Each year during the month of November, there’s a celebration across the country. It doesn’t matter what time zone you’re in, or if you work or are affiliated with the field of career development. It’s not about thinking bigger than you’ve ever thought before. This month is about small steps that that make a big impact. November is Canada Career Month – the best time to join a conversation nationally about careers, collaborate with other professionals in the field of career development and make the biggest splash from coast to coast to coast.
This year, the small “hive mind” that comes together each year to orient Career Month was made of up individuals from K-12 and post-secondary schools, the non-profit sector and career development associations. Joyfully, they exemplify so many of the wonderful things about career development professionals in Canada. They are hardworking, dynamic, creative and serve a wide range of client needs. It can be difficult to identify a theme that will shape the national conversations around careers, but it’s always possible.
Together, we faced the question: What will resonate with Canadians this Canada Career Month? Without being presumptive, and with the most capacity to pivot, what can be done to frame career conversations effectively throughout the month of November?
One of the conversations that this small group had in the early preparation for Career Month was around how not all things are possible. Not everyone can “live their bliss” while pursuing their ideal or preferred career. Saying “You can do anything!” in each career conversation may be ignoring barriers or practical needs, and with all the choices, options and opportunities that Canadians have every day regarding their career, chances are high that someone can’t do “anything,” or at least everything. Even with generous intent, “You can do anything” carries with it an enormous weight and a magnitude of assumptions – leaving little room for failure and assuming that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution.
It came down to one short phrase that has since influenced my thinking: It’s possible.
The incredible thing about “It’s possible” is that it is a call to action. It’s an opportunity to reflect, to consider that there may be opportunities or challenges beyond what we currently see. It sits squarely in limbo, waiting for action, ready to pivot at any moment. It gives permission in a world that has been so quickly limited and prompts opportunities to problem-solve.
There are so many ways to complete a sentence that starts with “It’s possible,” and many of them are statements that empower an individual to take a specific action. To borrow from improvisational comedy, it is the “Yes, and …” and the “No, but …” conversational response that keeps a career story or journey moving forward. It became a rallying cry for the group internally as we began to see the kind of valuable conversations that could come from career conversations that begin with “It’s possible.”
Take, for example, the statement, “It’s possible to volunteer your way to meaningful work.” This statement begs to be acted upon. And for those hungry to participate in an individual’s career growth, it’s mysterious enough to pique genuine curiosity. Most importantly, it can be a jumping-off point for so many different career conversations:
- What is meaningful work to you?
- Where would you like to volunteer?
- How would you like to volunteer?
- What are the skills that you have that others would value?
- What kind of impact do you want to make on others?
Without a doubt, the more time that I’ve spent thinking about the strength of what is possible in my work, the more I come to believe in each and every one of the possibilities. The opportunity that possibility offers may be the kind of pragmatic idealism that we’re searching for when “You can do anything” is at risk of becoming the centre of conversations with diverse clients.
Earlier this year, the Canada Career Month collaboration group shared stories of those we hoped to connect with this November, and what would be possible given our individual resources. Two hoped to have valuable conversations with parents, some of whom may be increasing pressure on their children, whose graduation dates are looming. Another wanted to really connect with military spouses whose opportunities and “on-the-ground” professional networks feel short-lived between postings. One is searching for a way to start conversations that turn the idea of “jobs for boys” and “jobs for girls” on its head. Many were struggling to connect with disengaged students on and off campus, after watching students struggle through another year of distance learning and pressure to succeed. And everyone in this group was feeling the fatigue of the pandemic, where opportunities were lost and so many plans didn’t come to fruition.
But there was an energy, and there remains an energy about what is possible. About what is possible to accomplish in one month out of 12. About the value of working together and the opportunities that can come from our shared experiences, no matter which time zone we’re in or who our clients are. About the blows to the plans that we have limited control over, but that time and time again we bounce back from.
Take time to build on what’s possible for you, your clients, students and family members this month. Join the conversation through out the month of November by simply starting career conversations with two little words, or connecting with other professionals in career development to strengthen and reignite what is possible. Consider extending this kind of thinking throughout the year.
It’s possible to get un-stuck in your career.
It’s possible to find joy in the success of others.
It’s possible your plans won’t work out, and it’s possible it will be for the better.
It’s possible to succeed.
Rebecca McCarthy will be co-presenting two sessions at CERIC’s Cannexus22 Career Development Conference on “Career Competencies We Share: Building for the Future” and “Ethics at the Core: Exploring the Updated Code.” Learn more about the conference – taking place Jan. 24-26, 2022 – and register at cannexus.ceric.ca.