New Mantra for Education: Career Readiness

By Phillip S. Jarvis


Student success is every educator’s highest priority, but the interpretation of success is ambiguous. With only 44% of students still fully engaged in high school, down from 76% in Grade 1 (Gallup) [1], and half of out-of-school 16-25 year-olds unemployed or in precarious, low-wage, no-benefits jobs [2], it’s clear that despite best intentions education is not fully succeeding in preparing our youth for success beyond school.

Career readiness is emerging as the new standard of success, the new mantra for education. Career-ready students are prepared for success in life after high school, including postsecondary education and modern jobs and career paths. Advocates of career readiness contend that the purpose of public education is to look beyond test scores or graduation rates—success in school—to the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes (competencies) students actually need to succeed in adult life—success after school. A high school diploma, in this view, should certify readiness for post-graduation jobs and learning experiences, rather than merely the completion of secondary school [3].

This new success standard is causing in a paradigm shift to personalized, project-based, real-world learning that helps students explore and test career pathways [4] at all levels. The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2011 paper, “Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century [5] made a compelling case for encouraging students to explore multiple pathways. Their claim that the “college for all” mantra harms students and the economy sent shockwaves through the education world. It ignited many new pathways initiatives and focused attention on the Swiss and other national models that offer more cost-effective and direct pathways to career readiness.

Pathways to Prosperity co-author Dr. William Symonds presented the report’s findings in over 40 states before founding the Global Pathways Institute [6] (GPI) at Arizona State University. GPI has since convened thousands of education, business and government leaders in Washington, DC and Regional Pathways Conferences.[7] With 12 national partner organizations [8], GPI formed the Coalition for Career Development [9] to make career readiness a central priority in education and workforce systems.

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) is a GPI Coalition partner. Its Making Youth Employment Work [10] series is fueling employer engagement in pathways models. USCCF has urged States to measure career readiness [11], and challenged America’s 3 million employers to provide and fund industry ‘account managers’ in school systems. Just as account managers in the private sector are responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction, USCCF recommends that businesses, as the largest consumers of the product of the education system, provide industry liaison agents to deliver quality career development services to local educators that meet workforce needs.

With Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Dr Robert Schwartz, co-author of Pathways to Prosperity, Jobs For the Future [12] is growing the Pathways to Prosperity Partnership Network [13]. It now includes eight states (AZ, CA, DE, IL, IN, MA, TN, TX); three Metro regions (Columbus/Central Ohio; Twin Cities; and Metro Madison); and two urbans (New York City; Philadelphia). Their common goal is to build and enhance members’ capacity to design, implement, improve and scale state and regional pathways systems enhance students’ career readiness by increasing the number of youth who complete high school and attain an in-demand post-secondary credential or industry certification.

The Linked Learning Alliance [14] in California believes students work harder and dream bigger if their education is relevant to them. Their approach [15] integrates rigorous academics with sequenced, high-quality career-technical education, work-based learning and supports to help students stay on track. Industry themes are woven into lessons taught by teachers who collaborate across subject areas with input from working professionals, and reinforced by work-based learning with real employers. This makes learning more like the real world of work, and helps students answer the question, “Why do I need to know this?” The result: career ready graduates.

Advance CTE [16], the national network of State Directors of career and technical education, is promoting “Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE.” The vision calls for systemic transformation of the education system to ensure students are career ready when they finish high school. It challenges career and technical educators to provide leadership in transforming education to truly prepare all students for a lifetime of success. Advance CTE’s vision is supported by 12 [17] national organizations representing education, business and industry, and policy.

The Ontario Ministry of Education’s Pathways to Success [18] policy requires that all students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 develop an Individual Pathway Plan. The Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training is implementing Future in Focus [19], a new career readiness framework for K-12 schools in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The Council of Ministers of Education Canada is developing a Youth Transitions Framework to provide guidelines for education systems across the country to enhance students’ career readiness.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched New Skills for Youth in 2016, a $75 million, 5-year initiative [20]  to strengthen career-focused education. With the Council of Chief State School Officers [21], Advance CTE, and the Education Strategy Group [22] they challenged states to: a) dramatically increase the number of students in career pathways from secondary school to in-demand diplomas/degrees and/or industry credentials; and b) catalyze transformational programs and policies to increase students’ career readiness. In phase one, 24 states [23] and Washington, DC received $100,000 grants. In phase two, announced in January 2017, 10 states [24] are receiving $2 million over three years to expand and improve career pathways for all high school students.

The National Center for College and Career Transitions [25] mantra is: Every learner with a dream and a plan, and every community with a capable, career ready workforce.” NC3T connects schools, post-secondary institutions, and employers to introduce students to the array of options available to them, and prepare them for pathways for which they are best suited. President and founder Hans Meeder recently authored The Power and Promise of Pathways, [26] a step-by-step guide to building a sustainable pathways system that leads students to career readiness.

WE Schools [27], a division of the WE movement founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, is delivered in over 12,000 schools across North America and the UK. The program challenges young people to identify local and global issues that spark their passion then empowers them to take action. It provides educators and students with curriculum, educational resources and a full calendar of action campaign ideas. Through WE Schools, [28] students see school in the context of “real world” local and global issues they’re passionate about. As a result, they become more engaged in school, see the relevance of school to career pathways they are considering, and become more career ready.

The co-ed Exploring program [29] of the Boy Scouts of America teaches professional and life skills through immersive career experiences and mentorship. Businesses and community organizations initiate Explorer posts by matching their employees and organizational resources to career interests of students. The result is a program of experiential activities [30] that help students and young adults explore and pursue their career interests, thus becoming more career ready. US Chamber of Commerce President [31] Thomas J. Donohue Sr. recently challenged employers across the US to sponsor Explorer posts.

Cloud-based career exploration and pathway planning systems are now ubiquitous. Some allow students to connect with career coaches, employers, and work-based learning and help employers connect with potential future talent. Career Network of Vermilion County [32], the digital backbone of Vermilion Advantage in Illinois, is an example. It’s a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Talent Pipeline Management pilot site. Other examples are MIBrightFUTURE [33] in Southeast Michigan and InspireNB [34] in New Brunswick, Canada. These inititatives help youth become career ready, and help employers develop talent pipelines.

The Government of Canada convened an Expert Panel on Youth Employment [35] in mid-2016 to help it understand the challenges that youth face in finding and keeping jobs and to identify promising and innovative approaches to helping all youth transition successfully into the workforce. Panelists met in-person with hundreds of young people, workforce experts, employers, community organizations and service providers. The panel’s recommendations to enhance young Canadaians career readiness will soon be public.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Youth Council, [36] the federal Youth Employment Strategy Directorate [37], the Council of Ministers of Education Canada, [38] the Forum of Labour Market Ministers, [39] and the Canadian Council for Career Development [40], among others, have youth employment and career readiness squarely on their radar screens. A coalition of provincial, territorial, and federal governments, with First Nations, youth groups, employers, community organizations, etc. – Coalition Transitions Canada – is being discussed to foster collaboration on innovations to better prepare students across the country become career ready and find their personal pathway to prosperity.

Personalized, real-world, project-based, and work-based career pathways initiatives is expanding exponentially in K-12 and postsecondary settings globally. Helping students find themselves, find relevance in their education, and find their own personal pathways to success, happiness, and prosperity – career readiness – is becoming the new mantra of education. The implications for career professionals as leaders, coaches and facilitators in this movement are exciting and profound.  



Phil Jarvis is Director of Global Partnerships at Career Cruising. He has led national and international initiatives to help students become career-ready, including: CHOICES, The Real Game Series, the Blueprint for Life/Work Designs, and Career Cruising. His chapter in Career Development Practice in Canada (CERIC, 2014) links career readiness to economic prosperity. He advocates for whole community commitment and collaboration (‘it takes a village’) to help all students become career-ready and transition from school to success.










[8] ACT, Inc., Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work Association for Career and Technical Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Boston University School of Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, National Career Development Association, National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, National Governors Association, SME, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
















[24] Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Wisconsin.


















What’s Next for Older Workers?

Counsellors and employers alike are facing unique challenges as work patterns becoming increasingly non-traditional

By Adele Robertson


Baby boomers are generally defined as those people born between 1946 and 1964. Boomers have just about reinvented most life stages, succeeding in breaking down many social and cultural boundaries. They have challenged both the concepts and behaviours of youth norms, sexual freedoms, marriage and, how to parent. The process of “aging,” for this cohort, and all that surrounds the inevitable march of time, is not going to resemble anything experienced by their parents. It is not surprising that the boomers’ approach to third life transition and the end of work, can represent a challenge to career counsellors. The heretofore normative notion of “retirement” does not play well with many of this generation.

We are reminded by the classic “Sound of Music” song: “How are we going to solve the problem of Maria?” How are Canadian businesses ─ small, medium and large ─ going to solve the problems of our Marios and Marias who are seeking solid advice, and specific guidance on the issue of “retirement.” Or, as York University’s Dr Suzanne Cook calls it: “Redirection.”


A growing senior population willing to continue to work

According to Boston College Sloan Center of Aging and Work, seven in 10 American workers plan to continue to work past the age of 65 [1]. Jean-Marc MacKenzie, Senior Vice President of Canada’s Morneau Shepell Human Resource Consulting Company, reports: “We are finding more and more of our clients have very diverse workplace demographics. For instance, one of our major national clients has more individuals over the age of 75 currently employed with them than under the age of 25. The emerging and flexible work demands seem to be more attractive for older workers and it may not provide as many traditional full-time opportunities for younger workers.”

There are as many mature employee considerations as there are varieties of personalities within that demographic age, never mind their levels of career experience. According to Chris Farrell’s book, Unretirement, even those individuals who are considering packing in their jobs are closer to the age of 70 as opposed to the traditional 65.

There are many reasons why even a 70-year-old may dread leaving their workplace. With this in mind, it might be useful to revisit and reaffirm why “work” is so critical. Most individuals identify themselves by their work. Their self-image is inextricably tied in to their job. Their identity is often indistinguishable from their job description. Experts inform us that this identity and sense of self-worth emanates from both the work content and, the work environment. When the job has evaporated from one’s life, many individuals express the feeling of being useless. Author Victor Frankel writes that “being useless is equated with having a meaningless life.” Over decades, work defined everything from a person’s status, to gender, even in some cultures, morality. Author James Livingston’s book No More Work, Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea submits that when work disappears we feel less secure in our personal definition of ourselves.


An extended life expectancy and financial reality

Beyond the emotional need and understanding of why we work, there is the other reality and that is the financial. We all need an income. A great percentage of Canadians will not enjoy an employer-covered pension in the next decade. Since life expectancy now is approximately 82 to 85, the idea of having no pay cheque for several decades is untenable. It is certain that many individuals, thanks to legislation, who are no longer forced to retire at age 65, will hang on to their jobs as they require both the money and the psychic income. They do not wish to depart from the work environment, the routine, the collegiality and, perhaps most importantly, their sense of purpose.

MacKenzie of Morneau Shepell notes that “most employee benefit designs have been around since 1960 and are geared towards younger workers with young families. Obviously, the time is right for employers to challenge their thinking of their relationship with employees and how they will support them in and out of the workplace.” The question of benefit packages and compensation, and changes in pension plans have caught the attention of Canada’s Finance Minister who recently suggested that Ottawa might encourage seniors to stay in the workforce and perhaps businesses can consider offering incentives to those seniors who delay retirement. While older workers are looking at many options, employers as well as governments are seeking practical solutions.
If the new mantra, for many workers sounds more like “unretirement,” what are some possible solutions and ideas on how to deal with the mature worker who wants and needs to continue in the workforce?

The President of the Milken Institute, Paul H. Irving, suggests that we stop focusing on problems and perceived weaknesses with workers of advancing ages. Younger workers may “learn faster but older staffers have a lifetime of experience and wisdom; they know more.”


Ageism: a barrier for senior workers

Visionary organizations will also begin to recognize the facts surrounding ageism. In 2016, the US Economic Research bureau found “robust” evidence that age discrimination starts even earlier for women (at the amazing age of 32) and, rarely relents.

Ageist attitudes may often challenge an individual’s ability and willingness to continue to work. These attitudes are non-hierarchical in that the more mature worker can be considered a liability by his manager as well as by his peers. Individuals need to be judged and valued by their competence and production, not by their physical age. Businesses who understand the value of older workers will set the tone with progressive employment practises as well as encouraging the more mature workers to act as mentors for their younger colleagues.

The knowledge drain does not have to be inevitable; there can be reverse mentoring which allows for the mature worker to absorb new technologies and assistance from the millennials who follow their careers. An article by Sarah Franklin published in The Globe and Mail in January 2017 [2] reported that by 2019 there will be almost 200,000 jobs in IT and communications in Canada left unfilled due to a lack of people with the necessary skills. Why not consider retraining older workers to fill some of those jobs. Retraining would be an investment, but with an ever-increasing demand, there is absolutely no reason why senior workers cannot fill some of this void. Many senior workers would be keen for upgrading their jobs and learning technologies. This is another scenario where multigenerational interaction can be integrated – a win-win situation for all.

AGEWORKS™, a Canadian organization whose vision is to make ageism as intolerable as racism or sexism, has surveyed global research which dispels myths about mature workers. Older workers do not have diminished production or inconsistent performances nor do they cost more in wages, hours or benefits; the return on investment for the senior worker remains healthy. Many studies demonstrate the wealth of benefits which accrue when a functioning multigenerational workforce is encouraged [3]. Often employee relations improve, in addition to having less turnover, lower absenteeism and increased productivity. It is encouraging that MacKenzie finds that “more employers are focusing on attracting and retaining ‘older’ workers with a flexible approach to scheduling, providing attractive non-traditional benefits, and creating a culture that places a premium value on the diversity of the workplace”.


Advising on alternative options for retirement

Of course, there are various issues that are inherent in dealing with an aging workforce. For example, the increasing remote and office-less workplace environment may be a jolt to many older jobholders. It behooves human resource and other managers to provide a coherent rationale and context for these dramatic workplace adjustments. The results may be that an increasing number of mature workers will welcome the flexibility of working from home more frequently. These adjustments will also allow for the important dress rehearsal for the employee as to what their life resembles when they are not expected at an office location on a daily basis. Flexibility on the part of the employer will encourage more thoughtful and realistic pre-retirement conversations which may result in earlier retirement or, job rotation, or a variety of solutions which mesh with the nature and form of the particular business.

If leave-taking or retirement seems inevitable and/or desirable for staff, how best can career professionals advise these senior workers? What are some ideas which will instigate policy decisions and solutions that will be adaptable both to an efficient business operation and, relevant to their valued, often long-term, staffer?

Early discussions, preferably up to five years before an employee is expected to retire is a first step. Counselling on what to anticipate after the full-time wage work is completed is critical. Retirement is not an event; it is long known as a process with several stages. Exploring a menu of work/life options can bring significant returns. After all, the recruitment and retention of staff is a major investment on the part of any business; why not consider the counselling of the mature worker an integral part of the program. There exists today a dazzling potpourri of ideas about approaching retirement. Some examples include staged retirement, providing flexibility for the worker to dip a toe in the water to experience what life might resemble when they are not at work full-time. Continued training and learning should continue despite the age of a worker. AT&T in the US, understanding that those age 50 plus are not always as adept in new technology, provides payments of up to $30,000 over time for staff who take online courses. They provide as an incentive, that no worker, of any age can anticipate promotion without taking advantage of new training opportunities.Another innovation comes from San Francisco-based This new program is called the “Fellowship Year.” Visionary companies are helping their older workers by matching them to jobs in not-for-profits. These retirement-age employees are slowly eased out of their career jobs and transitioned into community service, providing the individuals with purpose and satisfaction, and the knowledge that they are making an impact on society. This is often an organic, natural evolution of a Corporate Social Responsibility program, already embedded in most business models.

Retirement coaches are becoming more of the norm. Personalized coaching workshops such as THE V GENERATION (“V” for value, vision and volunteer) was inspired by the understanding that individuals will stay healthier, both cognitively and physically, when they envision and plan their future beyond full-time work, and that, cost-benefit reductions will accrue to the enlightened employer who provides staff with training on how to better “retire,” finding a work/life balance which can include a number of options.


Prioritizing senior workers’ career management to unlock their potential

Most individuals of a certain age desire that basketful of activities which will provide them with a balanced life. Human capital will continue to provide an enormous boost and abundant advantage to social problems in Canada. Community service or volunteerism offers the opportunity to translate wisdom, experience and ideas to the charitable sector. Billions of dollars of labour, and a wealth of skills can pour forth from our boomer population, but the not-for-profits have a responsibility to ensure that the boomer volunteers are placed in jobs that suit them, not simply one the charity needs to fill. Businesses need to prioritize the counselling of senior workers to ensure their workforce is better equipped for life once they disengage from the job. Coaches, human resource professionals and career management staff can encourage career management by identifying the training tools and resources in a timely fashion, not just prior to the employee heading out the door.

Unlocking the potential of this boomer generation while a challenge, also represents a real opportunity. And for those organizations who are undergoing restructuring and the inevitable layoffs, investments in a workshop for ongoing career management can often be a gift for the employee which will ease these difficult transition periods.

Boomers have re-invented lifestyles and turned around cultural mores. Now they are bringing energy and fresh ideas about life’s third stage to the fore with their employers and, with society as a whole. This is a remarkable turnabout from previous years. Many businesses will wish to resist these demands and hearken back to the good old days when pretty much every one was content to retire at age 65. Indeed, it is quite possible that in the near future the word “retire” will be retired.



Adele Robertson is the CEO and Founder of THE V GENERATION, a personalized coaching workshop designed to help organizations provide their employees with self knowledge and tools to embark on new pathways as they transition through work and to help them to experience a successful aging cycle.


[1] 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey: Influences of Generation on Retirement Readiness, December 2016, p. 40

[2] How to successfully close the skills gap:

[3] Met Life Mature Market Institute:  “ Generations in the Workplace Engaging the Best Talent of All Ages” USA.   &   KPMG,  UK:  “The Silver Lining;  How Forward Thinking Companies Benefit from the Ageing Workforce).


Becoming Talent Entrepreneurs

Welcoming career changers into career services

By Andrea Dine

This article also appears in the 2017 Summer issue of Career Developments, the National Career Development Association (NCDA) print magazine.

Professionals and researchers in career services have heralded and documented an evolutionary renaissance in the conception, structure and delivery of career services in higher education. A variety of influences will continue to fuel change, including shifts in the labour market and economy, rising costs of higher education and consumer examination of the return on investment of a college degree (Roush, 2016).

As we look to embrace and manage change, it makes sense to examine the shoulders upon which this change rests ─ the career centre staff. Career centres have been more open to individuals with diverse professional backgrounds and career changers than some of our neighbouring student affairs offices that source staff from student personnel or higher education administration degree programs. Career centres have welcomed professionals with backgrounds in higher education, counselling and human resources. However, our changing needs as a profession will drive us to become talent entrepreneurs. This article will make the case for embracing career changers, professionals who have not worked in higher education, into the field of career services and propose the creation of a supportive professional development framework to foster their transition.


Changing needs: skill sets, models and demographics

Career centres have evolved over the decades as hubs for vocational guidance, job placement, career counselling and planning (Casella, 1990), and now, customized connections and communities (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014). No longer are career centre staff members’ skills limited to those traditionally associated with conducting career counselling appointments or co-ordinating on-campus recruiting. Highly desired, specialized skill sets may now include marketing, social media communication, online learning, operations and logistics, assessment, volunteer co-ordination and technology. Professional organizations, networks and individuals are working to address these skills and coalescing professionals with these strengths. For example, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)’s Professional Standards for College and University Career Services includes a focus on technology and assessment, Assessment and Research in Career Services (ARCS) has created a listserv and quarterly newsletters, and Gary Allen Miller, Executive Director of the career centre at Hofstra University, hosts a blog titled Service Design, Marketing and Innovation for Higher Education. Career changers from industries including marketing, consulting, operations management and information technology could bring the very skills a career centre most needs in today’s market.

Shifting models of career counselling and coaching are also driving staffing needs. For example, the refocus to career clusters or communities aligns career centres away from majors and more towards industries. A variety of career centres are implementing industry-focused models including Columbia State Community College, Rutgers University, Stanford University and Wellesley College. The industry communities a career centre identifies as high priority are tailored to the specific campus, and includes groupings like, “Information Technology,” “Education, Non-Profit, Human Services,” and “Food and Agriculture & Environmental and Natural Resources.” Professionals from these industries could share with students’ important insights as natives who know the industry’s recruiting peccadillos, language preferences and professional practices.

The demographic origins of the students we serve, and therefore their needs, are also changing. As American high school graduation rates plateau, entering college students are projected to come from more diverse backgrounds including first generation college students, students of colour and low income (Seltzer, 2016). In addition to domestic shifts, many campuses have increased their enrolment of international students (Institute of International Education, 2016). Given this changing environment, recruiting diverse professionals skilled in inter and intracultural communication, and fluent in languages beyond English, would benefit our profession.


Career professionals at conferences as large as NACE, and as small as the Boston Area Directors meeting, often ask each other, “How did you get into career services?” “Did you use career services as an undergraduate?” Frequently, the answer to the first question is an illustration of chaos and happenstance (Krumboltz & Levin, 2004), and the latter is, “No.” There are relatively well-worn paths from Master’s programs to career centre internships and assistantships, from academic to career advising, and HR recruiting to employer relations, but responses describing mid- or advanced-level career changes from other fields are less common. There are a variety of challenges in attracting, training and retaining talent in career services, beginning with the fact that individuals do not pursue opportunities they have never seen or heard of. Additionally, on-boarding may require training a new employee about career services, student development and higher education. Office or institutional retention of a talented career changer may require thinking about career trajectories in a new way. In the same spirit of our asking, “Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?” we should consider potential trajectories for non-traditional professionals in our midst.


Career centres sit in the centre of a complex community Venn diagram. We can draw on our own expertise and that of our constituents to reap the benefits and mitigate the challenges of welcoming career changers into career services.

Create awareness of our field and opportunities in it. We educate clients about diverse career fields, but do we ever mention our own? Here are ways to pave the path for new professionals to enter career services in higher education:

• Start local: Engage with undergraduate and graduate students on campus in programs that teach the skills that your staff needs ─ from research and assessment, to computer science, to marketing. If your campus has a higher education program, build a relationship with faculty and staff in it to open the door to young professionals who may initially work in other areas of the institution.
• Go wide: Get involved with professional organizations and communities online or in-person that attract the candidates you desire. For example, #SAChat, American Marketing Professionals, American Educational Research Association, Society for Human Resource Management, Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Consider offering a professional development workshop to build credibility and exposure.
• Think big: Post opportunities beyond traditional higher education sites; consider posting on sites that use skill algorithms to source candidates, like LinkedIn. Tap your employer, alumni and social media networks for talent.
• Tell all: Write detailed position descriptions so that qualified career changers can imagine themselves in the work of a career centre.
• Answer questions: Accept informational interviews with professionals in other fields interested in higher education and career centre work.

Develop transitional supports and opportunities:

• Speak skills: Look at candidate’s skill set carefully; be careful not to dismiss a candidate based on the field from which they seek to transition.
• Set expectations: Articulate what you expect a candidate to learn before you interview them. You can reasonably expect a candidate to do due diligence in their research about your institution and office, but if you are expecting a candidate to address something as specific as the narrative approach to career counselling or how their MBTI type would fit in your office, you had best say so.
• Create transitional roles: Career centres have long had paraprofessional roles and graduate assistantships. Consider offering similar opportunities for career changers.
• Bridge the gap: Evaluate vacant administrative roles to determine if they could serve as a bridge into the field. If there is a particular skill set you seek, use language familiar to your target career changer.

Imagine and establish pathways for professional development and advancement:

• Seek knowledge: Identify professional development organizations and opportunities that compliment career changer’s role in your office. If no obvious match exists, consider being a convener.
• Play the long game: Look at potential advancement opportunities for your career changers inside your office and your institution. The former techy in your office that went on to work for the central university technology office may be your ticket to better institutional support for your department for years to come.


Career changers are poised to bring valuable skills, knowledge and perspective to our work, and help us tackle the challenges of today. Though it may take additional effort to find, develop and support these professionals, developing talent pipelines and support structures to welcome new professionals into our field will make us nimbler to face the challenges of tomorrow.

A complete list of references is available upon request from the author.



Andrea Dine, MA, is the Assistant Vice-President for Students and Enrolment, and Executive Director of the Hiatt Career Centre at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. At Brandeis, she is leading the evolution of the career centre, bringing communities of students, employers, alumni, faculty and parents together for purposeful career education and engagement.


From ‘Me’ to ‘We’

A Necessary Shift in Career Service Orientation?

By George Dutch


Career development professionals are the mechanics of an employment machine that operates for the mutual interests of individuals, the state and private capital. We help the state ensure a steady supply of labour and, when the machine needs repairs, we apply a range of interventions—training, coaching, counselling, benefit systems, insurances, healthcare—for the temporarily unemployed, disabled, ill or injured.

We use a toolbox of career theories, methods and models to help individuals adjust their skills, behaviours and attitudes so that the machine runs smoothly. For example, when corporations and governments shed jobs by the millions in the early 1990s, we tweaked attitudes with the idea that individuals really work for themselves even when they have a traditional employer [1]. When the economic crash of 2008 cracked the engine block, many career professionals helped clients reconstruct their lives with a narrative or life-design approach that increased their capacity as active, holistic, self-organizing, masters-of-meaning to make trade-offs between career activities and personal preferences, such as work-life balance [2].

These tools reveal a cultural assumption that self-reliance and personal independence is the best way to manage a career when job security is threatened by economic upheaval. In short, career services are about helping “me” better manage “my life” within a cultural consensus organized around a simple formula: good school, good grades, good job, good life. When career professionals sit across from a client, the central question we ask ourselves is: how can I help this individual access and utilize this formula?

But, there is nothing “natural” about a social order based on this consensus; it’s the consequence of certain social, political and economic choices in a job market always expanding and providing new opportunities through competition and individual effort. For some, the formula still applies and career professionals will continue to help them determine how to best work within these boundaries…but for others, perhaps a majority, the employment machine is beyond repair.

The nature of careers is changing in our society because work as a form of social cohesion is unravelling. The UK government claims that half of university graduates there are unable to find anything other than what would be described as “non-graduate work.” It is estimated that the same situation exists for at least one-third of recent grads in Canada. Robots and intelligent machines threaten to replace workers in industries from finance to retail to transport, with estimates that 47% of jobs in Canada are vulnerable to some level of automation. The number of good-paying jobs with benefits are shrinking and situated for the most part within the public sector. There is a growing divide between a salariat and a precariat [3].

In the past, dire predictions about the end of work did not happen but many experts say that technological change today is occurring at a faster pace on a wider scale with negative implications for how work is currently organized.


Do career development professionals need a different toolkit? 

Society appears to be at a crossroads in terms of how to structure the supply and demand of work, allocate resources and distribute benefits. If a new employment machine is being built, career professionals might spend less time on equipping individuals for “Me Inc” and more time facilitating collective solutions for finding and creating work. For example, instead of teaching clients how to build a LinkedIn profile, should we be showing clients how to band together, develop creative enterprises and seek funding through Kickstarter? Or, educating them not on the job market but on how to engage with others in the sharing economy by teaching how apps can create new income streams? Or, coaching them on how to become activists, how to organize and advocate with others for a Guaranteed Basic Income as the best way to secure their future? Depending on the political and economic choices we make as a society in the next few decades, our focus as career professionals could shift to helping most clients adjust to a new work ethic that is based less on individualism and self-interest and more on interconnectedness and the common good.

Some thought leaders are calling for a structural shift that will measure the success of our economy not by gross domestic product (GDP) but by quality of life for citizens [4]. If steady jobs and professions become the privilege of a few, we need to collectively rethink work in a way that takes care of people and the planet that we depend on, not just produce and consume goods and services (many of which currently contribute to GDP but actually undermine the well-being of both people and planet). A new work ethic might be organized around the social capital necessary to solve big problems ─ such as climate change, income inequality, water shortages, kleptocracy ─ through a collaborative commons involving volunteering, research, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Through Careering and Cannexus and other “community” forums, career development professionals tend to look with a “hive” mind (networked by social and informational togetherness) for integrated solutions when solving problems. Should we now intentionally and deliberately integrate “We Inc” concepts of collaboration and collectivism into career theories, methods and practices?

We have the unique pleasure and privilege of witnessing how work gives not only meaning but also structure and stability to life. What influence will we have on designing and building an employment machine that works efficiently and effectively for citizens, government and private capital? The stakes are high for our future as individuals, professionals, and as a society.



George Dutch, MA, thinks and writes about the intersection between knowledge, work and power. He collates an online mag, UnDone, that tracks relevant trends & issues. He lives in Ottawa where he has been a career counsellor in private practice with for 25 years. 



[1] Bridges, W. (1994). JobShift: How To Prosper In A Workplace Without Jobs includes a chapter called ‘Run You & Co. As A Business.’ But it was actually management guru, Tom Peters, who wrote an article in 1997 that coined the phrase “CEO of Me, Inc.” and famously captured this ideology of individualism in the workplace.

[2] Savickas, M. L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalder, J., Duarte, M. E., Guichard, J., et al. (2009). Life designing: A paradigm for career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75(3), 239-250. Visit for more information about life-design and narrative approaches to careers.

[3] For these and other relevant statistics, visit Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work:

[4] Rutger Bregman (2016). Utopia for Realists: The case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-hour workweek; Jeremy Rifkin (2015). The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism; Nick Srnicek (2015). Postcapitalism and A World Without Work.



Discover Year: An Important GAP for Canada’s Youth

Experiential learning, nurturing of self-awareness and skill development should frame every student’s planning for a gap year

By Jay Gosselin

Since 1973, Harvard College (yes, THAT Harvard) has been offering admitted students the opportunity to take a year “off” prior to engaging in their post-secondary education. The admissions office is so committed to this pathway that they suggest a gap year directly in their offers of admission. The reason for this approach is simple ─ Harvard students who complete a meaningful gap year return to their studies motivated, are high-performing and see purpose in their academic endeavours. Furthermore, professors speak highly of their engagement and maturity, both within and outside the classroom.

Every year, between 80-110 students delay the start of their education at Harvard. Until recently, they were the only institution in North America to support this path so earnestly. In recent years, schools such as Princeton and Tufts have followed suit, having witnessed first-hand the benefits that a year off before starting university offered their students. Unfortunately, Canadian institutions, by and large, have not yet embraced this approach to admissions. That is not to say, however, that Canadian students are not choosing this path.

Gap culture in Ontario

According to Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey, 43% of Ontario students took more than four months off between their high school graduation and entrance into post-secondary studies. While these statistics seem to indicate that we have embraced the “gap” culture here in Ontario, I would argue that our perspective is one more of tolerance than embrace. Having met roughly 12,000 high school students across the province during my three years as a recruiter for a large Ontario university, it is abundantly clear to me that the general consensus among students is that direct entry into post-secondary represented a “successful” transition to post-high school life. The 43% of students who decided to take some time between high school and post-secondary don’t quite radiate the same enthusiasm and pride as did a student who accepted early admission to, say, Queen’s University or the University of Toronto.

Understated successes

Ironically, I meet successful professionals every week who beam with pride and accomplishment when they tell me about their gap year experiences. In fact, many identify their year of self-discovery as a defining period in their life – a time when they learned what was important to them and built the character required to pursue those values. While there is still very little scientific research assessing the actual academic and career outcomes for students who choose this track, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive. These former “gappers” echo the sentiment of Harvard’s students, professors and admissions officers: their year away enabled them to build motivation, maturity and self-awareness, and, perhaps most importantly, it helped them connect concretely with their purpose for attending university or college. They returned to their studies curious, determined and empowered to understand how academic principles could be applied in “real life.”

Creating meaning

Understanding that an intentional gap year can have significant positive impacts on a young person’s future studies, it is important to offer guidance as to how a student can go about creating meaningful experiences for themselves during this year of exploration. In this sense, meaning relates to the value of activities undertaken in helping the individual build intrinsic motivation, crucial skills and an optimistic mindset towards their future and the world around them.

Adaptability and identity

In today’s global economy, adaptability and “sense of identity” are often highlighted as crucial meta-competencies for successful career transitions. This age of rapid technological advancement necessitates ongoing adaptation to the constantly changing demands of the labour market. Adaptability requires confidence, critical thinking, creativity and resilience. It also requires a deep self-understanding of individual talents, preferences and values. Building these two meta-competencies should be at the core of any student’s plan for a meaningful gap year. At Discover Year, the development of these skills is woven into the fabric of our culture.

The three pillars of a meaningful gap year

Our innovative program was built around the three foundational values of our company, MentorU:  Action, Openness and Authenticity. We believe that the pursuit of these principles is important not only during a gap year, but throughout every stage of life. Our students integrate these values into their year through three pillars of growth: Experiential Learning, Self-Awareness and Skill Development.

Experiential learning

Practical experience enables learners to apply theoretical knowledge to their lives. Our students gain this experience in three important realms: paid work, volunteerism and travel. The merits of each of these outlets are well documented, but very few students are able to engage in all three in a purposeful manner prior to their foray into full-time employment. By supporting them in their navigation of the job market, offering travel resources and advice and re-framing the concept of charitable work, we empower our students to integrate all three of these important endeavours into a comprehensive learning experience.


According to the Youth in Transition Survey, only 17% of students still identify the same career objective or track at age 25 as they did when they were 17. This seems logical – adolescents simply haven’t been exposed to enough experiences to truly understand their likes and dislikes, or how their natural abilities and values relate to different occupational fields. Therefore, we offer our students monthly individual coaching sessions with a career coach, as well as access to over 100 incredible mentors from a plethora of fields and occupations. These interactions help shape both the students’ understanding of their own interests and their awareness of what different fields offer and, how to integrate them.

Skill development

There have been hundreds of articles published in the popular media related to the “skills gap” we are experiencing here in Canada. Much of this literature relates to the so-called “soft” skills needed to perform at a high level in today’s economy. Communication, teamwork, creativity and critical thinking are among the skills that employers identify as increasingly important but claim are sorely lacking in recent graduates. Our weekly Discovery Days – held each Wednesday over the course of the year revolve around these core competencies. These days include targeted workshops, career mentorship and group discussion.

Dedicated, successful professionals from our volunteer committee of over 100 mentors and educators help our students identify, contextualize and practice these skills. In our targeted workshops, subject matter experts help our students understand and practice crucial skills for their careers and lives. We cover topics such as active listening, professional writing, public speaking, receiving feedback, time management, entrepreneurship and many others. During the mentorship-oriented career panels, two to three different mentors share their journeys with us every week – their career path, failures and lessons learned as well as the skills that are most important in their line of work. They also explain the tasks and responsibilities of their current career, so that our students better understand the nature of various careers and industries. The facilitated group discussions cover a wide expanse of topics, and their intention is to help our students further develop their confidence, curiosity, communication and critical thinking skills.

While a Discover Year is not the solution for every young person, many students stand to benefit from a meaningful year away from school before the completion of post-secondary studies. I believe that experiential learning, nurturing of self-awareness and skill development should frame every student’s planning for a gap year. The pursuit of these principles necessitates action, openness and identification of the student’s authentic self. A Discover Year is not a guaranteed one-year journey to success, but this one year IS the start of a lifelong journey to significance. Let’s walk together.

See for more information.



Statistics Canada, Youth in Transition Survey (YITS). 2011.



Jay Gosselin is the founder of MentorU and the Discover Year program. He believes that significant lives are built through character and community development, and he has shared his message with over 13,000 students and professionals to date. Jay helps individuals and teams build effective communication and leadership skills through humanistic counselling and positive psychology interventions.


Pursuing the Canadian Dream

How US immigration changes could drive international students North

By Chantal Moore


Earlier this year, American President Donald Trump signed a revised travel ban blocking the issuance of visas to people from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, and suspending the refugee program. This ban could impact roughly 15,000 of the 1,000,000 international students in the US. [1]

Given the normal application-admission-registration cycle, it is premature to gauge the impact the Trump administration will have on international student numbers in Canada, but post-secondary institutions are reporting large increases in applications and web hits. According to The Globe and Mail, the University of Toronto had an 80% increase in US applicants this year; mid-to-small size institutions are reporting similar increases. [2]

Populist sentiments being expressed from high levels towards specific ethnic and immigrant populations may be enough to drive some international students North to Canada.

Complicating this, proposed H1-B Visa reforms could limit work visas for foreign workers and graduates. Legislation, actions and rhetoric that reinforces “America first” and “Us vs. Them” will be detrimental to attracting international students into the US.

Canada has been open and welcoming in reaction to US immigration changes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a welcome message to those escaping terror and persecution and Universities Canada issued a statement warning against the effects of a travel ban on International Education.


The appeal of a Canadian degree

Political factors aside, a Canadian degree is economical. The relative value of the Canadian dollar has made a Canadian education more affordable for many. For example, first-year international student tuition at University of British Columbia is roughly $34,000 CAD, the same as an American student might spend on domestic out-of-state tuition.

Canadian post-secondary institutions are known globally for high standards of quality and perform well in world rankings, with the University of Toronto, McGill and the University of British Columbia landing in the top 50 of the World University Rankings results.

Then there is the draw of safety and liveability. Canadian cities are known for their peaceful nature. Vancouver has been ranked the #3 most liveable city in the world by The Economist magazine due to factors such as health care and education.


Removing barriers to residency and employment

In a competitive market for international students, the world’s top education destinations must put more on the table than just attractive schools. Students are asking: “Will I fit in here?” “What are my long-term career prospects?” and “Can I become a permanent resident?”


As one American graduate who studied in Canada writes:

“When I was looking for graduate school, Canada seemed like a great option for many reasons. I liked the idea of being an international student given my research was looking at international student experience, I liked that there was an option to stay and work after graduation on a post-graduation work permit, and I will admit, the lower tuition (due to the exchange rate and my program choice) was a draw as well. Plus, I could take out US government loans to attend if I needed.

I am now going on my 8th year here and still loving BC. I have been working since the second year of my graduate program and received my permanent residency just over a year ago. For me, my decision to move here for further education was a win-win. I could receive a world recognized degree, gain international work experience, not go in to copious amounts of debt, meanwhile, knowing that my experiences and education here would easily translate back to the US should I decide to return”.

Canada offers exciting career opportunities. Vancouver, for example, is known as “Hollywood North” for its thriving film and entertainment sector. According to the Seattle Times, employment of highly skilled tech workers in Vancouver has grown 27% over the past decade. Many US tech companies have set up shop in Canada due to more flexible policies on foreign workers. Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook now have outposts in Vancouver and more are expected to come. [3]

Canada has recognized the need to do more for its international students and is opening doors to recruit the best and the brightest. With a dwindling workforce and rising skills gap, attracting strong students who can contribute to Canada’s workforce is important. At the institution level, more universities and colleges are recognizing the need to help international students transition into the local job market. At the community level, organizations such as the Immigration Services Society of BC are supporting newcomers.

Canada offers full-time international students at designated learning institutions the chance to work up to 20 hours per week, easing their entry into work. Post-secondary advisors might also encourage international students to enrol in cooperative education (co-op) placements that introduce them to the BC workforce. The Province recently invested $1.3 million in co-op and has been promoting its benefits to students and employers. [4]

Finally, recent changes for Canada’s Express Entry immigration process have made it easier for international degree holders to become permanent residents. In 2016, the Express Entry program was updated to award more points for international students who complete degrees in Canada. Canada also lifted the Visa requirements for travellers from Mexico. Post-secondary advisors are staying up-to-date on Visa changes and how this may affect students.

While there is no guarantee that a Canadian education is a golden ticket to citizenship and a lucrative career, there is reason to be optimistic. Political, economical and social factors are combining to create the ripest conditions for Canada as an education destination.




Chantal Moore is the Manager, Communications at the British Columbia Council for International Education. She is a believer in the value of intercultural experiences, having lived abroad and travelled to over 25 countries. She has post-secondary degrees from Queen’s University and Acadia University and now lives in Vancouver, BC.



[1] (13/03/2017). A pause in international students. URL:

[2] (23/01/2017). Canadian universities see rise in US applicants. URL:

[3] (21/03/2017). Trump’s immigration policies give Vancouver’s tech sector an extra bump. URL:

[4] (7/04/2017). Students and employers both benefit from co-op education opportunities. URL:


Why Non-Linear is the Only Career Path Forward

The new and true reality of the millennial generation

By Matthew Thomas

Imagine, you’re 22-years-old.

You’re native to the world of constant information, social media, fake news and precarious work. You’re staring down 1,000 job postings in a sea of what feels like none at all. The famed linear career ladders of your parents and grandparents just don’t appeal. But they still want you to find one.

You have an average student loan debt of $25,000 [1].

Getting a “foot in the door” will likely require you to work for free, like more than 300,000 unpaid Canadian interns [2].

You’re living with your parents, just like 40 per cent of adults between 20-29, compared to just 27 per cent 30 years ago [3].

The eye-rolling response of the world?

“You’re part of the most entitled generation in history.”
There’s a certain comfort in labelling generations

It helps mark eras. It creates camaraderie. It also helps distinguish ourselves from our parents and our children.

Millennials will cultivate their careers in a world that is more culturally, politically and economically complex and unstable than at any other time in decades.

No motivated, university-educated person wants to live with mom and dad at 27-years-old. No one. Not 30 years ago. Not now. These aren’t choices.

Unprecedented student debt. Working for free. Living at home. An unstable economy and the certainty of job churn. This is the millennial reality.

The generation is also, officially, the most anxious, stressed and depression-addled generation…ever [4].
Unheard-of uncertainty

It’s well known that for the first time in modern history, we have three generations sharing the workplace – the boomers, Generation X, and the millennial boomer offspring. For these millennials, competition for jobs is fierce, while expectations for employment security, benefits, retirement and pension plans have been dramatically lowered – almost to the point of being accepted as the status quo.

And though all of us are feeling a bit out of sorts these days, it’s the millennials that will be tasked with finding a way out of the economic, environmental, political and overall global mess we’ve found ourselves in. It’s the millennials that will be paying for our healthcare, stewarding our environment, and supporting our quality of life as we age.

But only if they are working and fulfilled.

That’s why it’s so urgent to help this generation get their careers back on track.


Career paths just aren’t the same anymore

But the career paths and advice that worked for prior generations just doesn’t work for today’s young workers.

Millennials aren’t interested in locking into a job or even an industry for a generation. Compared to 20 years ago, today’s recent graduates jump from company to company at nearly twice the rate during their first five years of working [5].

Moreover, the next 20 years will see unprecedented levels of automation. This new reality won’t just affect low-skilled or precarious workers. A detailed analysis by McKinsey & Company of 2,000-plus work activities for more than 800 occupations found that automation and artificial intelligence will transform knowledge-intensive career paths too, such as medicine, law and finance [6]. Currently demonstrated technologies are already capable of automating medical image analysis [7], basic legal research [8], and financial reporting [9].


Preparing for non-linear careers

Gone are the days of linear career paths.

Instead, having a multi-pronged approach to career building is an absolute necessity today: where you build the resiliency to switch careers when you’re forced to, and the confidence to switch when you want to.

It’s time to leverage job churn instead of being victimized by it.

After interviewing over 200 professionals who successfully switched careers across sectors, disciplines, and functions, I discovered a set of habits that millennials will need to succeed in a non-linear career [10]. They include:

● Transferable Skills. Build a skillset that can be used across many careers, like problem solving, relationship building, project management, etc.

● Intellectual Thead. Have a core issue at the centre your career, and spend time understanding it from a variety of differing perspectives.

● Contextual Intelligence. Learn to notice and adapt to different working cultures, goals and jargon quickly. That’s critical to fitting in.

● Balanced Motivations. Understand your career motivations (e.g., doing good, making money, improving self), and make moves that satisfy them.

● Integrated Network. Build a network that cuts across many industries and sectors. A diverse network will help you switch careers later in life.

● Prepared Mind. Take on new challenges when they are presented, not just when you feel ready. There may never be a perfect time for a career move.

We need to change the nature of career education to prepare young people for the new, non-linear career paths ahead of them, and embrace modern-day technology tools to reach more students, and change more lives.

Let’s work together to turn this new reality into a strategic advantage.



Matthew Thomas is the Co-Founder and CEO of Paddle, a career discovery platform for millennials. His research on non-linear careers was published by Harvard Business Review and Oxford University Press, and influenced White House staffing during President Obama’s second term. Matthew previously worked across the public, private and non-profit sectors with McKinsey & Co., Department of Finance Canada, Morgan Stanley, and The Intersector Project.










[8] and


[10] Thomas, M., & Lovegrove, N. The Gifts of Breadth. Re-imagining Capitalism. Oxford University Press (2016).


Work Ethic in the Age of Career Uncertainty

Workplace values and ethics as a defense against the ever-evolving labour market landscape

By Kah Hock (Danny) Koh


When we discuss career pathways and labour market trends, is it appropriate for us to sum up the discussion using the phrase “change is the only constant”? Current realities seem to indicate that technology, healthcare careers and “green jobs” are the thriving industries where jobs are aplenty. Where are we getting all this labour market information from? Information on local, regional and national labour market conditions come to us via a variety of sources which include government; media; industry leaders; recruitment agencies; educators and career counsellors (not to mention the friendly advice from family and loved ones!).

How are we making sense of all this information in an era of increasing uncertainty and risk? Bland & Roberts-Pittman (2014) proposed a closer look at “existential theory” and the “chaos theory” of career decision-making to help both career counsellors and clients navigate career decision-making in the current era of uncertainty. While both theories will benefit from more practice-based research, they both seem to tell us one thing: an individual’s career identity is a fluid, ongoing process of self-discovery and engagement with surrounding environments.

In the age of information overload, how we interpret and make use of all career-related information is crucial. It is not surprising that many of us can get overwhelmed and confused, developing short-term views on careers which focus on “what is trending,” what new skills to acquire and where we can get them so we can land those elusive “good middle-class jobs.” The long-term view of career however – the real key to building a lasting, meaningful career – involves a great deal of introspection so we can bring unique value to any employer no matter which workplace we find ourselves in.

During my outreach to various local employers as part of job development efforts, I have heard from many who lament that workers want “work” but do not want “to work.” Some employers even directly ask me if I have “recent immigrants who are not locally born.” These employers stress that the work ethic of new hires leaves much to be desired. “Lack of punctuality” and “not calling in sick” are frequently mentioned examples.


Wanted: Work ethic

Recently, the Financial Post reported that a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in September 2016 revealed that 75% of small business owners were not impressed with the work ethic of new employees. Years before, renowned writer, speaker and entrepreneur Bill Taylor wrote an article for Harvard Business Review in which he expounded on why it makes strategic sense for organizations to hire first for attitude, then skill. These readings, employer feedback and further reflection has led me to realize that there is a key factor that distinguishes those who can find work, retain work and build a career from others who cannot. That factor is work ethic.

Individuals lacking work ethic will have a hard time finding meaning in their work. As jobseekers, they will have difficulty landing jobs and will probably find more than a few people to blame in the job hunt process. When they do find jobs, they will never add real value to the employer and, as a result, the employment relationship will be inevitably doomed. Whether or not a person shows up “for work” obviously matters – however, whether they show up “to work” is far more significant.

Work ethic does not translate into X number of hours you work for any employer but rather work ethic encompasses a combination of underlying values. These core values include: Accountability for One’s Own Actions; Integrity; Commitment to Organizational Objectives, Personal Leadership and Respect for Others. Being able to consistently embody these values with any employer gives one a strong work ethic which can withstand the shifting winds of labour market conditions. A strong work ethic is fundamental to nurturing an individual to be a contributing team member in any situation. It draws focus from “Me” to “Us” and allows the employee to focus on the larger picture of contributing to the organizational goals. A strong work ethic also facilitates an understanding that we are connected to one another through the work we do. We are more than self-serving individuals working for compensation benefits and prestige.


Providing real value to the employer

As staff at any organization, we are obligated to fulfill our responsibility to help our employers solve problems. For those in management, there is an added social and moral responsibility to make organizational decisions that can benefit society. In my opinion, work ethic is work ethic. We must not differentiate work ethic into “immigrant work ethic” because that risks stereotyping of immigrants and the perpetuation of precarious workplace situations if we only associate recent immigrants with work ethic. A strong work ethic must be nurtured at a young age. The role of caregivers, family members, educators, mentors and even peers during childhood is crucial. Later on, guidance counsellors, career counsellors and industry mentors can serve as facilitators but it is in the early years that the foundation for work ethic is established. There needs to be congruence between “work in theory” and “work in practice” and all stakeholders have a role to play. Potential strategies include:

• Parents and caregivers can nurture work ethic at a young age;
• Educators can nurture work ethic in school-age children through accountability and self-directed learning that is formally assessed at regular intervals;
• Mature staff at the workplace can impart a lessons on “maturity” and work ethic to new staff;
• Aside from formal supervision, employers can be mentors and allies in helping employees who are new or underachieving;
• Skills refresher sessions can be offered by employers to ensure all team members are adequately competent to carry out their responsibilities so the whole unit can function seamlessly;
• Individuals can take personal leadership in identifying continuous learning opportunities

We must not be so caught up in the hype of chasing new career opportunities or finding ways to acquire “in-demand” positions in the current economy. These are naturally important but we cannot lose sight of what is fundamental: the boundless promise of a strong work ethic. If as career practitioners we do our part and become active mentors, we can be optimistic that we are giving our future generation of workers the best defense against the ever-evolving labour market landscape.



Kah Hock (Danny) Koh first arrived in Canada as an international student from Singapore. He had worked with clients as an Employment Specialist at The Career Foundation in Toronto and currently holds a role as Job Developer at Wesley Urban Ministries in Hamilton, ON focusing on young adult jobseekers. Koh is a Certified Career & Résumé Strategist through Career Professional of Canada.



Bland, A. M., & Roberts-Pittman, B. J. (2014). Existential and Chaos Theory: “Calling” for Adaptability and Responsibility in Career Decision Making. Journal of Career Development, 41 (5), 382-401.

Taylor, B. (2011, February 1). Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Toneguzzi, M. (2015, September 3). ‘A worrisome trend’ for Canada’s workforce as work ethic, quality of new hires deteriorate. Financial Post. Retrieved from


The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption

By Farai Chideya
Atria Books, 2016

Book Review by Alyson Nyiri


No one gets a free ride in life or work writes Chideya. Whether you call it resilience, grit or optimism, in the world of jobs we must learn to evolve into a different form, tapping into what we have done, finding a new focus, and leveraging aspects of ourselves previously dormant.

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 took the guts out of many of us. Employers too. Jobs were lost, benefits cut to the bone, as employers started to realize the savings and benefits of moving employees to contract status. In 2017, it seems little has changed. Many employers still favour contract work and lean benefit packages leaving workers with much less security. For some, this new “gig” economy has created new opportunities while for others, it has not.

Despite the temptation to favour candidates with steady employment histories, Chideya argues that candidates with episodic careers, including breaks, transitions and repositions are becoming the norm, often bringing with them a greater variety of skills. Writing reflectively on the devastating effects of unemployment, Chideya looks for solutions. Central to her book is the focus on integrating our work within the larger framework of our lives.

A successful episodic career, writes Chideya, stands on three pillars:

  • Self-knowledge. Start with your heart, and you will find which kinds of workplaces and workstyles give you the best shot at success.
  • Understanding the job market. Know your field(s) and how the market is locally, nationally, and globally – as well as how it’s evolving.
  • Emotional resilience. No one, not even billionaires, has lived a life without setbacks. And no one, not even the long-term unemployed or people with life, family, or health challenges, is shut out of meaningful life.


Mastering and integrating these three pillars allows us to “work freely” to be aware of our belief systems and what we want from life.

Based on results from a large national survey that her company conducted, she developed the Work/Life Matrix to help individuals formulate career goals, lifestyle and personality into one of 16 archetypes. The difference in this archetypical matrix is that each archetype gauges how flexible individuals are to ups and downs of the labour market rather than to personality preferences. The promise of the Work/Life Matrix is to help individuals set their trajectory in the era of episodic careers and understand the power of intention we bring to our work.

The Matrix centres around four core questions designed to help move past uncertainty and stress. The first question asks whether you build your career with care and caution (C) or take significant risks (R). The second question asks whether you want to have a high impact (H) with your work or a sense of accomplishment (P). The third question asks if you are happiest as an innovator (I) or an executor (E). The final question asks whether you are mainly a solo decision-maker (S) or a team-oriented decision-maker (T).

Using four letters, not unlike MBTI, the Life/Work Matrix has 16 archetypes.

2017-06-02_1413The CH types are cautious careerists who do high-social-impact work. RH types combine risk taking and high social impact, creating change with high autonomy but within existing systems. CP types are cautious careerists who don’t see their work as having inherently high social impact, but who make social impact through volunteering or other methods. RP types are higher risk-taking individuals who choose passive social impact work.

While the Matrix isn’t grounded in a specific career development theory nor is it a psychometric instrument by definition, it does provide another way for both counsellors and clients to view their work style and preferences. Chideya provides details about each of the 16 “types” and brings each to life through the descriptions of individual work/life stories.

In succeeding chapters, Chideya provides tips and suggestions on how to find work in this new landscape, including helpful advice on tackling the impact of race, gender and religion on job search. One of the points she makes that has significant impact is “knowing your own value, not just monetarily, but also emotionally, spiritually, or in terms of self-worth, is key to surviving hostile or indifferent workplaces.”

Resilience, simply stated, is the ability to bounce back after adversity. Dr Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist, is best known for his work on flow, the psychology of optimal experience. His work examined the critical aspects of what is needed in work and play for us to fully engage. Flow occurs when our skill level is matched in incremental and increasing order, with challenge. The more time we spend in flow, the more time we learn how to have good experiences. Bad experiences are opportunities for growth. In collaboration with Dr Martin Seligman, positive psychology blossomed. Our capacity for resilience is a key feature of positive psychology and helped to build optimism. Their work is the foundation of much of the recent writing on resilience.

Chideya’s chapter on resilience is no exception. She writes that recovering from layoffs, termination, and other career disasters requires resilience. No one gets a free ride in life or work, writes Chideya. The survivors and thrivers in the current marketplace will be those who can recover from setbacks big and small; learn from their mistakes; and not become bitter when they lose a job through no fault of their own. Resilience will enable a client to build allies critical to their job search, improvise when things get tough, and build a narrative that positively reflects their episodic career.

The Episodic Career is a good read, filled with sharp-eyed analysis and tender and tragic stories of individuals reflecting on their work lives. Chideya offers career practitioners an easy to use matrix to assist clients with their ongoing efforts of building a personal and work life.



Alyson Nyiri, BA, CDP, CHRL, is a freelance writer and researcher specializing in the areas of women’s career development, human resources, leadership and community economic development. She spent over 12 years as a career counsellor followed by the last 12 years in human resources and community economic development. She is a regular contributor to HRPA’s HR Professional magazine where she has reviewed hundreds of books in the past six years. You can reach her at or through her blog.


Women in the Workforce and Maternity Leaves

When flexible work opportunities help redefine careers

By Jennifer Hargreaves


I love to work. It is a fundamental part of my personality. To be challenged, to learn and to grow. One of the harder choices I have been faced with was the decision to give up that piece of my personality and stay home to raise my young children or to give up that time with them to pursue my own goals. I did not want to compromise on either and I did not want to choose one over the other.

I hold a very strong view that given the right work environment women can successfully pursue both career and life ambitions, however they define that. I have now made it my mission to find those organizations and connect women to those opportunities so that I can ease that burden of choice and allow them to thrive.

My new career is in human resources and diversity. I started in business development and international market entry strategy for the ingredient and health sector. This is my journey and one that is all too familiar for many women leaving the traditional workforce.


From flying high to struggling to stand: The journey to my own business

From my first role out of university I have been exposed to senior-level and director-level in a male dominated sector. In the 10 years of experience I had in working to help companies expand their business offshore I never once felt undervalued or unheard. I was based in New Zealand and then New York helping companies develop new markets.

That changed when I moved to the United Kingdom. If I knew then, what I knew now…

What I didn’t know was that bias and discrimination still exists in the workforce. For me it began subtly ─ not having access to senior-level male contacts and being dismissed on an area of expertise. Quite frankly I thought it was their loss. I had a wealth of knowledge and access to very senior-level contacts that they could have benefited from. It bothered me less than it should have. I hoped they would come around as I proved myself.

Unfortunately I didn’t get that chance. After joking twice that this role wouldn’t suit someone looking to have a baby, I was made redundant at four months pregnant. This was a really hard pill to swallow. It was easier for me to believe that I had failed and that it was my fault than to believe that I was discriminated against.

That experience, combined with the desire to pursue career growth and parenting ambitions led me to launch tellent. I wanted to connect women to great places to work. Places where they could do both free from bias and discrimination.


From sitting on the sidelines to playing the game

Embarking on a new career path is daunting. Especially when you are effectively starting from scratch with no experience, expertise or subject knowledge. Regardless of the reason(s) for switching careers, breaking the inertia and taking that first step is tough.

Step one for me was to explore my options and to connect with people.

I reached out to my contacts and network to meet with people currently working in the industry. The more conversations I had, and coffee I drank, the more complete the picture became. I began to understand what I would need to further pursue this path and what I was getting into (the good and the bad).

Step two was to learn, and it was a steep learning curve! I started on my own and then took some classes for start-ups. It took me six months of research and courses to take the leap and invest my first dollar in the company.

It just got real. This was by far the hardest step for me. Mentally committing to the change and putting myself out there was really hard. Plagued by self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy the best piece of advice I was given was to “fake it ‘til you make it.” The more I got out there, the more positive the response was to what I was doing, which gave me the confidence I needed.

Be prepared to pivot. Where I am now, is not where I thought I would be when I started this journey. The one thing I have learned is that the only constant you can rely on is change. You have to learn to adapt and change as successes come through, or they don’t.

Surround yourself with a support system. Whether you are starting your own business or working in a new field. Friends and family made great cheerleaders but I also joined an entrepreneur start-up group, founded an experienced board of advisors and tapped into and partnered with people in the industry who were the experts.

Success is how you define it. I am working towards building a business that I am passionate about while I am raising my young children. I may not be pulling in millions yet but this is my version of success.


What is good for women as individuals is good for business and society

The desire to have access to flexible work is not a new phenomenon. What is relatively new is industry and government’s recognition of the benefits that diversity, specifically gender diversity, at senior levels can bring. From increased innovation and collaboration to better financial results. To remain competitive on a global scale it is becoming imperative that we tap into and retain female talent.

Women now represent nearly half of the paid workforce in Canada (47.2%) according to Statistics Canada. This has directly translated into an increase in dual income families and more significantly, an increase by 133% of women working with children under since 1976.

And yet in 2015, women only held 35.5% of all management positions and 33.3% of all senior management positions.

So we are employed in the workforce at virtually equal numbers but not in management and senior management levels.

Flexible work is only one piece of a complicated solution for attracting and retaining female talent and bolstering our leadership pipelines. But it is a critical one.

Inclusion is another. Fostering a workplace culture where employees can bring their whole, and authentic, self to work without fear of bias and discrimination is a challenge but is essential to keeping women once they have returned from maternity leave.

So I am unicorn hunting because one thing is for sure, ambition does not wear off with the epidural. Women may be leaving the traditional workforce but they are starting their own businesses and changing careers in droves. They are creating their own flexible schedules and traditional organizations are losing out.

As a friend of mine from WORKshift Canada said, “In a knowledge economy with technology that constantly makes connecting and collaborating easier, fighting to define an arbitrary line between work-life and personal-life is a fool’s game.” One that many companies are still playing.

And while companies are changing, some more quickly than others, we are still struggling with challenges in gender pay equity and economic empowerment. I am hopeful that with initiatives founded under Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government and organizations such at tellent, we can make change happen faster!


Defining your own version of success

Switching careers has been the best thing I have done. I talk with my members about defining their own version of success. This is mine. I am being challenged in starting my own business, I have the time with my young children which I will never get back and I am helping other women achieve their own version of success.

It is scary at times and there is no shortage of the imposter syndrome ─ but it is a wild ride and to me, that is what life is all about.



Jennifer Hargreaves is the founder of tellent, an online community committed to helping women pursue career and life ambitions through access to flexible work. Hargreaves was an accomplished international business growth specialist for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the health food, ingredient and dietary supplement sector. Her experience spans New Zealand, the US, United Kingdom and Canada. Based in Toronto, she is now a mother of two young children and starting up a new venture aimed at helping professional women find flexible careers.