Career Development Steps

Self Exploration

Career development is a proactive approach you take to create the work and life you desire. It is much more than getting a job. It is a lifelong process of learning and growing. Career development enables you to make informed educational, occupational, and employment choices. It is an ongoing process to have meaningful work throughout your life.​

Our career evolution framework is built upon four key phases of career development. Each contains a collection of information that is specifically relevant for people experiencing that phase.

Many people start at the Self Discovery phase to reflect on personal values, interests and the experiences you've had so far. This is a crucial part of the process, and one that is often overlooked. Knowing what skills you have to offer to an employer, and being able to articulate them, is essential to job success.  

Depending on where you are in your career journey, you may wish to begin at another phase, move forward or backward, and revisit again at a later time, as your career continues to progress. The Career Evolution is a self guided tool, filled with links, resources and activities to support you, teach you and give you the opportunity to reflect and question. 

We wish you continued success in your career journey ahead!

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven't.
- Thomas Edison​

Self Discovery

This is the first stage of an exciting process! The Career Evolution model has many strategies and resources to help you create your best life and career path.

In the Self Discovery stage, we have listed activities you can do to become more self-aware. It is important to be able to articulate what your skills, interests, values and personal characteristics are - you don't want to be stuck in a job that makes you unhappy.

We don't often think about what we enjoy doing and why that is, or what we have learned from our past experiences (both good and bad). After all, your career will be where you spend most of your time - you want to be doing what is right for you.

  • Think about the schooling, jobs and volunteer experiences you’ve had in the past, up to today. Make a list of at least 5, listing what you enjoyed (and why) and what you didn’t like – be specific. You will likely find a pattern. For example, you may find you like working with children, one on one. You don’t like being in a structured classroom setting and are most happy when outdoors. So now what? Brainstorm jobs that include what you have described.
  • Similar to the activity listed above, complete a Your Lifeline form, where you can write down your past experiences and find similarities in what you liked and what you didn't. This is a valuable opportunity to look at what you've done in the past, and apply to your future job opportunities. If you didn't enjoy working in an office in the past, consider avoiding a position like that in future.
  • An activity to help identify your values at work is a Card Sort. This is a simple opportunity to review what you most value in a work environment, and to consider this when looking for future jobs.
  • Complete a SWOT analysis - identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This is a business approach to consider your next career move. It is very effective in identifying where you are at, and where you need to be.
  • Review the learning objectives in your course syllabus. These are provided at the start of each course, and are a fantastic resource for you to clarify what it is, exactly, you are learning. You can use this information in future, when speaking to an employer how what you learned is relevant to the job you want.

Opportunities Awareness

This is the second stage of the Career Evolution process, where we build on the previous stage of Self Discovery. Here, we connect what you have learned about yourself (your skills, interests, values and personal characteristics) with the opportunities available in the world of work. This is the research phase.

Many people make the mistake of starting at this phase - which can be a confusing place to begin, when you haven't truly considered who you are, your priorities, and what skills you have to offer to an employer. The first phase, Self Discovery, helps to refine the research you will do now in Opportunity Awareness, into industries or jobs that fit in with who you are and what you want to do.

This phase is equally as important for those who have absolutely no idea what they want to do, as those who have known all along. It gives you the chance to confirm what you thought you knew about a job or industry, or decide to take new direction if the job wasn't what you expected. This phase is all about gathering as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision about your next job.​

To find out what your opportunities are:

  • Be informed on wages and your rights as an employee from the Ontario Ministry of Labour
  • Search labour market information on different industries and job types to see what education and experience is required, job prospects and industry employers on the Job Bank.
  • Thinking about studying or travelling abroad? Connect with the International Student Support Services and Programs office.
  • Join a student club, association or volunteer organization in your local community to learn more about an industry, or increase your experience in the workforce (volunteering still counts as important experience on your resume!).
  • For career suggestions and job titles in your field of study, go to your program page (ie, Gender Equity and Social Justice) and click on the Your Future tab at the bottom of the page.
  • Are you an entrepreneur? Know about supports available to start your own small business. If you're under 30 years old, there are government grants​ and funding available.
  • ​Talk to as many people as you can to find out more about what an industry, organization or job is like. The more people you speak to, the better you know if this is a career path you want to take. This process is called an Informational Interview.

Decision Making

The third phase in the Career Evolution cycle is where you start to narrow down your options. After you have gathered your research, or perhaps you already have an understanding of an industry or field, and it aligns with your own competencies and values, you need to start making decisions about what your next steps will be.​

The importance of having a plan is the key to success in this phase.

Strategies for making decisions and putting them into action are:

  • Complete an Action Plan to keep yourself accountable. If you write actions and dates down, you are more likely to do it.
  • Seek out relevant work experience in a local organization by working casually, or volunteering, to help you decide on your next move.
  • Attending events such a professional association seminars, career fairs, connecting with social media forums to reach out and learn more, such as Twitter and Linkedin​.
  • Review changing plans and priorities on an ongoing basis, and update Action Plan accordingly.


This phase is the culmination of learning from all of the previous steps. Applying the knowledge you have of yourself, of the opportunities available to you in your industry, and deciding how to move forward with the job you want, now is the time to transition into getting that role.

  • Find a mentor in the field, or someone who will be a sounding board and cheerleader.
  • Know how to create a professional resume and cover letter.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the application process when applying for jobs, and create a resume suitable for the position and industry​ you are applying to.
  • Know how to find opportunities in the hidden job market, as well as advertised jobs.
  • Practice your interview skills.
  • Obtain further qualifications.
  • If interested in working abroad, know the customs, application process, geography and work environment.

Continue to learn and grow throughout your career journey, and repeat the Career Evolution process as you progress through the world of work.