Planning the path to your dream job

A doctor. An astronaut. A lawyer. A dinosaur.

When asked, every kid has some dream of what they want to be when they grow up. Over time, for many, those dreams evolve: some kids realize that they hate the sight of blood; others discover they prefer their feet on solid ground; a select few finally learn that, despite their best efforts, they will never become a prehistoric predator.

By the time you get to high school, you may be considering a different career path from the one you scribbled in your notebooks as a kid. But how do you actually get there?

Landing your dream job

Thinking about the future often means getting into a reverse mindset. What do we mean by that? Well, in order to achieve any goal in life, you need to think about the steps leading up to it. And for many careers, figuring out those steps means working backwards from the end goal to determine a path.

This is an important consideration if you're thinking about which university programs to apply to. If you have a specific career in mind, you’ll want to think about how to connect the dots between an undergraduate degree and your dream job.

Person staring at a vision board.

Ask yourself a few questions

First off, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the career(s) you’re considering. What do you know about the field? What attracted you to it in the first place? Do you know anyone in the industry? Does this type of career align with the lifestyle you may have imagined for yourself?

Committing to a specific career path can be an amazing investment in your future, but like all investments, it’s one you should take seriously before diving in.

A great way to explore any career option is to reach out to someone you know who has experience in the field.

Is your friend’s older sibling in medical school? Do you have an aunt who works as an accountant? Is one of your teachers a musician? Listening to their stories about how they chose the path they did, and the obstacles they faced along the way, could provide helpful insight into whether it could be the right path for you. And as a bonus, those conversations may even open your eyes to careers that you hadn’t previously considered.

Do your homework

Once you’re ready to commit, it’s time to start thinking ahead – by putting things in reverse. Do some research to determine what qualifications you may need to attain in order to get to your end goal.

This might include professional training that could be obtained at any of a variety of institutions; or there could be other requirements, like time spent working in the field, a strong set of experience on your résumé, or even a graduate program.

This is where you should kick your research into high gear. A simple Google search is a great place to begin; try searching “how to become a psychiatrist” (inserting your own career of choice), for starters.

In many cases, if you’re looking at career that requires certification or a professional designation (like a Chartered Professional Accountant or a Doctor of Pharmacy), you also need to look into geographic restrictions – for example, a designation may be provincial, national, or international. Depending on where you plan to live and work after graduating, make sure your certification will be valid for that location.

Girl writing on a calendar.

Kickstart your university career

Then take a step further back. If your career of choice requires a specific Master’s degree, what undergraduate programs would best prepare you for admission to that degree? What are the admission requirements for those undergrad programs? Is any particular experience required? These are all helpful questions to ask when choosing a university program.

There’s rarely a clear-cut route to any career, and if you talk to professionals who work in the field, it’s highly likely they’ve all arrived there via different paths.

When this all seems like a lot of work, remember – it takes strong time management skills to juggle the additional responsibilities of university applications; but experiences like these are going to set you up for success in the next stage of your education.

And what if, after all that research, you discover that there’s no specific route you need to take to reach the career of your dreams? Well, congratulations – you just got some great research experience that will prepare you well for university!

In all honesty, there’s rarely a clear-cut route to any career, and if you talk to professionals who work in the field, it’s highly likely they’ve all arrived there via different paths. Ultimately, your unique background and experiences are the tools that will lead you to success – and getting a great education along the way won’t hurt.


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