A guide to career planning

The Student Success Centre can help you navigate your career. A career isn’t something you find — it’s something you develop over time. We hope you find the following guide helpful as you explore and discover your career path.
October 24, 2023

1. Know yourself

To know what your career options are or what education paths to take, reflecting on your skills, interests, personal strengths, priorities, and experiences can help you understand what is best for you. Here are some resources to help you:

Comprehensive online career planning program that is designed to help you build more clarity and a sense of career and education direction. There are 5 modules with self-assessment activities, resources, and next-step resources to help you explore your options and make decisions. The free program is supported by a career counsellor to guide you.

Flexible, self-paced access through oscarplusmcmaster.ca – Student Success Centre – Events.

A self-directed skills assessment tool that features a comprehensive profile of your transferable skills and preferences. Provides you with detailed information about your strengths and suggested career and educational options for exploring best-fit options.  An individual debrief by a Career Counsellor is recommended.

Click here for sample report 

Personality assessment that provides insight into your natural preferences and strengths. An individual debrief with a Career Counsellor is required.

Click here for a short video on the MBTI 

Interest assessment that provides detailed report on your interest themes and offers occupational suggestions. An individual debrief with a Career Counsellor is required.

Click here for a short video on the Strong Interest Inventory 

2. Explore your career and education options

Learn more about your options through active exploration and investigation. Be careful of getting overly focused on one career idea and missing out on exploring a full range of meaningful career or further education options.

Here are some resources and tips to help you learn more about occupations and expand your ideas:

  • Career Cruising – a Canadian source of career and education options.
  • Alis – Occupational and labour market information
  • O*Net online – American comprehensive database of occupations and labour market info.

You can also refer to careers by major sites to help you get more ideas.

LinkedIn is an effective tool to explore and learn more about career pathways and job titles. You can expand your contacts by joining McMaster’s Alumni groups. Search for people with similar degrees, or search by occupations and learn from others’ education or experiential pathways.

Job postings can help you understand specific requirements for a job.  A general site to start with is indeed.com. Some other job boards are with specific industries are: Charity Village, Work in Tech, OntarioBioScience, and Work in Culture.  Search using keywords and pay attention to job titles, companies, skills and competencies, and education required or considered an asset.

Some effective resources for exploring education options are:

When exploring and researching using the above resources, try to stay open to learning about the careers and education paths and don’t let the uncertainties or questions stop you.

After you have explored and researched options,

  • Develop a list of 3 – 5 occupations that seem to interest you on some level (don’t worry about the “how” just yet).
  • Develop a list of questions you have about each occupation, career field or education path to help direct your next steps.
  • Create an action plan that includes specific steps and timelines to help you move forward in your career planning.
  • Book an appointment on oscarplusmcmaster.ca to meet with an SSC career counsellor to help guide your next steps.

3. Connect with people

Connecting with people in the career field, industry or occupation you are interested in or curious about is another great way to get further clarity. Here are some resources to help you:

  • Alumni and Partners Advisor Network is a database with 1000’s of alumni who have indicated they are available for career conversations. Register, search, develop a list of questions, and then reach out.
  • Professional Associations and LinkedIn are great sources to help you connect with professionals in a career field or industry.
  • Student Success Centre offers support to help you have those career conversations. Look for resources and services on our website.

After you have been able to reach out to people,

  • Evaluate what you have learned so far in your career planning process.
  • Ask new questions of yourself and re-evaluate your action plan.
  • Considering building new experiences and developing skills through paid and unpaid work.
  • Try not to force a decision too early but put some tentative plans in place to test out your ideas.

4. Develop yourself

Continue to learn about yourself and build experiences and skills through paid and unpaid work and through self-directed career management.  Here are some resources and tips to help you:

  • Check out the programs and services on our Experience Building page of our website.
  • McMaster’s ca connects you with paid and unpaid opportunities:
    • Summer, part-time, final-year and post-degree jobs
    • Volunteer and on-the-job learning opportunities (Career Treks)
    • Career Fairs and Volunteer Fairs
  • Get involved on campus through clubs and services at McMaster Student Union
  • Job search coaching to help you find employment or volunteer opportunities. Book your appointment on OSCARplus
  • Consider self-directed learning through LinkedinLearning (Mac students have free access).

We recognize that a career isn’t something you find — it’s something you develop and manage over time. We encourage you to embrace the attitudes of flexibility, optimism, persistence and willingness to try new things as you take active steps to

  1. Reflect on your interests and identify your personal skills.
  2. Explore your career and education options.
  3. Connect with people and opportunities.
  4. Develop skills and gain experience.

Not sure where to start? Book an appointment with the Student Success Centre – Appointments or Drop in to talk with our career staff.