In choosing careers, if at first you don't succeed, don't be afraid to try again

By Anna-Christina Di Liberto
Special to

As a little girl, Carolyn Henderson played teacher. She gave her pretend students recess and gym time. Growing up, Henderson studied hard to make her childhood dream a reality. She spent six years at Queen's University's concurrent program earning a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of education. After graduation she landed a job, teaching at a high school for students with special learning needs. But, a year later, Henderson, 28, discovered that teaching couldn't offer her the work-life balance she desired. With two degrees already under her belt, Henderson decided that to be happy she would need to return to school.

Before even completing his first semester of marketing at Humber College, Jack Strazzeri, 22, realized he wasn't happy. He took some time off school to learn a trade as an electrician. But, after a short while realized that he didn't want to do that either. So, he returned to Humber for accounting thinking it would provide a stable work life. After one semester he was bored. It was time for him discover a program to complement his interests and strengths.

Like Henderson and Strazzeri, many students realize that the career they've chosen or the program they're in isn't what they thought it was going to be, says Elaine Balych a career education co-ordinator at Mount Royal College. If you're finding yourself in a similar situation here are some dos, don'ts and tips for switching programs, schools and careers.

Do self-assess. Henderson spent a chunk of time self-exploring. She talked to a career counsellor who helped her assess her personality, values, strengths and interests.

Do determine a direction. It's unrealistic to know where you want to be in 20 years. So, instead think more short-term and work backwards to find out what you need to do to arrive there, says Sahri Woods-Baum, counsellor at Ryerson University.

Do information interviews. Speak to people in the type of work that interests you. Ask what a typical work day is like. Find out needed skills or attributes, required education or training and a recommended school or program.

Take introductory courses or a general program of study to discover courses that interest you.

Don't make another leap that isn't well researched. Read program and course descriptions in detail, find out what texts will be used and what assignments will be given. Meet with faculty and students at tour and discussion days.

Do compare courses you've already taken to courses that are being offered in your new desired program. Consider what courses can be transferred over to your new school or program to shorten the time you will be in school.

Remember that the school you are transferring to makes the ultimate decision on transferable credits and only after you're accepted. Meet with an admissions officer to give you a ballpark figure of what you will get for already earned credits beforehand.

Plan to manoeuvre quickly through a program? Find out how many courses you can take per semester and if the school offers spring and summer courses.

Remember, you'll never get it wrong. Whatever you learn will be used again in the future.

After learning many of the above-mentioned lessons first-hand, Henderson decided to become a career counsellor. She attended George Brown College's Career and Work Counsellor program because it was recommended by students and professionals and offered a practicum as a way to gain hands-on work experience. Henderson graduated in 12 months and found a job as an employment specialist soon after.

Strazzeri fast-tracked through Humber College's General Business program. He's graduating with a business diploma, marketing diploma and management and entrepreneurial certificates. One of Strazzeri's long-term goals is to attend university after college to give him a competitive edge in the work force. This September he will be attending Ryerson University for business. Thanks to transfer credits he will only have to study for two more years instead of four.

Modified on April 23, 2009