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Careers Café

Exploring what others with your degree have done


Last month, I wrote about some ways to find out about less well-known job titles on social media. For those who are hesitant to use LinkedIn and Twitter, there are other options.

Your degree doesn’t dictate your career. But seeing that others with your degree are, indeed, gainfully employed in a range of jobs can give you a quick dose of hope. Your alumni office may maintain a directory that only other alumni can access – so if you’ve done multiple degrees, check the resources at each university you’ve attended. (Keep in mind, though, directories and alumni profiles don’t represent the full range of what you can do – and your degree is one factor in your career decision making and your candidacy.)

I don’t particularly love the idea of shopping through lists of careers related to degrees, though. They seldom offer much insight into what the work is really like, what related roles are out there, or how your transferrable skills come into play. You can start to dig deeper into those areas through mentoring events, should your university offer them. For example, that same alumni office that might have a directory probably also hosts live or online mentoring programming.

There are databases that can help you search for careers related to degrees, including the much maligned Career Cruising (your experience of it in high school isn’t necessarily indicative of what you can do with it now!), provincial databases like ALIS, and national ones like the Canadian Job Bank or the American O*Net (and its slightly less obvious skill search option). These tools aren’t a bad idea if you’ve just completed an assessment and are wondering how to broaden the list of careers it has suggested.

Finally, chances are good that you already know people whose jobs are interesting, or just plain mysterious. Go ahead and list everyone you know who lives in a country you want to work in, who’s not doing what you’re doing, and whose job doesn’t outright bore you. Include family. Call them up and say, “We’ve known one another for X years, but I don’t really know what a typical work day looks like for you.” Find out what they do. If it sounds interesting, keep asking questions, including “Who else should I talk with?” If not, a quick, “Thank you. I feel less ignorant now,” will suffice.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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