First-generation Canadians and career development – and their overly involved parents

By Kasi Sewraj

“I thought I was the only one.”

During one of my graduate courses on career development, our professor asked us to share our personal career journeys that led us to our counselling psychology program. I was very honest about how my family influenced my pathway to medical school, and I only recently re-evaluated my career path. I was shocked when at least 10 of my other colleagues said that they completely related to my experience and had a similar journey.

Acculturative stress

For many first-generation Canadians, our parents’ native customs and culture become fused with Canadian customs and culture. Acculturation is the process by which immigrants adapt to their new surroundings and incorporate the new culture into their existing cultural frame (Berry, 1997). Research has shown that young people acculturate faster than their parents, and their parents may be less supportive of this process in their children (Berry, 1997; Telzer et al., 2016). This can lead to acculturative stress, where there are gaps between cultures, personal and familial ideals. These experiences leave a lot to consider when it comes to developing one’s career identity (Berry, 1997; Gomez et al., 2011).

Factors affecting career identity

In a longitudinal study examining factors affecting career identity in the children of Asian-American immigrants, various familial and individual aspects of career identity were identified, such as: familial cultural values, parental pressure, family obligation, cultural capital, individual identity style, locus of control and one’s personal motivation (Polenova et al., 2017). The study found that Asian-American culture dictated that students had strict obligations to their parents, and parents often preferred high-status careers that provided high incomes, such as medicine (Polenova et al., 2017).

Children of Asian immigrants also stated that there was a complex interplay of factors that affected their parents’ roles in their career choices. While parents often weren’t forcing their children to go into one career stream, their children noted that their parents made influential childhood comments about joining these careers (Polenova et al., 2017). My parents did the same. In my personal experience, although it may be an outright wish of your parent, it’s delivered in more of a subtle implication that this career choice will make you and your parent the happiest.

Getting the parental perspective

While the above research was specific to Asian Americans, I was shocked when myself and many of my colleagues of all races and creeds had almost the same story. One thing is common in the literature – the perspective of the children of immigrants. My question is: Why does this seem to be a common factor among many immigrant parents? When I asked my own father about this, he said:

“I pushed you and your sister so hard because your mother and I had to struggle when we were younger. We didn’t know what we were going to do in terms of our careers. All we ever wanted was for you both to succeed and live comfortable lives. Being a doctor was the most prominent reflection of that.”

My father’s response indicated something to me – as immigrants, there is a lot to learn about your new culture and surroundings. My sister is currently enrolled in an engineering program, which an excellent field to be in. However, my parents had no idea about engineering and what that would entail and, at first, discouraged my sister from that path. But after they did some research, thankfully they changed their minds. Maybe there is something to the idea that certain careers that seem to be more discussed in public discourse are more accessible to newcomers.

Kasi Sewraj is currently a Master’s Counselling Psychology student at the University of Ottawa. Kasi has her BSc and BA from the University of Toronto, and currently works for Christian Horizons, providing community supports for those with disabilities. Kasi’s research explores the usage of online mindfulness programs in post-secondary education.


Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, acculturation, and adaptation. International Journal of Applied Psychology, 46, 5–34.

Gomez, J., Miranda, R., Polanco, L. (2011). Acculturative stress, perceived discrimination, and vulnerability to suicide attempts among emerging adults. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 1465–1476.

Polenova, E., Vedral, A., Brisson, L. & Zimm, L. (2017). Emerging Between Two Worlds : A Longitudinal Study of Career Identity of Students from Asian American Immigrant Families. Emerging Adulthood, 6(1), 53-65.

Telzer, E. H., Yuen, C., Gonzales, N., Fuligni, A. J. (2016). Filling gaps in the acculturation gap- distress model: Heritage cultural maintenance and adjustment in Mexican–American families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 7, 1412. doi:10.1007/s10964-015-0408-8


Career development for those who experience persistent and severe mental illness

By Kristina Waldmann

Imagine. Just for a moment. You belong to a group of people whose unemployment rates average between 70 to 90%. For those who experience persistent and serious mental illness (SMI), such rates are a harrowing reality (Marwaha, & Johnson, 2004). Among individuals with disabilities, the Canadian Mental Health Association purports that those with SMI experience the highest degree of stigma in the workplace. This is one of the biggest barriers to acquiring gainful employment for people with SMI. There are, however, lesser-known barriers to employment, and one such barrier is created by the dearth of career development and vocation research that includes people with SMI.

Vocation and serious mental illness

Modern use of vocation commonly refers to the contribution of work to people’s meaning and purpose in life and their individual ability to make a valuable contribution to the greater good (Steger & Dik, 2010). Work plays an important role in the lives of many people. For some, work is one of, if not the most important source of meaning in their lives (Baum & Stewart, 1990; Klinger, 1977). Yet those who experience SMI are frequently left out of the conversation of career development and research.

Often the skills and value of those who suffer from SMI remain invisible or are largely ignored as focus is given to treating, managing and alleviating detrimental symptoms of SMI. This approach is practical in its focus and I do not intend to relegate its importance; rather, I would like to provide information, beyond the focus on symptomology, on what allows people with SMI to flourish and prosper in the workforce through dedicated quantitative research.

Given the right opportunities and the right support, research has demonstrated that people with SMI can and will lead meaningful careers. For example, one of the cornerstones of some community-based treatments is helping those with SMI find meaningful and sustainable work.

As a mental health worker in a community-based program some years ago, I witnessed the flourishing of individuals with SMI as they found purpose and meaning in work. For many, this meant paid employment; for others, volunteer work and/or education. Regardless, many were able to gain access to opportunities that helped them to re-integrate back into the community and lead more satisfying lives.

In approaching this research, I plan to utilize the Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI). This instrument measures an individual’s perception of their vocation as meaningful work (MW). Individuals who score low on this measure are more likely to be absent from work and experience both low levels of well-being and higher levels of psychological distress. Examining this in a research setting would help us to gain a better understanding of the importance and influence of WM in people with SMI and their well-being.

COVID-19 pandemic

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) recently reported that mental health concerns are on the rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. For those who experienced SMI prior to the pandemic, it has been reported that detrimental symptoms have increased significantly (Leger, 2021). Experts believe the effects of the pandemic will be long-lasting, particularly in the area of work (Stats Canada, 2021) and people with SMI have been hit hard by the pandemic, particularly when it comes to their employment (e.g. Mamelund, 2003; Leger, 2021). This is one reason why research on what allows people with SMI to flourish and prosper in their work is now more important than ever. By gaining a broader understanding of work and meaning, through use of measures such as WAMI, I believe we can begin to better support those experiencing SMI and invite them to wholly participate in a world that has largely left them out.

My good fortune is not that I’ve recovered from mental illness. I have not, nor will I ever. My good fortune lies in having found my life.” – Elyn R. Saks

Kristina Waldmann is currently a graduate student at the University of Calgary, pursuing a Master’s of Science in Counselling Psychology. Her interests include career and vocation research and counselling with a social justice lens focused on individuals who experience mental illness.


Baum, S. K., & Stewart Jr, R. B. (1990). Sources of meaning through the lifespan. Psychological Reports, 67(1), 3-14.

Canadian Mental Health Association (n.d.) Employment. Retrieved March 31, 2021.

Clubhouse International (n.d.). What Clubhouses Do. Retrieved March 29, 2021.

Leger (2021). Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Klinger, E. (1977). Meaning and Void: Inner Experience and the Incentives in People’s Lives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mamelund, S. E. (2003). Effects of the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 on later life mortality of Norwegian cohorts born about 1900 (No. 2003, 29). Memorandum.

Marwaha, S., & Johnson, S. (2004). Schizophrenia and employment. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 39(5), 337-349.

Rice, K., Pernice, F., & Michon, A. (2020). Metacognition and the clubhouse model in treating severe mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 43(4), 284 – 289.

Statistics Canada (2020). Economic Impacts and Recovery Related to the Pandemic. (No. pub/11-631-x/2020004

Steger, M. F., Dik, B. J., & Duffy, R. D. (2012). Measuring meaningful work: The work and meaning inventory (WAMI). Journal of career Assessment, 20(3), 322-337.


Mental health practitioners as vessels: Self-care in relation to career development in a global pandemic

Lydie Masengo

“If you don’t take time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness.” – Joyce Sunada

It has been a year since our world has been changed since the onset of the pandemic, which has negatively affected many people’s mental health. Working as a crisis line responder and research assistant, I have been exposed to many people’s mental health concerns as they report dealing with isolation, loneliness, losses and despair. Consequently, there has been a significant increase in the number of people seeking therapy, which resulted in significant work pressure experienced by mental health practitioners, putting them at a higher risk of burnout (Joshi & Sharma, 2020).

They experience “a great deal of emotional stress, and failure to cope successfully with such stress can result in the emotional exhaustion syndrome of burnout” (Maslach, 1978, p. 11). This, in turn, can interfere with their ability to use their counselling skills effectively, leading them to become a potential threat to current and future clients (Lawson et al., 2007). Socio-economic implications to society include triggering presenteeism and absenteeism, resulting in a loss of productivity while counselling (Gosselin et al., 2013). This is economically costly due to an increase in additional expenses in sickness benefits along with the risk of future disability pension (Ahola et al., 2009; Borritz et al., 2006).

These negative effects can act as a hindrance in mental health practitioners’ career development, which is defined as a process of evolving one’s occupational status through exploration, self-knowledge and decision making, and aligning oneself with one’s career advancement opportunities (McKay, 2020). This emphasizes the importance of self-care for this demographic of professionals, who are facing in high demand today given the stresses and distresses of the pandemic.

Engaging in self-care behaviours is not usually what comes to mind when thinking about career development, but in fact, self-care is an ethical imperative requirement for the counselling profession: “Engage in self-care activities that help to avoid conditions (e.g., burnout) that could result in impaired judgment and interfere with their ability to benefit and not harm others” (Canadian Psychological Association, 2017, p. 20). Self-care behaviours are crucial to prevent burnout (Barnet et al., 2007). For example, the experience of burnout decreases counsellors’ empathy and communication with their clients (Montero-Marin et al., 2016). If unresolved, this could lead to dangerous behaviours such as dual relationships and fiscal improprieties (Gabbard, 1991; Schoener, 1995).

During the coronavirus pandemic, counsellors reported not engaging in adequate self-care while at work, resulting in higher than usual employee turnover (Buckner, 2020). As self-care serves as a protective factor to feeling emotionally exhausted and depleted (Farber & Heifetz, 1981; Rupert & Kent, 2007), it is imperative for mental health practitioners to remember to take care of themselves first. Early prevention and intervention of burnout are essential for mental health practitioners to provide high-quality care to clients and reduce unnecessary economic costs to society, which is already struggling. As mental health practitioners use themselves as vessels to support other people’s mental health needs, I hope that this article serves as a reminder that you cannot experience growth in your career while pouring from an empty cup. I urge you to take care of yourself.

Lydie Masengo is an MA Ed in Counselling Psychology candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her master’s thesis explores distress, burnout and self-care strategies. She will be completing her counselling internship as a psychotherapist-in-training at Carleton University’s From Intention To Action program, which supports clients with different presenting issues including academic, career and personal life stressors.


Ahola, K., Toppinen-Tanner, S., Huuhtanen, P., Koskinen, A., & Väänänen, A. (2009, May). Occupational burnout and chronic work disability: An eight-year cohort study on pensioning among Finnish forest industry workers. Journal of Affective Disorders, 115(1- 2), 150-159.

Barnett, J. E., Baker, E. K., Elman, N. S., & Schoener, G. R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 603-612.

Borritz, M., Rugulies, R., Christensen, K. B., Villadsen, E., & Kristensen, T. S. (2006, February).

Burnout as a predictor of self-reported sickness absence among human service workers: Prospective findings from three year follow up of the PUMA study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63(2), 98.

Buckner, D. (2020, November). Calls to Kids Help Phone have surged. Now some counsellors are making a distress call of their own. toxic-workplace-1.5790617

Canadian Psychological Association. (2017). Canadian code of ethics for psychologists(4thed.). Ottawa, ON.

Farber, B. A., & Heifetz, L. J. (1981, October). The satisfactions and stresses of psychotherapeutic work: A factor analytic study. Professional Psychology,12(5), 621– 630.

Gabbard, G. O. (1991, November) Psychodynamics of sexual boundary violations. Psychiatric Annals, 21(11), 651-655.

Gosselin, E., Lemyre, L., & Corneil, W. (2013, January). Presenteeism and absenteeism: Differentiated understanding of related phenomena. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(1), 75-86.

Joshi, G., & Sharma, G. (2020). Burnout: A risk factor amongst mental health professionals during COVID-19. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 54, 102300–102300.

Lawson, G., Venart, E., Hazier, R. J., & Kottler, J. A. (2007, March). Toward a Culture of Counselor Wellness. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, 46(1), 5–19.

Maslach, C. (1978, October). The Client Role in Staff Burn-Out. Journal of Social Issues, 34(4), 111–124.

McKay, D. (2020, August 4). What is career development?

Montero-Marin, J., Zubiaga, F., Cereceda, M., Demarzo, M. M. P., Trenc, P., & Garcia- Campayo, J. (2016, June 16). Burnout subtypes and absence of self-compassion in primary healthcare professionals: A cross-sectional study. PLoS ONE, 11(6), 17.

Rupert, P. A., & Kent, J. S. (2007, February). Gender and work setting differences in career- sustaining behaviors and burnout among professional psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(1), 88-96. 7028.38.1.88

Schoener, G. R. (1995). Assessment of professionals who have engaged in boundary violations. Psychiatric Annals, 25(2), 95-99.


Aligning career services with the needs of students with learning disabilities

Michael Ford

While studying at my mostly deserted university campus recently, another student asked if I was a professor, a question I get a lot as a mature student. The fact I am often older than my professors may have something to do with this, but that’s another story. After clarifying that I was a graduate student, he expressed how much trouble he was having since the pandemic forced classes online, in part because he was unable to connect in the same way with professors.

For many students, that wouldn’t be a problem. But for this earnest young gentleman, who was on the autism spectrum, it mattered greatly that he couldn’t be face-to-face with instructors and students and was no longer receiving the support and accommodations he had become accustomed to. In the process of researching and writing a paper on learning disabilities, I wondered what impact the pandemic might be having on his career development and students like him. Although he may feel alone, he actually has lots of company; among Canadian youth aged 15–24, learning disabilities are the second-most common type of disability, just slightly behind mental health-related disabilities (Statistics Canada, 2017).

A disproportionate impact

It’s no secret that COVID-19 forced all educational institutions to adjust both teaching practices and student services such as career education. A survey by the Student Experience in the Research University Consortium – an academic and policy research collaboration – revealed that the pandemic has affected the well-being of students with disabilities at a disproportionate rate in multiple ways (Soria et al., 2020). Specifically, they are less likely than students without disabilities to feel like they belong and that they have been supported by their institution, among other challenges and hardships.

Addressing this disparity and inequity requires a system-wide approach. Considering that a student’s well-being largely depends on future plans and their career path, career practitioners have a role to play in this response.

Helping all students recover

As for how the career profession can help disabled clients recover from the pandemic, a recent international survey of career practitioners and policy makers in 93 countries identified issues around inclusion, access to in-person and digital services and individualizing solutions (Cedefop et al, 2020). Even before the pandemic, however, individuals with learning disabilities suffered greater unemployment and underemployment and were disadvantaged in their career progression (Chen, 2021).

To respond to the needs of this population, researchers such as Charles Chen (University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) refer to the unique career development needs of learning-disabled students. For those working with these clients, inside or outside post-secondary institutions, it is now even more paramount that they adapt career exploration and decision-making practices and resources to diverse learners, reach out to a greater share of the learning-disabled population, better connect career planning to well-being, develop a relationship of trust so that more clients disclose their disabilities, promote a strength-focused rather than deficit-focused approach with clients, help clients develop self-efficacy beliefs and direct clients toward a greater awareness of their personal capacities.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name or contact information of the student I met on campus, so I am unable to find out if things improved for him as he became more acclimated to the new ways of learning. I can only hope that those in career development serving him and his peers with learning disabilities continue to educate themselves about learning disabilities and become better at helping all students achieve their full potential. A good place to start for further information is the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada.

Michael Ford is an MA student in educational psychology at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and is also an instructor in SFU’s Career Development Practitioner program. Michael is particularly interested in the shifting dynamics and trends of the workplace and jobs, labour market information, work/life transition and the future of work in times of uncertainty and rapid technological change. This past January, he co-presented at CERIC’s Cannexus21 conference in a session titled “Hindsight is 2020: Youth Transition in Uncertain Times.” Prior to returning to school, Michael assembled a long and diverse career in communications, business and the arts.


Cedefop; European Commission; ETF; ICCDPP; ILO; OECD; UNESCO (2020). Career guidance policy and practice in the pandemic: results of a joint international survey – June to August 2020. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Chen, C. P. (2021). Career counselling university students with learning disabilities. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 49(1), 44–56.

Soria, K. M., Horgos, B., Chirikov, I., & Jones-White, D. (2020). The experiences of undergraduate students with physical, learning, neurodevelopmental, and cognitive disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. SERU Consortium, University of California – Berkeley and University of Minnesota.17

Statistics Canada. (2017). Canadian Survey on Disability.


Why we should worry about interview anxiety

By Simonne Mastrella

Job interviews are often met with feelings of nervousness or apprehension (McCarthy & Goffin, 2004). Considering that interviews are high-stakes situations, this experience of interview anxiety is far from surprising. It is, however, problematic for candidates. In addition to being unpleasant, considerable research has found that self-reported interview anxiety is associated with lower interview scores from interviewers (Powell et al., 2018). This negative correlation is of a moderate size (𝜌 = −.19) but because there are often more candidates than available positions for a job, interview anxiety can meaningfully impact whether a candidate receives a job offer. The big question for organizations, candidates and career counsellors alike is: should it?

The relation between interview anxiety and job performance

It’s not an accident that employment interviews are one of the most frequently used methods to assess job applicants; they tend to be good predictors of future job performance (Macan, 2009; Cortina et al., 2000). A qualified job candidate could use their knowledge, skills and abilities to obtain a high interview score and consequently, the job. Once hired, those demonstrated qualifications would enable them to be a high-performing employee.

The predictive power of the interview is contingent on the idea that the factors that impact interview performance also impact job performance (Huffcutt, Van Iddekinge, & Roth, 2011). What does this mean for interview anxiety? If anxious interviewees would be poor on-the-job performers – perhaps because anxious interviewees tend to be unqualified – then interview anxiety is a relevant factor to consider when making employment decisions. It is also possible, however, that interview anxiety is unrelated to a candidate’s suitability for the job and therefore should not factor into employment decisions. Which is it?

What the research suggests

Ironically, it is difficult to assess how interview anxiety relates to job performance because anxious interviewees are often not hired, because of their poor interview performance. This said, a few studies were able to explore this relation by using interviews for residence dons and co-op positions at Southern Ontario universities – positions in which a large number of applicants are hired, including anxious interviewees with relatively low scores. The researchers correlated interview scores with supervisor-rated performance scores and found that interview anxiety appeared to be unrelated to job performance (Schneider et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2021). So, anxious interviewees are not necessarily worse performers than non-anxious interviewees. It is important to note that these studies were correlational, so it cannot be concluded that interview anxiety caused interviewees to perform poorly; it is also possible that interviewees who performed poorly reported feeling more anxious after the interview. However, the unrelatedness between interview and job performance suggests that anxiety may interfere with a qualified candidate’s ability to demonstrate their qualifications.

The potential impact of interview anxiety on interview performance

Although research has yet to fully explain the mechanisms behind the relation between interview anxiety and interview performance, there are some theories. Anxiety may:

  • Take up the cognitive resources needed to interpret the interview question and come up with a response (Eysenck et al., 2007)
  • Decrease the use of effective interview performance strategies, such as self-disclosure (Alden & Bieling, 1977)
  • Lead to incoherent delivery of responses, through stuttering, pausing and using filler words (e.g. um, ah, like) (Miller et al., 2018; Feiler & Powell, 2016); or
  • Contribute to awkward social behaviour (e.g. lack of eye contact) (DeGroot & Motowidlo, 1999).

The good news, however, is that social skills training that focuses on improving fluent responses and other skills such as composure and eye contact can help improve interview performance (Hollandsworth et al., 1978). In the meantime, hiring managers should exercise caution about factoring interview anxiety in the selection decision. Otherwise, qualified but anxious candidates may be passed over. And that is reason to worry.


Alden, L. E. & Bieling, P. (1997). Interpersonal consequences of the pursuit of safety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36(1), 53-64.

Cortina, J. M., Goldstein, N. B., Payne, S. C., Davison, H. K., & Gilliland, S. W. (2000). The incremental validity of interview scores over and above cognitive ability and conscientiousness. Personnel Psychology, 53(2), 325-351.

DeGroot, T. & Motowidlo, S. J. (1999). Why visual and vocal interview cues can affect interviewers’ judgments and predict job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(6), 986-993.

Eysenck, M. W., Derakshan, N., Santos, R., & Calvo, M. G. (2007). Anxiety and cognitive performance: Attentional control theory. Emotion, 7(2), 336-353.

Hollandsworth Jr., J. G., Kazelskis, R., Stevens, J., & Dressel, M. E. (1978). Relative contributions of verbal, articulative, and nonverbal communication to employment decisions in the job interview setting. Personnel Psychology, 32(2), 359-367.

Feiler, A. R. & Powell, D. M. (2016). Behavioural expression of job interview anxiety. Journal of Business Psychology, 31(1), 155-171.

Huffcutt, A., Van Iddekinge, C., & Roth, P. (2011). Understanding applicant behaviour in employment interviews: A theoretical model of interviewee performance. Human Resource Management Review, 21(4), 353-367.

Macan. T. (2009). The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future research. Human Resource Management Review, 19(3), 203-218.

McCarthy, J. & Goffin, R. (2004). Measuring job interview anxiety: Beyond weak knees and sweaty palms. Personnel Psychology, 57(3), 607-637.

Miller, R. O., Gayfer, B. L., & Powell, D. M. (2018). Influence of vocal and verbal cues on ratings of interview anxiety and interview performance. Personnel Assessment and Decisions, 4(2), 26-41.

Powell, D. M., Stanley, D. J., & Brown, K. N. (2018). Meta-analysis of the relation between interview anxiety and interview performance. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 50(4), 195-207.

Schneider, L., Powell, D. M., & Bonaccio, S. (2019). Does interview anxiety predict job performance and does it influence the predictive validity of interviews? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 27, 328-336.

Zhang, I. Y., Powell, D. M., & Bonaccio, S. (2021, April). The role of fear of negative evaluation in interview and workplace anxiety [Part of symposium]. Investigating Discriminatory Behaviors in Employment Interviews. Virtual.

Simonne Mastrella is a first-year master’s student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Guelph and a Junior Consultant for Organization & Management Solutions. Her research interests include employment interviews, particularly how interview anxiety impacts interview performance.


How working from home can offer more accessible careers for people with disabilities

Zhanna Lyubykh

Work has many benefits. It provides structure, serves as a source of meaning and offers opportunities for social inclusion. Yet some groups of people are disadvantaged when it comes to finding meaningful careers. Despite labour legislation ensuring equal rights for all groups, research demonstrates that people with disabilities are two times more likely to be unemployed (Fogg et al., 2010). This is a particular concern for Canada considering high prevalence rates of disability in the Canadian population. One factor that contributes to this dismal state of affairs is absent or poor job accommodations for persons with disabilities. However, the swift shift to telework caused by COVID-19 has highlighted the feasibility and benefits of working from home.

Whether the pandemic normalizes work from home, making it a new reality, or employees return to their offices represents a critical question for persons with disabilities (e.g. Ali et al., 2011). The ability to work from home not only represents a job accommodation in itself, but it also offers numerous career benefits for persons with disabilities. These benefits go beyond improved flexibility and reduced commute time. By working from home, persons with disabilities have an opportunity to take more frequent breaks, remain close to medical equipment and manage unpredictable flareups in their condition. Although some managers have concerns regarding employees’ productivity and reduced monitoring capabilities, research demonstrates that work from home does not have a negative effect on performance; in fact, such flexible arrangements can increase performance (e.g. Choudhury et al., 2021).

Notwithstanding these positives, work from home can have potential downsides for persons with disabilities. Fist, work from home can mean greater social isolation as employees have fewer opportunities for causal chats or impromptu coffee breaks. This social isolation can also be costly in terms of career outcomes. For example, employees with disabilities may have fewer opportunities to foster good-quality relationships with their supervisors, which is crucial for many work-related outcomes (e.g., Lyubykh et al., 2020). Further, employees may miss networking opportunities, or they may not have opportunities to demonstrate their social skills to others. In the long run, an accumulation of such missed opportunities may hinder career advancement of employees working from home.

One way to mitigate such negative consequences is by purposefully providing opportunities for social interactions. For example, managers can budget in “slack time” in work meetings for non-work-related discussions or organize social meetings with breakout rooms for employees.

Working from home can also create an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, resulting in missed opportunities for trainings or promotions, which can hinder career progression for employees with disabilities. This can be particularly problematic when a person with disability is the only one who is working from home. To ensure that managers do not inadvertently disadvantage careers of persons with disabilities who work from home, companies need to develop disability inclusive policies that explicitly include guidelines regarding training, promotion and career development.

Taken together, work from home can represent a path forward for removing employment barriers and ensuring better employment experiences for persons with disabilities. However, this path should be approached with caution. If not managed properly, some aspects of work from home can further disadvantage employees with disabilities.

Zhanna Lyubykh is a PhD student in Organizational Behavior at Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary. Her research interests lie at the intersection of employee well-being, occupational health and leadership.


Ali, M., Schur, L., & Blanck, P. (2011). What types of jobs do people with disabilities want? Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 21(2), 199-210.

Choudhury, P., Foroughi, C., & Larson, B. (2021). Work‐from‐anywhere: The productivity effects of geographic flexibility. Strategic Management Journal, 42(4), 655-683.

Fogg, N. P., Harrington, P. E., & McMahon, B. T. (2010). The impact of the Great Recession upon the unemployment of Americans with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 33(3), 193-202.

Lyubykh, Z., Ansari, M. A., Williams-Whitt, K., & Kristman, V. L. (2020). Disability severity, leader–member exchange, and attitudinal outcomes: considering the employee and supervisor perspectives. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 1-11.

careering magazine cover2021

Spring-Summer issue of Careering dives into Career Pivots

The digital-exclusive Spring-Summer 2021 issue of Careering, on the theme of “Career Pivots,” comes at a time when the workforce is navigating immense shifts. The disruptive impact of COVID-19 on work and education is evident across many of this issue’s articles, from a Grade 12 student’s reflection on her future plans, to interviews with small business owners suddenly thrust into job search.

The broader takeaway, however, is a reassuring one: with the support of career education and career professionals, Canadians can develop the skills to thrive amid change. Careering authors examine theories that support client engagement and the development of a change-ready mindset; they offer strategies for employee career conversations, dealing with employment gaps and supporting lifelong learning; they present effective K-12 career exploration approaches, and much more.

Articles in this issue:

Careering magazine is Canada’s Magazine for Career Development Professionals and is the official publication of CERIC. It is published three times a year and includes select content in French. Subscribe to receive your free copy. You can also access past issues for free online.

The Fall 2021 issue of Careering magazine will be on the theme of “Career Development Reimagined.” New contributors are welcome, and can submit in English, French or both languages. Please review our Submission Guidelines and send a 1-2 paragraph proposal outlining your topic idea to Editor Lindsay Purchase,, no later than June 30.

woman working on laptop on kitchen tableCareering

Optimizing engagement to pivot effectively

Model offers framework to spot warning signs of disengagement and get back on track

Roberta Borgen (Neault) and Deirdre Pickerell

author headshotsPivoting – changing direction by turning in place – takes balance and resilience. Not all career transitions require pivots; sometimes career trajectories continue in the same direction after major or minor disruptions. Pivots are different. Even a tiny shift in direction can result in enormous changes over time. Career development professionals can play key roles in helping individuals contemplate pivots, prepare for them and navigate the resulting changes that often ripple far beyond work to encompass other significant life roles.

The Career Engagement model offers a theoretical framework and practical points of entry for supporting individuals as they contemplate pivoting, make small or large shifts, and regain their equilibrium as they establish a new trajectory (Pickerell & Neault, 2016).

Career Engagement model

Within the Career Engagement model, optimal engagement is achieved through the dynamic interaction of challenge and capacity. The interplay between these two components is important – as one shifts, so too must the other. When the demands of work and life stretch beyond individual and/or contextual capacity, individuals move out of the zone of engagement, feeling overwhelmed; without correction, burnout and disengagement result. Similarly, when challenge is reduced and individuals have excess capacity, they feel underutilized; unaddressed, boredom and disengagement result. In either scenario, disengagement looks the same and is an unpleasant state. Knowing the route to disengagement, whether through feeling overwhelmed or underutilized, is vital when charting a path back to engagement. It can be difficult to re-engage once disengagement has set in. Attending to the early warning signs and making continuous course corrections will help individuals sustain engagement across all life roles.

“Knowing the route to disengagement, whether through feeling overwhelmed or underutilized, is vital when charting a path back to engagement.”

Foundations for pivoting

Optimal engagement, shifting to overwhelmed. Candice was fully engaged in her career – and all her other life roles were functioning smoothly – when her youngest child was diagnosed with cancer. The family still relied on her income, but aspects of her job were incompatible with medical appointments and the uncertainty ahead in terms of surgery timelines, subsequent treatments and home-schooling responsibilities during her child’s illness. She began to feel overwhelmed – worried about her child’s health, of course, but also about money, her job and other responsibilities that now seemed too much to handle.

Applying the Career Engagement model, Candice described herself as “fully engaged” prior to the diagnosis. This positions her well for pivoting from a position of strength and moving forward even when times are tough. Unpacking the key components of engagement, challenge and capacity, Candice may want to look at pivoting to a less challenging position (within her organization, in another one or perhaps as a “gig” worker to gain more flexibility over her schedule).

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7 steps to help clients futureproof their careers

To bolster capacity, Candice may benefit from looking not only at work but her other life roles. For example, a conversation with her supervisor may surface a remote work option or project deadline extensions. Candice may also want to request help from family and friends with meals, carpooling, play dates for the other children and even sharing a nanny. If Candice is in a relationship, the couple may consider what responsibilities could be shared, shifted, delegated to someone or set aside. Once Candice recognizes possibilities for reducing challenge and building individual and external capacity, she can be more strategic about how small or large her pivoting needs to be.

Underutilized. Rahul was feeling disrespected at work and believed that the strengths he could offer to his employer were being ignored. In the Career Engagement model, he identified himself as very underutilized, close to becoming fully disengaged. In conversation with a career coach, he recognized that he had exhausted all reasonable possibilities of getting his career back on track with his current employer. He decided to pivot out of the organization, looking for an opportunity that would value what he could offer and allow him to fully contribute his expertise.

man and woman sitting and talking

A significant challenge that Rahul recognized, though, is that he wasn’t pivoting from a position of strength. With his career coach, he developed a plan to volunteer for a community organization to gain a strong work sample for his career portfolio and a supportive professional reference. This strategy served multiple purposes: From a career engagement perspective, the new challenge revitalized his energy, moved him closer to optimal engagement and strengthened his capacity by giving him tangible evidence of what he could offer his next employer.

Dual states. Johannes has struggled with mental illness for many years. Diagnosed with major depressive disorder and social anxiety disorder, there were times he could barely get out of bed, let alone leave the house for work or school. Johannes often feels incredibly overwhelmed and on the verge of giving up. Yet, at the same time, he is bright, articulate and personable and knows he is capable of so much more. Within the Career Engagement model, Johannes is simultaneously overwhelmed and underutilized; a pivot in any direction may set him up for success or result in further setbacks. To help maximize his opportunity to get engaged, several micro-pivots may be the best strategy.

Working with his psychologist, Johannes began by noting everything that seemed overwhelming in as much detail as possible. From here, patterns started to emerge. Similarly, he began to look for opportunities to build capacity in small, incremental ways and paid attention to how each action resulted in a slight shift. Over time, although Johannes wasn’t hugely successful in reducing challenge, he was able to build capacity through regular counselling, mindfulness and meditation, and small amounts of exercise. Now, feeling less overwhelmed, he is contemplating a return to school, understanding that he’ll need to continue to build capacity to take on new challenges.

Optimizing career engagement through pivots

The vignettes shared are but three examples of how individuals can use the Career Engagement model to help them optimize engagement when life requires a pivot. As capacity ebbs and flows, challenge must be similarly adjusted, allowing individuals to achieve and sustain optimal engagement. How difficult, exciting or stimulating something is (i.e. challenge) is a very personal experience; so, too, are individuals and their unique contexts (i.e. capacity). Optimizing engagement is an ongoing process, integrating personal reflection with a pragmatic understanding of ever-changing contexts.

Dr. Roberta Borgen (Neault), CCC, CCDP, GCDFi, is President of Life Strategies Ltd., Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia and Project Director with the Canadian Career Development Foundation.

Dr. Deirdre Pickerell, CPHR, GCDFi, is Dean of Student Success at Yorkville University/Toronto Film School and Vice-President at Life Strategies.

Drs. Borgen and Pickerell co-developed the Career Engagement model, are writing a book to be published by Cognella this year and speak internationally on optimizing career engagement across work and life.


Pickerell, D. A., & Neault, R. A. (2016). Examining the career engagement of Canadian career development practitioners. Canadian Journal of Career Development, 15(1), 4-14.

closed due to coronavirus sign on business doorCareering

‘Hard to stay motivated’: Strategies to boost client momentum in job search

Entrepreneurs entering the traditional workforce may not know where to start

Michelle Schafer

author headshotWhen Stephanie Hault sold her Ottawa-based clothing stores during the pandemic and began looking for secure, stable work after 15 years as an entrepreneur, she thought she knew what the experience would be like. “I anticipated my search would mainly be focused online – reviewing job postings and preparing resumes and cover letters.”

Hault realizes now the reality is quite different. She was shocked to discover the growing role networking plays in tapping into positions of interest; I advise clients that relationship-building activities should comprise upwards of 80% of their time spent looking for work. And she is part of a growing number of people who are seeking employment during the pandemic with no prior experience looking for work, including small-business owners selling their retail stores and restaurants as a result of COVID-19. For some, they may be transitioning out of the unpredictable world of small-business ownership for a role with stability and security. Others, like Hault, are looking for a lifestyle change with more balance. Even though she was very familiar with taking risks as an entrepreneur, embarking on a job search after spending an entire career as a business owner is daunting.

Noah Firestone, former owner of popular Ottawa restaurant Luxe, agrees. Once COVID-19 made it clear that it would take a lot of time and energy to restore his restaurant’s revenue to pre-pandemic levels, Firestone decided to sell the restaurant to seek a position that would offer him more balance – including time on weekends to spend with his family. “I loved what I did. I loved going in to work every day, but I had to make decisions and changes now that would be much more difficult to make as the years pass.”

“Even though she was very familiar with taking risks as an entrepreneur, embarking on a job search after spending an entire career as a business owner is daunting.”

I worked with Firestone and Hault, and both credit engaging with a career coach as the motivation they needed to keep their job search moving forward. Working with clients in these cases involves a reset of expectations. When Hault first started her job search, she expected it would move quickly. She assumed she would use a chronological resume, attend networking events and distribute a lot of resumes. Hault now sees the benefit of using a skills resume to promote her transferrable skills. She also engaged in 1:1 virtual networking and has customized resumes only for those positions where she can do work that energizes her and for companies that share her values. And she’s come to accept that patience – a lot of it – is needed to keep moving forward.

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“As a business owner, I was used to operating at a fast pace and making decisions quickly, so I was frustrated with the slower pace of my job search,” says Hault. “It was hard to stay motivated when progress in my search was slower than I hoped – like when I felt I made a good connection with someone and then I never heard back, or received no response when I reached out to arrange a networking chat.”

So, how can you work with clients in a similar situation and keep them engaged in their job search while helping them find the best fit for their next great job? Hault says she benefitted from the following coaching strategies to keep her focused and moving forward:

  • Encourage clients to adopt a learning mindset: Hault realized she had a lot to learn, such as how to write a resume, create an impactful LinkedIn profile and generate job leads. Coaching helped her focus on the basics, such as how to write an email requesting a networking conversation.
  • Pinpoint the transferrable skills and transform the resume: Both Hault and Firestone changed their chronological resumes to a skills format in order to market their transferrable skills (such as client service, partnership development, project leadership and budgeting) to new industries. Firestone learned that a resume “is not necessarily just a list of what you have done, but a list of what you are capable of doing, and how it may relate to things you have done in the past.” Although he had been working in hospitality and food services since he was a teenager, Firestone began to see how his skills were portable – and needed – in other industries.
  • Help them ask for help: Clients who have never had to look for work may be resistant to this idea. Hault admits she does not like asking for help, as her entrepreneurial approach allowed her to do things independently. Yet asking for help – getting a connection to a company of interest, asking someone to get her resume into the right hands of decision makers – has propelled her job search forward. As coaches, we can help our clients see how networking is research through conversation. We can work with them to adopt an approach for these conversations that is authentic to them while keeping the leads funnel full. When Firestone started reaching out to his contacts to explore possibilities, his view of potential roles expanded and he started telling himself, “I could actually do that, and I just might be good at it.”
  • Appreciate the baby steps: Every new connection gave Hault hope and revitalized her search. Encourage clients to see every step as progress – they are moving in the right direction.
  • Develop a job search routine. Hault and Firestone carved out time each day for their job search and also time to do things for themselves; they needed time to decompress after leaving the hectic schedule of small-business ownership. Hault intentionally ensured her job search did not become a full-time job.

Firestone successfully transitioned to the construction industry, accepting a business development role that was a good match for his transferrable skills. Hault applied her new insights to her search on a daily basis, and recently joined the Shopify team – her dream job with her dream company. She had this guidance to offer career professionals who are working with clients who are new to the job search experience: “Encourage clients to pause – and step back to determine what their skills are and where they can apply them. Help clients transform their resume, and develop networking approaches so they can engage with their network to explore possibilities and generate leads. It’s important for clients to be curious and never say no to an opportunity for a conversation. You never know where that connection will lead.”

Michelle Schafer is an ICF-certified coach and facilitator, specializing in career transition and leadership. She is the owner of Michelle Schafer Coaching, empowering people to achieve career fulfillment, and was recognized as one of Ottawa’s Top 20 career coaches in 2020. Schafer works with clients at all levels within government, tech, not-for-profit, health care and financial services and offers coaching 1:1, in groups and with teams.

book cover: Don't Stay in Your LaneCareering

Book review: Don’t Stay in Your Lane an essential read for career counsellors

Cynthia Pong’s guide articulates impact of systemic racism on women at work, helps jobseekers reconnect to their strengths

Kimberley John-Morgan

author headshotAs the effects of COVID-19 and a new awareness of systemic racism continue to affect women in the workforce, career development practitioners need new tools and resources to support displaced clients. And while there are dozens of books written about job search and career changes, there are very few guides that address the specific needs of Black, Indigenous and women of colour (BIWOC). It is for this reason that Don’t Stay in Your Lane: The Career Change Guide for Women of Color by Cynthia Pong is an essential addition to every career counsellor’s library. This thorough, 200+ page resource provides practical career change strategies and presents the author’s own career pivot experience. Written in an approachable, conversational style, Don’t Stay in Your Lane offers three key strengths.

Acknowledgement of how systemic racism affects the career paths of women of colour

Through her words and colourful images, Pong articulates the effect that intersecting identities have on one’s career prospects – specifically, how the glass ceiling imposed on women is exacerbated by sexual orientation, disability and racialization. The author’s validation of this systemic reality is refreshing and missing from mainstream career change material. For women of colour, changing careers because of workplace discrimination is a traumatizing experience. As such, career development practitioners who are committed to equity and inclusion need to create space for clients to articulate these impactful emotions as part of the career change process.

Pong’s validation of systemic exclusion points to the need for more books in this genre and demonstrates that the narrative of inequity need not be centred on trauma and oppression. Instead, Pong skillfully provides affirming messages and comprehensive tools, like temperature checks, skills summaries and thought challenges that allow BIWOC readers to proactively realign with their strengths, retain their agency and step boldly into the next chapter of their career.

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Analysis of the career change pathway

In Pong’s version of the career change cycle, which she calls the “career change meta pathway,” she provides four steps (plan, act, reflect and iterate). Readers are encouraged to autonomously engage in this cycle to explore their interests, reconnect to joy and proactively move forward. This easily applicable cycle grants readers permission to explore skills that have fallen dormant and seek new opportunities to engage in meaningful work.

Through sharing the evolution of her pivot from public defence lawyer to entrepreneur, Pong walks through the lifestyle changes required to forge a new career path. In doing so, she honestly shares the setbacks of self-doubt and how she worked past the mistakes she made along the way, such as accepting advice that should have been rejected and pushing to do work that did not align with her values. In sharing the highs and lows of her experience, Pong humanizes the career change process, making it relatable to readers.

The career change meta pathway is a powerful tool that will gently move clients from a place of feeling stuck to a state of active progress. Completing the four-step cycle will provide clients with tangible insight into why a new career option is (or is not) an appropriate next step. More importantly, this approach to the career exploration process will help heal readers’ career confidence and reignite their enthusiasm.

book interior
Courtesy of Cynthia Pong
Holistic worksheets and hypothetical vignettes

Throughout Don’t Stay in Your Lane, the author provides dozens of templates and exercises that enable the reader to track their feelings, family responsibilities and finances. These resources are generously complemented with personal and professional life hacks provided in the appendices. Upon walking through the activities outlined, readers will be able to assess their available resources and identify additional avenues for personal development, such as therapy and volunteering.

To prompt self-reflection, Pong strategically uses vignettes that represent women of colour of diverse occupational backgrounds who are at a crossroads in their careers. These thoughtfully written sketches require readers to offer themselves compassionate advice as though they were speaking to a cherished friend. In effect, such reflection enables readers to objectively connect with their own lives and strategize entry into a new field of work or the world of entrepreneurship.

Part career development guide, part memoir and part self-help book, the sections of Don’t Stay in Your Lane can be read independently or in sequence, cover to cover. Either approach will provide racialized readers, and the career counsellors who support this demographic, with the tools to effectively embark on career pivots brought about by independent choice or systemically imposed circumstance. Independently published in 2020, Don’t Stay in Your Lane will be a relevant resource until such time that all forms of discrimination are eradicated and equity is sustainably achieved.

Kimberley John-Morgan is a DEI ghostwriter who works collaboratively with diverse workers and their allies to call out workplace discrimination. As a graduate of the Career and Work Counsellor program at George Brown College, John-Morgan has 20 years of experience as a career strategist and she currently supports clients through her private practice, Junxure Consulting (