“My dad told me I could be an accountant, a doctor, or a lawyer. I was good with numbers so I decided to study accounting. I find my courses dry and boring. Do I push through or risk disappointing my parents?” – Pat*, 22

“I’m taking a mix of courses at college to decide what I should major in. Nothing is really speaking to me and I feel like I’m wasting my time. I have to declare a major soon but I don’t know what to pick!” – Xavier*, 19

Planning your post-secondary education can be stressful and overwhelming for students; there is definitely pressure to “get it right” when it comes to choosing a program that will ultimately lead to a satisfying career. Furthermore, university is a costly investment, which only adds to this pressure.

Many of our clients at Canada Career Counselling are facing a mid-career transition because they chose their post-secondary program based on limited information. Whether planning for university, college, or polytechnic schooling, these clients will tell you to avoid the following “career planning pitfalls”:

#1. Don’t Rely on What Others are Saying

When we discuss our career exploration with family and friends, we sometimes receive responses that are uninformed and discouraging. For example, we might be told, “There are no jobs in that field” or “Isn’t that more of a hobby than something you could make money at?” Even misconceptions about salary, such as “people in that profession aren’t paid well,” can dissuade us from options that appeal to us. To overcome this, do your own research by talking to people in your top list of careers and gaining a thorough understanding of each career choice.

#2. Don’t Succumb to Expectations and Pressure from Others

Many individuals were told by their parents at a young age what to do for a career, and made choices they thought would please their parents. Others felt pressure to follow in the footsteps of their mother or father, or to take over the family business. These same clients come to us in their 30s or 40s after years of working in a career they are miserable in. It takes courage to shed others’ expectations of us and to make a decision that comes from our own passions, values, personality, talents, and interests — but it’s something you won’t regret doing.

#3. Don’t Base Your Decision on a Favourite Course

Loving a course in high school isn’t enough to base your decision of what to study at the post-secondary level on. Our enjoyment of a course can be dependent on many factors, including having a fun and engaging teacher that makes the subject area seem more interesting than it otherwise would be for us. Instead, base your decision on a pattern or theme across many courses you enjoy. For example, you may notice that you love courses that involve writing or critical thinking, or courses in math, science, or the creative arts. Career counselling can help identify these common themes and combine them with your unique personality and values to find an optimal career path.

Investing the time upfront to make an informed career decision is a small investment compared to the time and money spent on completing a program that isn’t the right fit for you. Avoiding these common pitfalls is an important step in choosing a post-secondary education path that will lead to a career you find satisfying.

Bryanne Manveiler
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Canada Career Counselling