Not everyone can go to college or university, nor should everyone. Even though Canada is seen as an intellectual country, and the competition for jobs is high, there are things you can do to supplement a basic high school education other than with a university degree.

It is no secret that we have a knowledge-based economy, but there are many different types of knowledge needed to keep the country prosperous. There is a perennially high demand for skilled trades people, construction workers, and many other talented workers who learn their abilities through other means than attending university.

When starting your career journey, think off the beaten path.

Analyze your skills.

      Consider what you have done and contributed in a volunteer capacity or as an officer of a club. What subjects did you do well with in school? What activities or games come naturally to you? Are you creative or good with numbers, maybe you like to solve puzzles and read mystery novels and usually figure out whodunit first?

Ask for help. Have someone you respect look over your resume. Most internet job boards have sample resumes as does my website.  Practice interviewing techniques. Check with your school for job fairs or counseling availability. Look at your quest as a research project and tell advisors that is what you are doing. Check with your provincial and federal agencies to see who has programs for youth that you are eligible to enroll in.

Set high standards. Take on every job you do with passion, commitment and drive. Give it your all. Collect outstanding references. It is not always the people with the highest skill level that get hired. Hiring managers and HR professionals have always said that enthusiasm sells. Try to go the extra mile whenever you can – find your way to stand out as an exceptional team member.

Make learning a habit. While formal schooling might not be essential to your career, constant learning is. Read books that will advance your knowledge, take courses that complement what you already know or are working at presently. Apply for more advanced jobs. Work at companies that encourage professional development. Don’t look at a job as the be all and end all; look at some as a learning experience and stepping stone to where you really want to end up. Apply to companies that have management trainee programs, like many retail stores and banks.

Think long term. Take assignments and jobs that will lead you somewhere in the future, build your toolkit with each opportunity. Take on challenges and responsibility. Failure is a great teacher, don’t fear the unknown.

Look for opportunities. Life is teeming with possibilities and opportunities, sometimes dream jobs can come from industries you’ve never considered or even heard of. Believe me, when you have the right attitude and you keep your eyes and ears open, you can find them. Don’t let life happen to you, make it happen for yourself.

Plan your day. Opportunities seldom come knocking on your door while you’re at home watching Dr. Oz. Every night plan what you are going to do first thing the next morning so you have a reason to get out of bed. Read the headlines and find out what companies or industries are making news.

Network. I bet you were wondering when I was going to mention this. Networking is a part of smart career management and it includes social networking websites as well as actually talking to real live people. Talk to parents of your friends and find out what they do for a living and who they might know that would be willing to talk to you, to give you some guidance, ideas, direction, or words or wisdom. Grown ups admire and respect young people who take the initiative and show drive and determination.


Don’t be afraid to switch directions if what you are looking for initially isn’t panning out for you. You might have to have a Plan B, so be versatile and adaptable. Maybe moving to Calgary or Fort Mc Murray to live with Uncle Jack isn’t such a bad idea right now; there are lots of jobs out there. Be prepared to stretch and grow.

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate

Author of Networking How to
Build Relationships That Count
, How to Get a Job and Keep

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind