 2019
  • Intent to submit: October 28, 2019
  • Proposal deadline: November 21, 2019
  • Award of contract: February 11, 2020
  • Project initiation: March 10, 2020

To learn more about the Scope of Work, Target Audience, Deliverables, Budget and Duration, and Eligibility Requirements, please download the RFP. For any inquiries, please contact CERIC Executive Director Riz Ibrahim at or 416.929.2510 x131.


Cannexus20 preliminary conference programme is now available

With more than 150 education sessions, the newly released Cannexus20 National Career Development Conference preliminary programme offers unmatched learning and networking. Canada’s largest bilingual career conference, Cannexus is expected to welcome 1,200 professionals from education, community, government and private sectors to Ottawa from January 27-29, 2020 in Ottawa.

Education sessions with thought leaders will explore innovative approaches in career counselling and career and workforce development including:

  • Career Development & Mental Health: Coping Becomes Hoping
  • Labour Market Trends in the Age of Disruption
  • Design Thinking for Career Development
  • Students Perspectives on Careers & Career Development: 2020
  • The Power of LinkedIn and Social Reciprocity
  • Predictors of Newcomer Employment Success: Evidence and Practice
  • Indigenous Career Assessment Tools? Perspectives from Indigenous Counsellors

For those interested in a more interactive session, special Carousels taking place in the main plenary hall will feature multiple roundtable presentations. Presenters speak for 30 minutes then delegates rotate to another table of their choice.

As part of Canada’s largest bilingual career development conference, attendees can also extend their conference learning by attending skill-building pre-conference workshops in addition to world-class keynotes, Mega sessions featuring well-known thought leaders, TED-style Spark! talks and an Exhibitor Showcase.

A variety of registrations packages are available at very competitive rates. Take advantage of the Early Bird rate by registering by November 6 for only $550. Special discounts are available for members of 34 supporting organizations, students and groups of five or more. Anyone needing help to make the case for attending Cannexus can consult our Convince Your Manager page.

The conference is presented by CERIC and supported by The Counselling Foundation of Canada and a broad network of supporting organizations and sponsors.

people talking in circle during group therapy2019

CERIC to offer November webinar series with CCPA on intergenerational trauma

CERIC is partnering with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) for the first time to offer a new webinar series on Intergenerational Trauma: Context, Impacts and Trauma-Informed Practices for Career Practitioners, starting this November. The webinars will be presented by Seanna Quressette of Douglas College and Tina-Marie Christian, a member of the Syilx Nation.

This new webinar series comes in response to our Trauma-Informed Career Development series held this past spring and the need expressed by career practitioners to deepen their understanding around intergenerational trauma.

The series will explore intergenerational trauma, particularly its impacts on Indigenous jobseekers, in both the historical context and present-day realities. The two presenters will share their expertise in trauma and career development as well as their experience working with Indigenous peoples.

This 3-part series includes:

  • Webinar #1: Intergenerational Trauma: A Career Development Context
    Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET
  • Webinar #2: Intergenerational Trauma Impacts on Individuals and Communities
    Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET
  • Webinar #3: Intergenerational Trauma: Trauma-Informed Best Practices
    Thursday, November 28, 2019 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET

The cost for the full series is $159. A discount is available for members of the CCPA.

CERIC partners with associations and organizations across Canada and beyond to present webinars that offer timely, convenient and affordable professional development. Previously, CERIC has worked with the Career Professionals of CanadaNew Brunswick Career Development AssociationBritish Columbia Career Development Association, Nova Scotia Career Development Association, Career Development Association of AlbertaOntario Association for Career Management, National Career Development Association and Canadian Association of Career Educators & Employers.


Challenges and opportunities in qualitative career assessment

While qualitative assessments can serve as fun and interesting activities, they should still be held to the same standards as their quantitative counterparts

Mary McMahon and Mark Watson

Career assessment has a long history in career development, dating back to the time of Frank Parsons’ (1909) work in the early 20th century. The purpose of career assessment is to assist clients with career exploration and self-exploration. Since Parsons’ time, career assessment has progressed in two strands that are distinct and divergent, despite their potential complementarity (Bright & Pryor, 2007; Brott, 2004). The first strand is statistically based quantitative career assessment, which has dominated career development practice and is evident in the many assessment instruments and inventories that assess personal traits. The second strand, qualitative career assessment (also evident in Parsons’ work), has largely lived in the shadows of its quantitative counterpart. Described as informal, flexible, open-ended, holistic, non-statistical and non-standardized (McMahon, Watson & Lee, 2019; Okocha, 1998; Palladino Schultheiss, 2005), qualitative career assessment is eminently compatible with the recent trend toward narrative career counselling because of its focus on storytelling and meaning making (Savickas, 2000). Despite a long history and the publication of the first book to specifically focus on qualitative career assessment (McMahon & Watson, 2015), it still faces the challenges of not being well understood and its development being widely regarded as less rigorous than quantitative career assessment. With these two challenges in mind, this article overviews qualitative career assessment and presents suggestions for its development and use.

The qualitative career assessment dilemma

Most career development practitioners can name card sorts, genograms and lifelines as examples of qualitative career assessment instruments. Fewer, however, can provide a succinct explanation of qualitative career assessment. Similarly, the career literature reveals inconsistent terminology related to qualitative career assessment (e.g. qualitative approach, qualitative measure, creative approach; informal assessment; “idiographic tools” [Brott, 2015, p. 32]) and a range of explanations as to what exactly it is (Gysbers, 2006; McMahon, in press; McMahon et al., 2019; Stebleton, 2007). This lack of definitional clarity poses a great challenge to qualitative career assessment and suggests the need for a consistent common definition. In a recent review, McMahon et al. (2019, p. 430) drew on a synthesis of definitions to offer a description of qualitative career assessment as “a structured qualitative instrument, technique or process that facilitates participant reflection” and advocated for more consistent use of the term qualitative career assessment rather than “catchy” synonyms.

Key features of qualitative career assessment instruments

A seeming lack of rigour is another challenge facing qualitative career assessment. While career practitioners may develop their own qualitative career assessment instruments, they should have a broader purpose than serving as fun and interesting activities to engage clients. McMahon, Patton, and Watson (2003) proposed suggestions for developing qualitative career assessment and outline steps in the development process as well as provide key features of qualitative career assessment instruments.

“Qualitative career assessment stimulates storytelling, and in doing so, facilitates learning about oneself through self-reflection and enhanced self-awareness.”

At the most fundamental level, qualitative career assessment needs a theoretical foundation. Theory guides practice and should influence the content and process of any assessment instrument. A set of clear, step-by-step instructions for clients should be a key feature of every qualitative assessment. These can help guide clients through a logical, sequential process of completing the assessment while simultaneously allowing flexibility for some clients. They also ensure that qualitative career assessment instruments can be completed in a reasonable timeframe, that they are holistic and that they include a debriefing process as a concluding step so that learning and meaning can be elicited. The step-by-step and debriefing processes encourage collaboration and co-operation between career practitioners and clients. For example, My System of Career Influences (McMahon, Patton & Watson, 2017; McMahon, Watson, & Patton, 2013) guides users through a structured process in a booklet format and the Motivated Skills Card Sort (Knowdell, 2005) provides a set of step by step instructions for users.

An essential step in developing qualitative career assessment is rigorously testing it. Testing will determine if it works and for whom, what benefits users derive from it and glitches that need to be overcome. To ensure rigour in evaluating qualitative career assessments, career practitioners and researchers should:

  • underpin their research with a theoretical framework;
  • consider the research sample;
  • use culturally valid research methods;
  • apply appropriate criteria for reliability and validity or trustworthiness; and
  • consider ethical issues (McMahon et al., 2019).

Documenting these points in written reports of the research for publication will enhance rigour.

Qualitative assessments in practice

So, what exactly does qualitative career assessment mean for career counselling? Qualitative career assessment complements narrative career counselling because both share similar philosophical and theoretical bases, actively involve clients in the process and encourage reflection (Brott, 2004; Savickas, 2000). Qualitative career assessment stimulates storytelling, and in doing so, facilitates learning about oneself through self-reflection and enhanced self-awareness. For career practitioners, the use of qualitative career assessment in their practice will mean placing greater emphasis on the practitioner-client relationship and collaborative engagement with clients in the selection, administration and interpretation of assessment (McMahon, in press). The use of qualitative career assessment may be negotiated with clients which encourages client agency in the career counselling process. Consequently, career practitioners are required to relinquish “expert” status and embrace curiosity, inquiry, listening and observation (McMahon, in press).

For some career practitioners, using qualitative career assessment may be daunting. However, some simple guidelines are available (McMahon & Patton, 2002).

  1. Consider the client’s needs and the information gathered from the stories they have told.
  2. In view of this background, if appropriate, identify a qualitative career assessment instrument that may be helpful to the client. Explain how the assessment works and why you think it will be helpful to them.
  3. Ask the client if they wish to participate and respect their decision.
  4. Work collaboratively through the qualitative career assessment with the client and support them.
  5. At the conclusion of the qualitative career assessment, debrief the process with the client to elicit learning and meaning and seek feedback from them.

By following these simple steps, the use and type of qualitative career assessment will be determined on the basis of client need rather than career practitioner preference.

Concluding thoughts

Qualitative career assessment has a lot to offer career practitioners and clients. So does quantitative career assessment. In no way does this article suggest that one is better than the other. They are different and used for different purposes, although they can be used in complementary ways. In view of the trend toward narrative career counselling, qualitative career assessment is well positioned to strengthen its position. Practitioners and researchers are reminded, however, that to do so may require the use of consistent terminology and also demonstrated rigour in research and practice.

Dr Mary McMahon is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. She has researched and written extensively about qualitative career assessment and is a co-editor of the first book on qualitative career assessment.

Professor Mark Watson is an Honorary Professor at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, and a former Distinguished Professor at the Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He researches and writes in the field of career psychology and is a co-editor of a book on qualitative career assessment.


Bright, J. E. H., & Pryor, R. G. L. (2007). Chaotic careers assessment: How constructivist and psychometric techniques can be integrated into work and life decision making. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 23(2), 46-56.

Brott, P. E., (2004). Constructivist assessment in career counseling. Journal of Career Development, 30(3), 189-200

Gysbers, N. C. (2006). Using qualitative career assessments in career counselling with adults. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 6, 95-108.

Knowdell, R. L. (2005). Motivated Skills Card Sort. San Jose, CA: Career Research and Testing.

McMahon, M. (In press). Qualitative career assessment: A higher profile in the 21st century? In J. Athanasou & H. Perera (Eds.), International handbook of career guidance (2nd ed.).

McMahon, M., & Patton, W. (2002). Using qualitative assessment in career counselling. International Journal of Educational and Vocational Guidance, 2(1), 51-66.

McMahon, M., Patton, W., & Watson, M. (2003). Developing qualitative career assessment processes. The Career Development Quarterly, 51, 194-202.

McMahon, M., Patton, W., & Watson, M. (2017). The My System of Career Influences (MSCI – Adolescent): Reflecting on my career decisions. Brisbane, Australia: Australian Academic Press.

McMahon, M., & Watson, M. (2015). Career Assessment: Qualitative approaches. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.

McMahon, M., Watson, M., & Lee, M. C. Y. (2019). Qualitative career assessment: A review and reconsideration. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 110 Part B, 420-432.

McMahon, M., Watson, M., & Patton, W. (2013). The My System of Career Influences Adult Version (MSCI Adult): A reflection process. Brisbane, Australia: Australian Academic Press.

Okocha, A. A. G. (1998). Using qualitative appraisal strategies in career counseling. Journal of Employment Counseling, 35, 151-159.

Palladino Schultheiss, D. E. (2005). Qualitative relational career assessment: A constructivist paradigm. Journal of Career Assessment, 13, 151-159.

Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Savickas, M. L. (2000). Renovating the psychology of careers for the twenty-first century. In A. S. Collin & R. Young (Eds.), The future of career (pp. 53-68). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Stebleton, M. (2007). Career counseling With African immigrant college students: Theoretical approaches and implications for practice. The Career Development Quarterly, 55(4), 290-312.


How a lightbulb moment became a powerful narrative assessment practice

How do new ways of working with clients get legitimized in the career development field? The OneLifeTools origin story offers some clues

Ali Breen

This article is based on an interview the author conducted with Mark Franklin, Co-founder of OneLifeTools and Practice Leader at CareerCycles.

How does a new assessment system become a standard, accepted method of practice?

As practitioners, we all learn theories and approaches to practice that have been widely adopted and used for decades. But what about new tools and assessments? How do new ways of working with clients get legitimized in our field?

These scenes from the OneLifeTools origin story aim to answer this question and paint a picture of innovating the field of career development from the inside out.

The lightbulb moment

We start with an engineer-turned-career-practitioner, frustrated as he reviews his scribbled notes in a campus counselling office. His notebook is filled with important data, repeating patterns and captured lightbulb moments from clients.

We cut to our career practitioner having his own lightbulb moment. After countless clients tell him stories about their lived experiences, he begins to see patterns emerge. Key elements are consistently revealed and explored, such as a client’s desires, strengths and personal qualities. They bring up the influence of other people on their education, life and work decisions.

He begins to use a flipchart, divided into quadrants, that pull out these elements – client after client, story after story. Then, the epiphany: “This is a systems approach. I can harness these stories and organize them so clients can reflect and power up their next steps!”

As helping professionals, we all innovate. With each new client we adapt the techniques and tools we have at our disposal to support the career development process. We synthesize our experiences and ideas, and other people’s ideas, too.

Arriving in the counselling world after a 10-year career in engineering, Mark Franklin’s transferable skills in systems thinking and engineering problem-solving paved the way for developing a new approach at the intersection of career counselling and systems. When he started in the career field, Mark says he was keen to learn everything he could, drawing on narrative experts like Michael White, (for example, White et al., 1990) and those who brought narrative ideas to career counselling, such as Mark L. Savickas (2012). To help clients navigate a lifetime of transitions, he integrated William Bridges’ change model (2004), Jim Bright and Robert Pryor’s chaos theory of careers (2011), Herminia Ibarra’s working identity (2004), and Kathleen E. Mitchell, Al S. Levin and John D. Krumboltz’s Happenstance approach (Mitchell et al., 1999). To foster a supportive mindset, he mixed in the work of positive psychologists such as Barbara L. Fredrickson (2001).

He also focused on the career counselling area of specialization in the Canadian Standards & Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners. This area tells practitioners to “demonstrate method of practice in interactions with clients, and to develop a method of practice that is grounded in established or recognized ideas” (The Canadian Council for Career Development & Canadian Career Development Foundation, 2012).

The next practitioner

It’s wonderful when something works well for us as practitioners. But can it work for others? Can it move from the confines of one office and expand out into the world?

So, Mark shares his innovation with a trusted peer, Leigh Anne Saxe:

“A system is made from interdependent parts that form a unified whole. A systems approach breaks things down into linked processes, with inputs and outputs.

In a narrative client session, the most important inputs are clients’ stories, their lived experiences, their present situation and their questions. For example, “I studied tech, I moved into video game development, but now I’m burnt out. What should I do next?” Additional inputs include the support and knowledge of a career professional, the feedback of trusted allies, and the results of informational interviews and field research conducted by the client.

The outputs are, within the OneLifeTools/CareerCycles framework, a Clarification Sketch, the main innovation at the heart of the system. It gathers and organizes client inputs into a visual representation, co-created by client and practitioner, which is divided into seven elements: desires, strengths, personal qualities, natural interests, assets, other people and possibilities. This leads to a second output, the Clarification Statement, which is a prioritized, forward-facing summary of the most important pieces of client stories, collected in the Sketch over the course of the coaching process.

The Clarification Statement acts as an output of the narrative clarification process, and as an input into the second, linked process of Intentional Exploration. Its output is Exploration Plans, based on taking inspired action that’s powered by the clarification gleaned by reflection on client stories using a systems approach.”

He demonstrates the same flip chart system he’s using with clients to Leigh Anne, and she tries it with her clients. It sticks. Mark trains a trusted handful of practitioners at his dining room table. It sticks with them, too.

The model that began on a flipchart becomes the Online Storyteller web application, a method of practice, a certification program and the basis for a clarification board game called Who You Are Matters!

A handful of practitioners adopt the narrative framework as their primary approach to client work. This is unique and disruptive. Often, the career development field focuses on quantitative assessments and derives models from theory. The OneLifeTools/CareerCycles framework is qualitative. It was born out of practice and moved into theory. It is now supported by peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

Students play the “Who You Are Matters!” board game.
The living room

With every change, there are change-makers.

In our last scene, Mark is facilitating training and introducing an early version of a narrative board game with a group of thought leaders in Rich Feller’s living room in Fort Collins, Colorado. Professor and former co-ordinator of Counseling and Career Development at Colorado State University, and former president of the National Career Development Association, Rich acts as a scout for innovative tools and techniques. Rich and Mark become friends and business co-founders.

They lean on other change-makers in their circles. A number of talented associates and helping professionals over the years contribute to peer-reviewed, evidence-based outcome studies. A community of practice is built, and the co-founders, supported by a talented team, seek out continued feedback to refine the narrative system, expand it, share it widely in conferences, writing and training, and to integrate it with other tools and assessments such as YouScience, MBTI, Holland codes, card sorts and more.

The answer

The career practitioner sitting frustrated in his office, the shared vision on a flipchart and the movement sparked in a living room. These three scenes all play a part in the OneLifeTools origin story, and in addressing our initial question: how does a new form of assessment get adopted as a standard?

The answers lie in the tools, the stories, the evidence, the theory and, most of all, the people. When practitioners are open to new ways of doing their work, the field evolves, just as the world evolves around us.

Millennials Career Coach Ali Breen believes that your career can and should be a reflection of who you are and how you want to be in the world. She uses story-based, narrative approaches and experiential learning in her Halifax private practice. As a past corporate recruiter and bilingual career practitioner in non-profit employment centres, Breen has spent a decade on both the demand & supply sides of the Career Management table. She also draws from her experiences as Community Growth Manager for OneLifeTools and as a member of 3CD’s Outreach and Advocacy Working Group.


Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes. Da Capo Lifelong Books.

Bright, J. E., & Pryor, R. G. (2011). The chaos theory of careers. Journal of Employment Counseling, 48(4), 163-166.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American psychologist, 56(3), 218.

Ibarra, H. (2004). Working identity: Unconventional strategies for reinventing your career. Harvard Business Press.
Mitchell, K. E., Al Levin, S., & Krumboltz, J. D. (1999). Planned happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of Counseling & Development, 77(2), 115-124.

Savickas, M. L. (2012). Life design: A paradigm for career intervention in the 21st century. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90(1), 13-19.

The Canadian Council for Career Development & Canadian Career Development Foundation. (2012). Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners – Areas of Specialization – Career Counselling [PDF] Retrieved from:

White, M., White, M. K., Wijaya, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends. WW Norton & Company.

The Right Honourable David Johnston runs with children during an official visit to Repulse Bay, Nunavut, on Aug. 18, 2011. (Courtesy of the Rideau Hall Foundation)Careering

10 Questions for the Rt. Hon. David Johnston

The Right Honourable David Johnston was Canada’s 28th Governor General. During his mandate, he established the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), a registered charity that supports and amplifies the Office of the Governor General in its work to connect, honour and inspire Canadians. Today, he is actively involved as Chair of the RHF Board of Directors, and serves as an Executive Advisor at Deloitte.


Client Side: How I found my career fit in science

Scientist Leola Chow takes us on a journey through her career, from showcasing her work at elementary school science fairs to a career pivot into industrial research

In this Careering feature, jobseekers reflect on success and struggles in their career development.

I love science because my career allows me to learn something new and exciting every day. As a scientist, I enjoy asking scientific questions and solving problems. I enjoy writing articles about my research findings, as it resembles putting together pieces of a puzzle.

Throughout my career, I have travelled to different national and international conferences to present my research and to learn about the latest advances in the field. This has allowed me to see many different parts of the world and meet some remarkable scientists across the globe. I find this part of my work very rewarding.

Early career influences

I was interested in science from a young age. Starting in elementary school, my favourite class was science and I enjoyed learning about different scientific concepts. I was naturally drawn to science topics and had teachers who made learning about science fun. I enjoyed participating in science fairs and school open houses, where I showcased my science projects and presented experiments for the public. At home, my parents consistently encouraged hard work and good work ethic throughout my childhood.

As I entered high school, genetics fascinated me and I was intrigued by how small molecules called DNA can encode our physical characteristics.

Getting exposure to the field

This passion grew as I entered the University of Alberta, where I completed my BSc and PhD in molecular genetics. I decided to pursue graduate school following the completion of a thesis research course in the last year of my undergraduate training.

The experience I got in the laboratory during that time exposed me to a career in research and allowed me to realize that graduate school was my next logical career step. During my PhD training, I studied developmental genetics using fruit flies as the model system.

Following my PhD degree, I decided to pursue post-doctoral training as I still needed more research training to position myself as a competitive candidate to become a scientist. Therefore, I applied and was awarded a Canadian Blood Services (CBS) post-doctoral fellowship to study a bleeding disorder known as Immune Thrombocytopenia Purpura.

Afterward, I began my research associate position at the University of Manitoba studying allergic asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. There, I gained translational research experience, which is more applicable to the study of human disease, and it allowed me to switch from an academic to an industrial position at the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), where I served as an associate scientist. This was the right path for me, as I enjoy the structure that industrial research provides. I appreciate that research is more project- and goal-orientated in an industry setting, whereas research in academia is more exploratory in nature.

Sources of support

An important tool in helping me build my career in science has been networking, as a large number of jobs are not advertised. There are a lot of networking events for life sciences professionals across Canada. For example, I was an executive member for WISER (Women in Science Engineering and Research), where I liaised with different research organizations and funding agencies to organize networking events to promote women in science, engineering and research. Currently, I am a volunteer for the Society for Canadian Women in Science & Technology (SCWIST), where I network with like-minded individuals and where I hope to inspire girls and women to enter the science and technology field.

My role models and sources of support have always been my mom and sister, who were there for me at every success and failure. My sister is a constant source of genuine and helpful advice because she is also in the STEM field. I have found it extremely helpful to share my experience with someone who understands the ups and downs of my career from a female perspective.

For myself, I stay on track of my career path by setting goals, seeing every mistake as a learning process instead of failures, and surrounding myself with positive people who continue to encourage me to achieve my best.

Leola Chow currently lives in Vancouver, BC, and is looking for new opportunities in the drug development field.

editor's noteCareering

Editor’s note

By Lindsay Purchase, CERIC Content & Communications Editor

I have mixed feelings about engaging children in STEM. On one hand, it’s a vital exercise that builds confidence and facilitates career exploration. On the other, as someone who spent three summers working at an engineering and science camp, I hope to never again spend an afternoon assembling circuits with 25 six-year-olds.

Joking aside, the value of a STEM education has been well established. Even for those who don’t pursue one of the many career paths it opens up, exposure to these subjects can foster the development of critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills (Let’s Talk Science and Amgen Canada, 2014).

However, when we think about STEM, we must also consider the labour market and social climate of our time. How will advances in technology affect these sectors? Who is included – and excluded – from pursuing STEM opportunities?

Several articles in this issue consider the changing face of STEM in an age of rapid technological transformations. Caroline Burgess suggests people pursuing careers in STEM can ride out the turbulence by focusing on four fundamentals, while Lucie Demers argues that expectations for success in science don’t always align with reality. And don’t miss this issue’s infographic, which paints a picture of employment in the digital economy – today and in 2021.

When we talk about success in STEM, we also need to consider questions of inclusion. Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren makes the case that we’re not doing enough to engage women in STEM and explains how we can do better. Also, in our Client Side feature, scientist Leola Chow takes us through her career journey and shares how she’s trying to inspire girls to enter the field.

Can’t get enough of our STEM issue? Continue your learning at with online-exclusive articles on the importance of diversity in STEM, manufacturing in Eastern Ontario and more.

If you are interested in contributing to a future Careering issue or have feedback on our STEM issue, please contact me at