Photo Gallery

Map to Success

Map to Success

Published: 10/21/2014 by Elaine Balych

» Parents and Education


From the time children begin exploring the world, they consider, decide, discard and re-decide what future careers may suit them. The pressure to make a more long-term career decision looms larger as students move through high school. For many, making a career decision seems overwhelming. Many feel the risk that a single “wrong” decision will have lifelong implications.

Studies suggest the number of careers one has over a lifetime has increased and will continue to do so. This means making a single career decision near the end of high school is not the only significant career choice young people must make. They will need to build the capacity to develop careers in an ever-changing world, evaluating and managing ongoing career, education, training and employment decisions. “Career management skills are no longer optional, but are recognized as essential skills for youth today.”

But there is no need to do it alone. There are numerous career development services, professionals, tools and resources available to help people become clear and confident about their career choices.

Career Development

Career Development is defined in the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners as the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure and transitions in order to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future.

Career professionals can be found in government and community services, high school, post-secondary, agencies, corporations, group practices or private practitioners. They go by titles including; counsellor, coach, advisor and practitioner. Some are Chartered Psychologists who may be partially covered by healthcare benefits, others are certified by Career Development Association of Alberta as Career Development Professionals.

Regardless of title, their role is to help clients become more self-aware, explore career directions, develop meaningful employment options, evaluate possible related educational routes and enhance independent career decision-making. To do so, professionals expect clients to be active participants, completing exercises or assessments before or between appointments and to be open to look at and discuss their own beliefs, assumptions and opportunities in new ways.

There is some ambiguity regarding the difference between counselling/therapy and coaching. 4The coach’s primary focus is to strengthen the client’s wisdom, thought processes, and direct action towards the future, based on the client’s self-identified agenda. A counsellor focuses on addressing a client’s personal issue, often related to emotions, attitude or behavior.

Free Services

Calgary Board of Education and Catholic School Districts have imbedded career exploration activities into the curriculum and offer in-house services at each school. These include, guidance counsellors, career practitioners and career resource centres. Many also host information sessions at the school to encourage students early in their high school journey to begin exploring themselves, career and post-secondary interests.

The Calgary Youth Employment Centre offers a no-cost service for people ages15-24. The centre is open for drop-in traffic year round, and is centrally located. Youth can use in-house resources and schedule a time to meet one-on-one with career advisors on site. Advisors may administer interest and personality assessments, provide direction with career planning and help explore educational options.

The centre also offers specialized partnerships with
Aboriginal Youth Outreach, Immigrant Youth Outreach, Calgary Achievement Centre for Youth, All-In for Youth and Discovering Choices. Details about services online at www.nextsteps.org.

Post-secondary educational institutions, such as Mount Royal University, University of Calgary, SAIT, Bow Valley College and Alberta College of Art and Design offer free career exploration workshops, one-on-one appointments and other tools and services to newly enrolled students, undergraduates and often graduates. These services are provided by Career Services and/ or Student Counselling offices. Depending on the institution, the cost of the assessment may be charged.

In addition, Mount Royal University’s Student Counselling offers a three-hour career workshop at no cost to prospective stuents. Bow Valley College Career Services offers a one-hour career workshop for prospective learners. SAIT’s Student Counselling offers a free two-and-a -half hour career workshop, which is open to the general public. SAIT’s Student Counselling also offers two hours of one-on-one counselling, a review of results of an online assessment (completed prior to the appointment) for high school students for $165.

Career services for specific groups such as the Aboriginal Futures Career and Training Centre and Champions Career Centre for persons over 18 with disabilities offer career development, assessment and career planning services to their client base at no cost to the client.

The Government of Alberta’s Human Servicesdepartment offers select no-cost services across the province. Two locations in Calgary offer career advising and planning workshops, on-site career advisors, multi-media career resource centres and funding information in addition to employment services. These services are not customized for youth, but all Albertans not attending a K-12 educational program can access them.

Of particular note is the Government of Alberta’s Alberta Learning Information Service website, which offers separate portals for high school, post-secondary students as well as older Albertans. It offers online assessments, detailed information on a wide range of occupations in the Alberta and includes trends for growth occupations, wage and salary information, educational programs related to each occupation and possible educational financing information.


 Companies such as CareerJoy, private practices such as Calgary Counselling Centre and InSight Psychological Inc offer bundled services which include a number of assessments, take-away materials, and between three to seven hours of one-on-one sessions to clarify interests, personality, values, motivators, strengths and talents, explore related career options and move towards career decisions. Packages can range in price from $850 to $1500+.

Other fee-for-service providers, such as Calgary Psychological Group, Dr. Susan MacDonald Counselling Psychologist and Karen Girardwork with high school and young adult clients one-on-one at an hourly rate which can range from $100-$200 hour plus assessment costs, if used.

The Career Development Association of Alberta and the Psychologists Association of Alberta offer a full directory of members and complete list of their certifications, expanded information about specialties as well as contact information of all their members.

Select a Service

Just like choosing a service provider for other aspects of your life, it is important to evaluate what you want from a professional and be comfortable with the standard of practice they follow. Professional credentials are a good starting point, but not the only consideration.

All practitioners you consider should be able to provide the code of ethics and principles of professional Ppractice they follow. They should also have a network of professionals they refer clients to, such as therapists or specialists in disability services, if issues emerge which are beyond their area of expertise.

The relationship between a client and career development professional is very personal, so it is important for the client to feel comfortable with the professional they work with and have a clear understanding of process, work involved and outcomes to expect.

New Perspective
From planning what to do after high school, identifying a contingency, or looking to become clear on personally satisfying alternatives, there are many opportunities to work with a career development professional. Career-development services can broaden worldviews, increase knowledge of work and occupational options, help to build important workplace and decision-making skills and support transition planning. Whether taking the first steps towards an initial career decision, or rethinking a previously made choice, an experienced career development professional can improve a client’s ability to position themselves more effectively throughout their career.

Witko, K, K. Bernes, K. Magnusson and A. Bardick(2005) Senior high school career planning: what students want. Journal of Educational Enquiry, vol 6, no 1, pp 34-49.

Bell, Donnalee and Elaine O’Reilly (2008). Making Bridges Visible: an Inventory of Innovative, Effective or Promising Canadian School-to-Work Transition Practices, Programs and Policies. Work and Learning Knowledge Centre: Ottawa, Canada. 231 pages.

 Canadian Council for Career Development. http://cccda.org/cccda/index.php/certification/canadian-standards-guidelines-for-career-development-practitioners-sg

Woolfe, R., S. Strawbridge, B. Douglas and W. Dryden. Handbook of Counselling Psychology, 3rd Ed., 2009, pp 427.

 USDA Office of Human Resource Management. http://www.dm.usda.gov/employ/vu/coaching-diff.htm

Bell, D. and Bezanson, L. Career Development Services for Canadian Youth: Access, Adequacy and Accountability. Pathways to the Labour Market Series, No. 1, Canadian Policy Research Networks and the Canadian Career Development Foundation, July, 2006.