Thursday, 4 February 2016

Career Snapshot - Justin Pritchard - Career Centre - University of Alberta 

With Valentine's Day around the corner, we caught up with Justin Pritchard the Career Coach for Transition to Career (T2C), to learn about how he came to work in a career that he loves. 

Was your career path linear or did you experience happenstance before finding a position that you loved? What aspects of your career did you fall in love with?

My career journey has yet to be linear and one-tracked. Coming from an eclectic background in design, where I explored my own non-linear design process (in fashion, interior, graphic, integrative and learning design), I had an opportunity to recognize the cyclical and iterative nature of life—and specifically the cyclical and iterative nature of one’s own career development within life. I’ve also discovered life’s unpredictable and creative flow, which is based on the influence of unplanned events and happenstance. This has made my career journey, at this point in time, unique and exciting. It’s also made my career journey and current position as a Career Coach a platform for creating new connections across disciplines. 

It was in my undergraduate degree that I stumbled into the Career Centre by accident while looking for the U of A’s University Health Centre. The receptionist and I struck up a conversation about career services and he informed me about an upcoming job shadowing event called Job Shadow Week where I could explore a career option by spending a short period of time accompanying, observing and interviewing a professional in their workplace. I decided to choose a job host who was unrelated to design, since I had conducted many information interviews with design professional prior to that, and in turn I thought it would be advantageous to job shadow a career development practitioner in order to observe the role of an advisor, while simultaneously picking up on useful career advice. It was during this job shadow opportunity that I discovered that the Career Centre was hiring students. I was eager to create an application package for the job, which I did that evening. I was interviewed for the job and eventually hired as a Career Peer Educator in 2011. 

Who would have imagined that almost 5 years later, I, a designer with nearly 9 years of design education, would still be working within the field of career development but now as a Career Coach for a newly developed transition to career program called T2C? I feel very fortunate to work as a Career Coach at the U of A’s Career Centre in that I am able to fuse together many of my interests that are not typically associated with career development, making my role diverse and multilayered. Ever since I started to contemplate various career options in my teenage years, I had a difficult time imagining myself choosing one specific career based on a few interests—and especially in that I dreamed of being many different things such as a designer/creative professional, counsellor, teacher, recruiter, wellness coach, among others. Working at the Career Centre has allowed me to continue exploring many of my interests in different disciplines, which is a significant reason as to why I love and value my job. 

For example, I have been able to tie together my interests related to design practice with adult education while assisting in the development of the T2C program. I use many of the unique ideation techniques, which I learned and exercised through my design studies, to generate creative ideas with others during meetings and brainstorming sessions. I’ve also been able to link my interest in wellness and mindfulness practice to my role in developing T2C’s curriculum. Recently, I incorporated mindfulness—which is an open, nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness—into the program, though the design of online and in-person activities, as a technique that clients’ can test out while ameliorating anxiety related to uncertainty. Working for an organization that embraces and honours my unique attributes has been very fulfilling in that I’ve become excited about creating new and interesting connections between areas that might have not been explored before. Along the way, I’ve enhanced and expanded my creative thinking abilities.  

The Career Centre is an organization that embraces collaboration and the sharing of information with others, which is another reason that I love my job. Not only have I been able to link together my areas of interest, I’ve also been able to share these linkages with other staff members. Recently I approached the Director of the Career Centre and asked if I could develop a wellness/mindfulness in-service session for staff members. She was very open and eager at me implementing the idea and, in turn, I designed and facilitated a one-and-a-half hour workshop for career development professionals discussing the nature of mindfulness as it relates to creativity. Again, this was an opportunity for me to fuse together three of interests and share them with others (i.e. career development, mindfulness and creativity). This receptivity to creating connections and sharing information has allowed me to foster a curious mindset in my job while investigating the many possibilities for discovery within the field of career development. Thinking back to the notorious question “what should I be when I grow up?” I can now understand that all I ever wanted to be was an explorer-discoverer and I am fortunate live this role as Career Coach at the Career Centre. 

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