there’s really no such thing as deciding on a profession to grow up into.

When Jean-Philippe Michel, an Ottawa-based career coach, works with secondary school students, he doesn’t use the word profession. Neither does he focus on helping his young clients figure out what they want to be when they grow up—at least not directly.

For him, there’s really no such thing as deciding on a profession to grow up into.

Rather than encouraging each person to choose a profession, say, architect or engineer, he works backwards from the skills that each student wants to acquire. So instead of saying, “I want to be a doctor”, he’ll aim to get students to talk about a goal, in this case “using empathy in a medical setting”.

Students today should focus on a collection of skills, rather than a particular profession, says Jean-Philippe Michel

It might seem a bit esoteric, but the twist in language helps boil down real objectives. And sometimes those don’t jibe with a single profession or even the career choice you might have imagined wanting at the start. Instead, Michel says deciding the skills you want to use leads to a career that’s more targeted—and thus more likely to bring you satisfaction. It also might be less a job and more a set of projects and work situations that lead you from one thing to the next.

“They need to shift from thinking about jobs and careers to think about challenges and problems,” Michel says. Easier said than done for, say, Gen X or even older millennials, but it’s not so out of the realm of thinking for younger people, who are already narrowing down their university studie


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