child playing and jumping in puddle

‘I’m not sure what this particular career is like; I wish I could talk to someone doing the actual job!’

‘I have some career ideas, but I’m not sure if they’re for me.’

‘I know my career goal, but am not sure how to get there.’

Do any of these sound like you? If so, you’re not alone!  It’s entirely normal to be confused about your career direction, or need a realistic picture of a career in order to help you decide if it’s for you.  Thankfully, U of T has a job shadowing program to help you with your career exploration!

Extern is a job shadowing program that connects you with professionals in your career area of interest for a half-day to five-day placement.  Many have benefitted through participating in the program’s more than 25 years at U of T.  One of the most helpful aspects for past participants, is being able to learn about the daily duties of a career, thus confirming (or even adding to!) their knowledge of a career. Have a look at some snapshots of what some students have said:

“A highlight for me was the office culture and open-minded environment. I suspected that this career area could be like that…Everyone was very independent, and had the opportunity to be creative around what they do everyday, and what their goals were. I think this fostered a strong sense of trust, and seemed to eliminate a hierarchal structure within the Office, which was a positive attribute for me.”

“I was able to explore the many different areas of the medical diagnostic imaging department. I was surprising at how much skill was put in to get quality images in ultrasound. It was not just taking pictures, you have to contrast and try to get patient in the best position to get the best image…I also talked to the technicians from the different departments and learned about what they wished they had done differently and how satisfied they are with their jobs. I was glad that I was allowed to go around the department and was not restricted to ultrasound. It allowed me to gain more perspective.”

Another benefit to participating, is helping you decide how well the career fits for you. Often students don’t realize that there’s more to making career choices than considering their degree.  They primarily (and sometimes solely) rely only on this to guide their career decision-making.  However, did you know that for some careers, majoring in virtually any subject for your undergraduate degree is acceptable? Or, that for some career areas, graduate studies are not necessary? So, it becomes important then, to look beyond just your degree, and look at who YOU are, to help guide your decisions about career fit. In other words, consider your transferrable skills, your values, and your personality. Participating in Extern can help you with just that—learning information about yourself, that can guide your decisions about career fit.  Here is what some students have said, regarding this benefit of the Extern program:

“… I was not aware that a large part of the responsibilities of a Cultural Arts Programs Coordinator was organizing programs for children and dealing with registration and accounting, as well as in person inquiries. However, this just increased my interest in the career area, as I greatly enjoy hands-on work and personal interaction.”

“I was amazed to realize that most of the values I have align with this career field. I am patient, organized and very attentive. Furthermore, I truly enjoy art, geography and history, but more specifically I have a profound appreciation for anything that tells a story. Each piece at the archives has a historical significance and its amazing that companies, cities and even people conserve a piece of this history.”

In addition to learning about the duties of a career, or helping you decide how a career fits, Extern can help you in other ways, such as identifying the path to a career, or even generating career ideas you haven’t thought of before! Regardless of how they’ve benefited, I love it when I hear past Extern participants’ success stories from the program! I encourage you to get involved with Extern as well—look out for the Extern Orientation sessions coming up in January (sign-up begins in December)!  See you there!

Panayiota Ioannides, Career Counsellor

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