• October 2020 – Exploring Your Career Path

  • As my regular readers may know, I am a big proponent of mentoring, and one of the common issues I talk about with new mentees (especially students and recent graduates) is trying to decide what career path to take in environmental geoscience. Some people know exactly what they want to do with their career very early on. I have one mentee that knew he wanted to be a fluvial geomorphologist since high school. Conversely, I have had other mentees who have so many varied interests that they struggle to focus on which career avenue to explore.  Here then are some suggestions to help navigate that tricky path forward.

    Create a Mind Map
    There is a technique called mind mapping which is intended to help achieve some clarity and direction. It basically provides a method to collect and organize random thoughts about your personality and interests to find some common themes or concepts. These insights can then  be used to determine what suits you best. There are lots of online articles and even some apps to assist with the process. I usually suggest the proponent starts with two separate mind maps, one to explore their personality qualities, and a separate one to identify potential career interests. Creating your personal mind map begins with writing a single idea or topic in the centre of a blank page (e.g. personality or interests), then connecting this core idea with random, related thoughts. Use short key words or phrases and allow your mind to freely wander and avoid overthinking things at this stage. Try to get at least 4 or 5 related ideas branching out from your main topic; with each secondary level, or ring of thoughts, again branching out to include other related themes or thoughts. Writing this down, and doing the necessary brain storming can help you see patterns in your personality traits and interests; which can be used to maximize the number of career ideas and to create career concepts to explore further. This can be especially beneficial for those who haven’t given much thought to their career path, or those who have so many interests that they can’t decide where to start.

    Do Your Research
    Once you have identified your potential career choices, you will need to evaluate the career paths you are considering. Information to research for your career concepts can include the following:  

    • What does the future role involve?
    • What do I need to get there?
    • What types of courses (or pre-requisite skills) do I need?  
    • What are the requirements to get into the position?
    • What does the every-day look like in that position?
    • What is the anticipated income for the first 5 years – and what do you really need financially to survive and thrive? (this is where most people get very surprised out of school and is the most stressful. School doesn’t prepare you for this and no one tells the youth what their dream job will mean for their lifestyle which is often when people end up not where they want to be).
    • What types of soft skills do I need to learn to supplement my career choice?
    • Will I fit into that position?

    I believe this combination of self-reflection and ‘real world’ research are necessary to assess and evaluate the various options available; and can really assist in finding the right career fit.

    By: Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA

    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca