Chapter 2: Career Goals

2.1 Identifying Goals

Goals Begin with Understanding Yourself

Ask most children what they want to be when they grow up and you may be surprised by the answers. They might say anything from the Prime Minister of Canada or a celebrity, to an animal or a super hero. Childhood dreams are fun but there does come a point when we all need to make some realistic career goals. Don’t give up on your dreams (unless you have new ones!). Instead, use them as clues that might point you toward your current goals. You may be a long way from the child who dreamed of being a fire fighter or you may still feel the same thrill that you did when you were a teenager teaching your younger siblings how to read. Chances are that the things that interested you then are still a part of who you are now. That is why it is essential to start your career planning with a clear understanding of who you are as a person and a worker.

Career and education planning is an exercise in self-reflection and self-assessment but remember you are your greatest investment. Think back on the self-reflection tools that we discussed in Reflective Practice in WIL.

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to aid in self-reflection and self-assessment when determining your career and education goals.

Start by asking yourself:

  • What am I interested in?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What values are important to me personally and in a workplace?
  • What motivates me? Am I intrinsically motivated or extrinsically?

Intrinsically motivated people find satisfaction in themselves and find enjoyment in simply engaging in the task or activity. It is personally rewarding to them, for example, an auto mechanic may simply love engines and finds satisfaction in making an old car run again. Whereas an extrinsically motivated person feels rewarded by external factors such as payment or praise. Neither of these is right nor wrong, but it is a good thing to understand about yourself when career planning.

  • What are my strengths? Am I good with technology? Am I detail oriented? Am I good at helping people? Am I a strong communicator?
  • What are my weaknesses? Do I have difficulty with numbers?

While strengths and weaknesses are a good place to start considering career options, for example, someone who doesn’t like working with numbers might not consider being an accountant. You should also remember that there are tools that help us overcome our weaknesses.

  • Do I like learning new things? Am I curious? Do I like routine and stability?
  • Which way do I prefer to work? Am I independent? Would I rather collaborate?
  • Do I want to travel for work or would I prefer to stay close to home?
  • Do I like to be creative? Or would you prefer to follow rules, conventions, and guidelines?
  • Do I want to work with my hands?
  • Do I want to work with animals? People? Children?
  • Do I want to work inside? Or am I happier if I can be outside?

Answering these questions may seem like a daunting task, but since you’re already in college, you’ve already made some choices about what you like and want to do. Work-integrated learning is a great step towards defining your career path. This experience allows you to try something on to see how well it fits. Every time you try something, you’re closer to your chosen career. Keep mental (or written) notes about why you loved that task or found it boring or difficult.

Discover Your Career Goals

In many ways, your career will start with an idea or a dream. It requires you to look inward at yourself and outward at the world around you. Look at your life with a curious and critical eye. When you think of work, a job, or a career, what thoughts come to mind? Go back to your self-evaluation and review your strengths and weaknesses, your encounters, your knowledge, your progress, your achievements, your failures, and everything in between. Think forward to what is available to you, what is realistic for you, and what will give you a sense of achievement. Consider different jobs that sound appealing. If you were to picture yourself in that position, you will quickly recognize and understand that you are subconsciously reflecting and conducting a subtle self-assessment. In order to identify your goals, you need to think critically about what values you have when it comes to the workplace.

Have you shaped your career path? Begun to tailor your courses towards it? Or are you waiting to have an epiphany on what you should work towards? Asking yourself the right questions can help you determine your present state; where your experiences and your situation can help you further determine your unique characteristics and traits. Knowing your state and your traits can provide you with a greater sense of structure and determine your processes. Due to the personal nature of this assessment, honesty will serve as a clear indicator of your desired directions and how realistic your goals are.

Here are some questions you can use to start trying to determine out potential career ideas:

  • Areas of Work. What am I interested in? What am I passionate about?
  • Workplace Culture. What values are important to me in a workplace? Do I prefer to work independently or as a team? What kind of recognition do I expect?
  • Work Tasks. Do I like to follow rules or be creative? How do I feel about working with the public? Do I want to help people?
  • Work Location. Do I want to work inside or outside? At a desk? On a computer? In a city or the country? Do I want to travel?
  • Qualifications. What kind of schooling or additional credentials do I have? What additional qualifications do I want to undertake?
  • Compensation. How much money do I want to make? What benefits do I value beyond a paycheque?

In addition to asking yourself questions, you can also take advantage of a number of useful tools. To help you in your quest for career goals, do some career research. There are some great resources that can help you find a career path:

  • Take a Career Quiz. Start with Career Quizzes and Tests through the Government of Canada Job Bank (2021a), where you will find career quizzes that will help you see what occupations you may be suited for.
  • Review Job Profiles. Also on the Job Bank website you can explore an occupation and search different occupations and find out more details about wages, prospects, skills needed, and more (Government of Canada, 2021b).
  • Use a Career Search. WorkBC offers a career search tool that will allow you to filter and compare job profiles using region, education, and occupation (WorkBC, 2021).
  • Evaluate Your Willingness to Work for Yourself. Some people find that the best career of them is to be an entrepreneur. Complete the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)’s Entrepreneurial Assessment to see if this might be a good fit for you (BDC, 2021).

Whether you are reflecting on questions or engaging in an online quiz, it is useful to record your response. Taking notes about what you find will help you as you turn your ideas into goals.

The work world today is fast-paced with multi-tasking, several distractions, and often a high need for instant gratification can lead to a struggle with poor mental health, lack of ability to constructively reflect on your learning, skills, and future directions. Your reflection can help you set goals and thus provide you with a roadmap for your future.

When you are reflecting on your career goals, remember to use the tools described in the reflective practice section and the Driscoll model of reflection in Chapter 1: Work Integreated Learning.  The secret of a successful self-assessment lies in a thorough self-reflection.

Case study: Mackenzie identifies possible careers

Mackenzie has to decide whether to graduate or continue their education in the next two weeks. They know that they want a career in mental health, but they still can’t imagine what specific jobs they might hold. They decide to search for jobs related to mental health. Mackenzie makes a list of mental health jobs and their qualifications. Then, they look at some recent job postings to help figure out some recent pay scales.

Table 1: Mental Health Jobs, Qualifications, and Pay Scales[1]
Job Title Qualifications Pay for Recent Job Ads
Case Manager Undergraduate degree $25-38 per hour
Crisis Counsellor Relevant college or undergraduate degree $22-32 per hour
Mental Health Promotion Worker Relevant college or undergraduate degree $25 per hour
Nurse (Registered Practical) College diploma (RPN) $28-40 per hour
Nurse (Registered) Undergraduate degree $35-$50 per hour
Occupational Therapist Undergraduate degree $35-45 per hour
Peer Support Worker Lived experience with mental illness $18-20 per hour
Personal Support Worker College diploma $20-22 per hour
Psychologist Doctoral degree

Registration with Psychological Association

$45-90 per hour
Psychiatrist Medical degree $250,000-$400,000 per year
Psychosocial Rehabilitation Worker Undergraduate degree

Certification with Psychosocial Rehabilitation Recovery Practitioner

$26-28 per hour
Social Worker Undergraduate or Masters degree

Registration with BC College of Social Workers

$35-50 per hour

Once they have made their list, Mackenzie tries to balance the money they would make versus the time they would invest in their schooling. They rule out any job that pays less than $20 per hour and anything that requires more than an undergraduate degree. They determine that with their Social Service Worker certificate, they would be best qualified to be a Personal Support Worker. Compared to the other jobs they researched, they don’t see the same ranges in pay for that job. They look at the remaining options and thinks about where they are at in their program. Their best options that build on their Social Service Worker Certificate if they pursue further education are Crisis Counsellor, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Worker, and Social Worker. They decide they would like to do the two-year Diploma program and will think some more about a university transfer. Mackenzie doesn’t have a specific goal yet, but they feel closer to their next step.

  1. Data from Ontario Community Mental Health (2018) and (2021).


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Getting Ready for Work-Integrated Learning Copyright © 2022 by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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