Career development guide

The first year on the job is often challenging, but it is also your chance to integrate yourself and to make a name for yourself. Here are a few key strategies to ensure your first year on the job is a satisfying and productive one.

Each profession, organization or enterprise has its unique features: a specific organizational structure, a management style, policies and procedures, a language or jargon, as well as work tools that define its overall culture. To adapt yourself to it, you have to:

  • Be aware of the company’s policies and procedures and follow them. Have regard for the establishment and its management style.
  • Learn the language or jargon – especially when the work is technical or academic in nature – in order to communicate with colleagues efficiently and productively.
  • Focus on becoming comfortable and skillful with any new equipment or tools that you aren’t familiar with.

Contribute when you can, express your ideas and objections, but make sure you listen to your colleagues and superiors, who have plenty of valuable information and advice for you.

The best way to learn is through feedback. If you’re not getting any reactions or comments concerning your performance, ask your colleagues or supervisors for direct feedback.

If you volunteer for projects, you look eager, enthusiastic and competent.

Build good working relations with successful and trustworthy co-workers. Always be professional, avoid getting caught up in cliques and gossip that inevitably offend colleagues and cut you off from opportunities. Be sensitive to differences in personality, culture, and opinion at all times.

Build and maintain strong professional relationships. This is a true investment, as people can turn out to be a key reference for you in the future. Therefore, don’t underestimate the importance of making a good impression.

It may take up to a year before you feel comfortable in your new job. Take pride in small steps, keep your goals in mind and always try your best. In brief, have fun while learning.

Your physical and psychological well-being at work is a critical part of your career development. Discontent and prolonged stress at work quickly lead to health problems, which is why it is crucial that you do everything in your power to ensure your well-being in the workplace. Know that this is a shared responsibility between the employee and employer, who can support your efforts and provide special services as needed.

Achieving a proper balance between work and personal life can be difficult and varies from one person to another. It is therefore uniquely up to you to establish such a balance and to maintain it. Respect your priorities and values, review your life in all its aspects and avoid getting caught up in one of them.

When your time is too scarce to get everything done, you might feel like you’re overwhelmed and losing control. Organizing your time and your workload means managing work requests you’re your colleagues and superiors, and sharing or delegating work when it can be divided among team members. For optimal work efficiency, it is also important to stay motivated, to avoid procrastination and to focus on upcoming tasks.

Rather than working non-stop, your performance benefits from taking time for short breaks and lunch. Stopping to replenish your energy level ultimately allows you to be more productive. We therefore suggest that you personalize your workspace in order for it to be comfortable and pleasant, and that you maintain your social ties and relationships. But above all, make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthily and set aside time for exercise and leisure.

The ideal job is one in which you are motivated, inspired, respected and well paid. Nevertheless, there are times when you can feel dissatisfied and frustrated with your job, such as when the following elements occur:

  • Conflicts between co-workers or with your supervisor
  • Inadequate pay for the work you do
  • Lack of necessary equipment or resources to do your work well
  • Lack of advancement opportunities
  • Lack of control or involvement in decisions that affect you
  • Fear about job stability and possible downsizing or outsourcing

Here are some points to consider in the hope of overcoming work dissatisfaction.

People tend to approach work from three perspectives: as a job, as a career, or as a calling.

If your see your work as a job, your focus is primarily aimed on short term financial rewards. However, if you perceive your work as a career, your main concern is advancement as well as financial and personal gains that come with climbing the career ladder. Finally, if you fell your work is your calling, the work itself is important to you for the meaning and fulfillment it brings.

If your career aspirations change, you’re likely to want to make a shift, i.e., to find a different job or to change the way you perceive or perform in your current job.

If your job isn’t challenging, it often won’t be interesting or stimulating. To avoid this from happening, expand your job skills or take on a project beyond your normal duties that will provide a motivating goal. Another option is to mentor a co-worker. On top of adding the challenge and satisfaction of teaching to your job, you can develop your own skills.

If you find that you’re always making negative comments about your job, try putting things in perspective. Remember that obstacles are a good opportunity for you to prove your worth and that mistakes: failures and errors make you a more skillful and resourceful employee. Focus on the positive aspects of your job.

Despite your attempts to improve your job satisfaction, sometimes a job simply isn’t right for you. In that case, you might be ready for a different job or a new career.

If you’re considering whether or not the career you’ve chosen is the right one for you, you are facing a major life decision. Below is a ten-step process to help you assess the need for a career change, and if necessary, the how-to plan for it.

Text adapted from LiveCareer. The 10-Step Plan to Career Change.

  • Step 1: Assessing Likes and Dislikes

    Go back to the first section of this guide: Knowing Yourself. It’s time to rediscover your “self” and to reassess your skills, interests, values, and working experience.

  • Step 2: Researching New Careers

    Go back to the second section of this guide: Considering your Options. Do further research on careers that work best with your new passions and interests. If you’re considering a major change, be prepared to do a significant amount of research.

  • Step 3: Employability Skills

    Consider how your current skills and work experience would fit into your new career. You may be surprised at how much of your past work experience is the bridge to a new career, especially when you can rely on strong communication, planning, leadership and project management skills.

  • Step 4: Professional Training and Education

    Take one or two courses to confirm that this new field is truly what you’re interested in. Find out what qualifications, knowledge and personal qualities are required in this new field and which schools have the best program of studies in this discipline. Also seek information on placement or co-op opportunities tied to this field. If the skills you want could be useful in your current position, try to have your current employer pay for your training.

  • Step 5: Networking

    Call on people in your existing contact network. They can offer precious advice, job leads, and introduce you to new contacts that may prove quite helpful in your job search. Consider colleagues, friends, family members, alumni of your university or college, as well as professional organizations in your new field.

  • Step 6: Gaining Professional Experience

    Try a part-time job or a volunteer position to gain some experience and to get an idea of what it’s really like to work in the new field that interest you. Also consider doing temp work, if you have time, over and above your current job.

  • Step 7: Finding a Mentor

    A major life change such as switching careers can be disheartening or overwhelming, especially if you feel alone in the process. A mentor in your new field of work can help take some of the pressure off and provide strategic advice and support, as well as expand your network as he connects you to his.

  • Step 8: Changing Careers In or Out

    Thanks to lateral movement within the same organization, it is possible to change careers without changing employers. Making a lateral move allows you to gain greater expertise and to increase your contacts within the organization, which should make you a much more attractive candidate for a promotion, should a position open in the future.

  • Step 9: Job-hunting Basics

    Bo back to the fifth section of this guide: Planning your Job Search. Refresh your job searching knowledge and methods, learn to research only companies and positions that interest you, and craft a quality résumé and cover letter. Also review interview techniques.

  • Step 10: Flexibility

    Changing careers may bring about other significant changes to your work location, salary, and job security. Try to be as flexible as possible and be prepared for some obstacles and setbacks.

Professional associations are usually non-profit groups that exist to support people working in a particular profession, as well as their public and professional interests. Joining a professional association is therefore a great way to network with other professionals in your field; professionals who share your interests. In fact, networking is one of the explicit purposes of all professional associations, along with certification, continuing education and mentoring opportunities.

 As you can see on the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) Web site, associations in Canada are more than plentiful. Note that many of them have reduced adhesion costs for students.

Whatever your field of work may be, there will be ample opportunities to participate in conferences, to share ideas and experience, generate discussion and debate, and bring about change in the profession. On top of being a learning opportunity, conferences are a chance to network with experts in the field.

Whatever profession you may choose, lifelong learning is essential in today’s constantly changing world of work. This commitment to self-improvement will further your skills and knowledge, keep you up to date on professional trends and open opportunities for career advancement.