Research it. Know the market.

Employment - where the rubber meets the road

          It's not easy. Figuring out what to study, what training program to take to get a job -- or a better job -- can be risky. There is rarely a surefire, straight line from a course or program to your dream job.

          And yet you know the answer lies in better skills. Or some basic training.

          Don't despair. Here's what you do.

          Research the job market for the occupational area you're interested in and you can avoid costly mistakes and reduce the risk. Understand your risk.

  • Understand how people get those jobs you have your eye on -- what they have studied, what credentials and experience they have -- and how significant those factors are.
  • Understand the prospects for getting a job in that field. Are employers hiring? Is it a growth industry and an occupation featuring growth? Or is it one of those occupations on the chopping block?
  • Do you have the skills and personal traits to fit into the job? Know the job.

           Answering these questions for yourself, by doing the research, is a wise investment of your time. I'm suggesting that in some cases, this is an exercise which should take you several days or even weeks to map out your plan, not just a couple of hours of casual clicking around on the internet.

Can you trust the source?

          This cannot be stressed enough: when you come across, or are offered a nugget of information that makes the bells ring, verify the information with other sources. Career counsellors are human - they make mistakes and sometimes operate on superficial information gleaned from unknown sources (to you anyway, and for that matter, don't be afraid to ask where they got that nugget that so interests you). Many sources on the internet can be suspect -- information can be highly interpretive, meaning it needs to be verified, and you need to confirm the source and it's authorativeness. Can you trust the source?

          And take note: Not all sources have your best interests in mind.

          Yup. It's a nasty world out there and bad information can come from the most unlikely of sources, like educational institutions. There are any number of ways to get a bum steer here, but the bottom line is that you need keep in mind that sometimes people working in educational institutions are (from your perspective) merely trying to fill up a course or program. They need "bums in seats" as the saying goes. Your real needs aren't necessarily their concern. This happens across the system sometimes and you will run into people who have been given that bum steer. For more information, see Picking a course or program.

          Research, research, research. It's the best starting point when every other option has some doubt attached.

Toronto, Canada