Step 2 – What’s Out there

Research & Exploration

If you have worked through Step 1 – Self-Assessment, you learned about the importance of understanding yourself and your career goals.

In Step 2 – Research & Exploration, you will learn how to begin to research and explore the careers that interest you most. Career research and exploration can help you to understand the day-to-day realities of the occupation, know if there is predicted demand in a particular field, understand if the career is a good fit for you, and increase your awareness of the variety of opportunities that exist within your areas of interest. Even if you know what career you intend to pursue, research and exploration can greatly increase your awareness and understanding of the field and give you the information and contacts that will improve your likelihood of finding employment.

What to Research?

Labour market:

  • Are there expected to be good job prospects?
  • What parts of the country hire the most positions?
  • What is the salary range? (starting rate, average, and top rates)
  • What are the upcoming trends?
  • What are some examples of companies/organizations that hire for this type of job?

Day-to-day reality of job:

  • What are the main tasks being done?
  • What kind of environment do people usually work within? (E.g.: office towers, community centres, home, outdoors, construction sites, manufacturing plants, etc.)
  • What are the health and safety risks? (How dangerous is the work? What physical demands are required? What long-term effects might there be from doing this job every day?)
  • What do people love about this type of job and what do they dislike?

Qualifications needed:

  • What formal education is required to qualify for this type of work (e.g.: high school diploma, college diploma, bachelor's degree, master's degree, PhD)?
  • Are there any licences, certificates or other special training required?
  • What type of experience is required/helpful (internship, volunteering, apprenticeship, etc.)?
  • Are there any physical requirements?
  • Do you need to be part of a professional organization?


  1. What kind of hours are people in this line of work doing most often? (full-time, part-time, shift work, nights, amount of overtime)
  2. How much travel is involved?
  3. What will the impact of this type of job be on your family life, leisure time, hobbies, etc.?

Fit with self:

  1. Do your values fit with the values of the occupation?
  2. Does the work you'd be doing in this occupation feel worthwhile to you?
  3. Does this work fit with your personality type?
  4. Does the typical career path for this type of work fit with your own career goals?

Is there any other information that is important for you to research? Think about your own personal situation and whether there would be important things you’d want to know about a career before pursuing it.

Finding answers

Here are some resources for finding answers to the questions above:

Ontario Labour Market Information:

  • Find Ontario-specific labour-market projections for selected occupations

JobBank – Explore Careers by Occupation:

  • Canadian government website with an overview of salary, job prospects and geographic location for many occupations

Centennial College’s Graduate Employment Indicators:

  • See the employment rates for each of Centennial’s full-time programs

Ontario Employment Profiles:

  • Find the employment outcomes of Ontario college programs

Toronto Workforce Innovation Group (TWIG):

  • Toronto-specific labour-market information

Career Cruising (Username: Centennial; Password: campus3):

  • Find a variety of useful information on this site, including interviews with people in the career field of interest, salary expectations, external resources, etc.

RealTalk Careers:

  • Explore careers by area of interest

National Occupational Classification:

  • Government of Canada website that outlines the details of an occupation and the qualifications needed to enter the workforce

Company and career directories:

Look at online job postings to identify common requirements and typical salary ranges:

Other Research Methods

In order to further research and explore careers, it can be useful to use more active methods of research and exploration as well. Below are some methods of doing so:

Informational Interviews: Informational interviews are probably the most useful way to learn more about a particular occupation. It gives you an opportunity to sit down with someone with knowledge of the occupation you are interested in to ask questions that will help you to better understand that field. You can learn a lot from hearing someone’s experience in a job and their insights into where the field is going. Ideally, you want to try to meet with more than one person for each field of interest because you want a variety of insights and opinions.

  • Who to speak with? Why not start with: professors/instructors, family, friends, neighbours, peers, colleagues, mentors, etc.?
  • Find/research people on LinkedIn who are working in similar jobs

Additional resources:

You don’t always need to have a formal informational interview to learn more about an occupation. Strike up conversations with just about anyone to ask what their job is like, what kind of qualifications they need and whether they like it. Most people enjoy talking about their job.

Job Shadowing: Job shadowing is an activity where you visit a place of work and observe someone working in your field of interest, usually for a half- or full-day. By getting a chance to observe someone doing a job, you can get a better sense as to whether it appeals to you. You also get a chance to talk to the person doing the job and ask the same types of questions you’d ask in an informational interview.

Volunteering: A great way to try out an area of interest is to find volunteer work in that area (it also gives you experience that you can add to your resume and connects you to people in your field!) Some fields are better suited to volunteering than others. Even if your field doesn’t have many volunteer opportunities, consider looking for a conference in the field and asking if they need volunteers.

Interest Groups and Professional Organizations: By joining groups and organizations (either in person or online) you have the opportunity to share information and learn from others with a similar interest. Even if the other members in the group don’t work in the field, they may have information that would be helpful to you. It also gives you an opportunity to improve your knowledge, learn about developments in the field, and engage in a community within your field of interest.

Work experience: Part-time, field placements/internships/co-op, and summer jobs can be a great way to get exposure to a particular field. This can certainly be a more challenging and time-consuming way to explore a career area but try to think creatively. What jobs might be available in your field of interest that don’t require you to have completed a college diploma – but that would give you access to people in jobs that you would eventually like to get?

Sometimes, you will begin your research interested in one field but as you continue researching, you learn about a field you had never heard of or considered before. It is also common to believe you understand a career more than you actually do, making assumptions and relying on opinions of family and friends. Instead, researching ensures that your information is accurate and from reliable sources.


Now that you have gathered all the necessary information about occupations/jobs of your choice, you are ready to start the decision making process! The more factors you consider and the more information you gather, the easier it will be for you to make a choice.

Here are some tips for making good decisions from the book Decisive:

  1. Widen your options
    • It is more effective to consider several options (at least three) rather than deciding whether one option is right for you
  2. Reality-test your assumptions
    • Get out of your own head and check to see if your assumptions are correct (i.e. talk to people in the field, ask good questions, do proper research)
  3. Attain distance before deciding
    • To avoid making impulsive decisions, take some time to step back and give yourself some space to reflect on the decision at hand
  4. Prepare to be wrong
    • We are often overconfident about our decisions because we don’t take into account that life is unpredictable – have a few alternative options in place!


Reference: Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2013). Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. Toronto: Random House Canada.

Goal Setting and Career Planning

Even though you might still be exploring various career/job options it’s a good idea to set some career goals and lay out the action steps required to achieve them (using SMART goal setting). Setting goals and creating an action plan also allows you to identify alternative scenarios and actions that can be taken to take advantage of unplanned opportunities.

You want to make sure that each goal is SMART:

  • Specific (detailed, clear, not very big or general, state exactly what’s expected)
  • Measurable (quantifiable, concrete, observable progress toward achieving this goal)
  • Achievable (realistic, attainable, barriers could be overcome)
  • Relevant (supports other goals, makes sense)
  • Time-bound (has a specific target date or deadline)

Action Plan

Now that you have set some goals you can think about the actions you can take in order to achieve them. Then you can further break each action into individual steps and think of resources needed. Make sure to set a target date for your actions so you can monitor your progress.

Example: Learn more about a career in Medical Device Reprocessing


Individual steps

Target date

Find at least 12 job postings to get a sense of what organizations hire for these positions and what the general responsibilities and qualifications are

Do a general search on the big job search sites (Indeed, Eluta, Monster, Workopolis, etc.) – look regularly for 2 weeks

Oct 3rd

Create a spreadsheet to record organizations who hire this position, qualifications needed, and responsibilities

Oct 17th

Think about whether the responsibilities fit with what I would want to do

Oct 18th

Identify some programs in the GTA that could train me for this occupation

Oct 20th

Informational interviews with 4 people who work in this field

Message everyone I know to ask if they know anyone who works in the field (email, FB, Twitter…)

Oct 4th

Find people who work in the field on LinkedIn, Ten Thousand Coffees, and organization websites

Oct 5th

Write a script and then contact as many people from the above two steps to see if they’d be willing to meet with me.

Oct 6th – 31st

Have meetings with at least 4 people – be prepared and professional; ask if they know of anyone else that would be helpful to speak with

Oct 6th – Nov 15th

Compile notes from all the meetings

Nov 15th

Send thank you notes to everyone spoke with

Nov 15th

Find schools that have the training for this occupation and meet with college staff to further clarify questions about program and occupation

Find more direct contact for the program and call – have specific questions I’d like addressed. See if it is possible to meet them in person.

Jan 3rd 

Arrange meetings and attend, writing notes during and after each meeting to help with decision-making.

Jan 6-18th

Apply for programs of interest!

Jan 20th

Looking Forward

Current trends indicate that “Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their careers”. People tend to change careers because they discover new passions, become bored with their current work, and experience setbacks, like layoffs (according to a report by Workopolis called Thinkopolis VI: Moving Work.

So what does this mean for you and your career? Career research is a lifelong skill that will allow you to navigate these changes – so keep exploring and setting new goals!

Apply Now

Canadian Students  International Students 

Full-Time Calendar

Centennial College Full-time Calendar 2018-2019