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Candy Ho is the inaugural assistant professor for integrative career and capstone learning at the University of the Fraser Valley and chair of the CERIC board.

Over the past 2½ years, people have changed. Work has changed.

While just 4 per cent of Canadians worked remotely before the pandemic, one-third of workers who are contemplating changing jobs in 2022 cite the ability to work from home as a driving factor, according to a Robert Half survey. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of younger workers say they would switch jobs to get better benefits, according to RBC Insurance – unsurprising given the immense impact of the pandemic on physical and mental health.

Disruptive events lead people to reflect on where they are, what they want, and what is possible. Now is the time to consider, what is the life and career you want to reimagine for yourself and how do you get there?

To answer these questions, you first need to develop a career mindset.

Having a career mindset is not about being work-centred or climbing the ladder. A career mindset is “a strategic approach to career development that is deliberate and focused on how the individual seeks to shape their future and see their career develop and unfold,” writes career services professional Nancy Curtis. This term is grounded in the idea that our career development is not just about our jobs, but is interconnected with all of our life roles.

Facing skills shortages and an anticipated recession, individuals need to cultivate a career mindset to exercise agency in crafting their preferred futures.

Here are some guiding principles of career development (drawing on the work of CERIC, a charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and development) that you can use to build up your career mindset muscles.

Understand your value

In 2020, skills vacancies cost the Canadian economy $25-billion, according to research from the Conference Board of Canada, and the vast majority of Canadians say they aren’t equipped with the digital skills that will be needed in the future.

While some industries are facing a shortage of trained workers, there is another factor driving these challenges: the skills-awareness gap.

Many people struggle to identify their full skill set and describe it to employers. This applies to the skills individuals develop both within and outside of the work force. For instance, stay-at-home parents re-entering the work force often underemphasize the abilities they hone in this important life role, such as time management and negotiation skills.

When a candidate can’t successfully articulate their relevant skills to an employer, both parties lose. A good starting place to assess the skills you have (and the ones you need to develop) is the Canada government’s Skills for Success framework.

Understand your options

When considering a career change, people often ask themselves two questions: What would I enjoy doing? And what would I be good at? These are vital areas to explore. However, this information is not enough to be resilient and adaptable in your career.

It is also important to investigate the broader labour market. To make informed educational and career decisions, you need to understand whether your target industry is growing or shrinking and what type of experience is required. You might even uncover emerging jobs that are a great fit (including some unexpected careers of the future, such as drone traffic optimizer or trash engineer).

There are many tools you can use to support this research, such as the Labour Market Information Council’s Canadian job trends dashboard or OpportuNext from Future Skills Centre and the Conference Board of Canada. And you don’t have to do it alone. Trained career professionals can help you make sense of this information and chart a path forward.

Staying informed about the labour market isn’t just for career switchers. Everyone needs to be a lifelong learner today. While upskilling may have once felt exclusive to those who could take years away from work to complete a degree, there are many more flexible, short-term learning options today, such as microcredentials, massive open online courses and boot camps.

Understand the winding path of life

Having a career mindset isn’t a box you can tick. Rather, it’s a process to check in with yourself and what’s going on around you to remain adaptable in the face of change.

If you create a plan and never revisit it, you might find yourself travelling a path that no longer aligns with your needs or priorities, or is out of step with the labour market. That’s a risky road.

By adopting a flexible career mindset that combines self-knowledge with labour market awareness, Canadians can successfully prepare for a meaningful and fulfilling career in an ever-changing labour market.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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