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The question

I am a recent graduate in the area of social services. I have a degree in social work and have some recent work experience in areas of individual counselling and employment-related counselling. Ideally I would love to find an entry-level career counselling position, however I have found this to be difficult. I was wondering if it would be beneficial to look at getting more training and an apprenticeship as a developmental services worker, as in many cases they assist people with disabilities in finding work, and/or look at volunteer opportunities within the wider community as well as provide life coaching and assistance with daily living. I have also considered moving into the human resources field. I am really not sure which way to go.

While the HR route has a big advantage of being both private and public sector in nature and there are probably many more potential job opportunities, I really would love to work in an area of human services. . I have also looked at the possibility of either the personal support worker, or nursing field, as the most opportunities tend to be in these areas presently. I was wondering if you would know which areas were growing in these fields and what your advice would be to someone in my position?

The answer

If employment in career counselling is your ultimate goal, you can chart a career path to lead you there. Here are a few routes to consider:

  • Apply for jobs that are connected to government programs. Consider non-profit organizations such as Youth Employment Services (YES) or Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) whose services help people find employment. From an entry-level position within such organizations, you can transition into a job developer role. That experience can then open many doors into the world of employment counselling. This path will allow you to focus on helping people directly.
  • Consider starting your career in the recruitment/staffing industry. This is a field where new graduates are often hired into entry-level positions. Again, you’d have the opportunity to focus on directly helping people, but you’ll need to keep your focus on what your client – the employer – needs, and you’ll have to have a flair for searching for information in order to fit the right person to the right job. The advantage is you’ll gain the skills you need to move into a more advanced career counselling role by placing a number of people in various positions and businesses, but your focus can no longer be solely on the job seeker.
  • An entry-level role in human resources is also a good option to help you move into a dedicated career-counselling role. In this scenario though, your primary goal is to meet the people needs of a business. This option gives you a chance to balance the human aspect of the job with the business aspect, dealing with issues and helping ensure the people in your organization are successful.

The other options you are considering such as a development services worker, personal support worker, or nursing are all wonderful if serving people is your greatest motivator. The alternatives I've outlined above enable you to more directly transition into a career in employment counselling, if that continues to be your primary goal.

When you find yourself at a crossroads in terms of choosing career paths, ask yourself, what inspires you, what motivates you, and what are you most passionate about in each career option? Answers to these questions can help you narrow down your search and develop a career you'll love.

Lastly, if you're interested in looking at where the greatest job opportunities lie, do your research to see which short-term options would be best for you. This Government of Canada website can help get you started.

Julie Labrie is the vice-president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions.

Do you have a question on careers, labour law or management? Send it in to our panel of experts, which includes career coaches, a recruitment expert and an employment lawyer: Please be advised that while The Globe and Mail may publish your submission, your name and address will be kept confidential.