Guest Post: Future Tense by Marc Verhoeve, MEd

I’m happy to share another excellent blog post by contributor Marc Verhoeve. As you’ll recall, Marc has experience in the full spectrum of career-practitioner roles…as a secondary-school counsellor and department head, part-time university faculty, private career-practitioner, career-assessment consultant and trainer, conference-presenter and author. His latest contribution touches on a topic of great personal interest to me, and coincidentally blends nicely with some of the research we’ve been working on around here…look for more on this topic in future blog posts.


In 1986, I authored an article, entitled Future Tense – An Open Letter to High School Students. It was published in the journal of UCPA [University College Placement Association].  In the introduction to the article, I stated:

“As you travel through your high school years, you experience pressure from all sides (parents, teachers, friends) to make the “right choice” about your future. The constant question is, “What do you wanna be?” At the same time, newspapers and television bombard you with horror stories about massive unemployment. As a result, you become what I call “future-tense,” and make decisions about your career on the spur of the moment based on minimal information. What I am describing here occurs all too frequently in Canadian high schools.”

After 27 years, the secondary-school scenario has not changed [except now we have the internet inundating us with data]. In fact, the financial dimension of this scenario has increased dramatically.  Current research projects that the cost of post-secondary education for a child born in 2013 will be double the cost of the present college degree/diploma.

This creates the pressure on adolescents [and parents] to make the right career decision…and the concomitant necessary post-secondary education.  There are two underlying issues that have to be addressed:

  1.  Adolescents make future job-decisions on a narrow scope of the world of work.  The average adolescent has a faint knowledge of 50 occupations and a good knowledge of about a dozen occupations [usually from direct exposure from relatives, friends and neighbours]….and there are over 10,000 occupational titles out there!  That is why it is essential that adolescents use other exploratory tools such as career assessments [e.g., JCE], cooperative-education credits, and job shadowing.  While career-assessments do not guarantee the “perfect fit” [there is no career-decision pill called Careerinol], they dramatically focus one’s job-search.  I frequently make the analogy of hunger.  If you are hungry, you could go to a local supermarket and try every food on every shelf.  This quest would take a lifetime.  The career assessment tool narrows this search to a section of one aisle, which is a more palatable task.
  2. There is not a specific age when one becomes totally aware of the dimensions of one’s skills, interests, values and personality.  This is a lifelong process.  The adolescent may not have a true sense of their self-image until they have left the parental home.  For this reason, more adolescents are considering a gap-year after secondary school before embarking on formal education. This self-awareness will also evolve with more life-experience.  In my career-practitioner role, I have assisted clients at all three career stages: career-start [adolescence], career-transition [middle-age], and career-renewal [retirees].  During these evolutionary stages, most of them had five or more job titles [most in the same work sector].  There are a small minority who could have predicted these job roles later in life.  In some cases, their present job did not even exist when they were in secondary school.

There is no question that there is a “fear factor” in career decision-making that can make one “future-tense”.  The road to career-fulfillment will probably have some detours of new self-awakening, but the ‘perfect job’ will not appear immediately…and our definition of our perfect job will evolve as we travel through life’s career journey.


Virtual Information Interview: Electrical Engineer

As today’s Virtual Information Interview shows us, you have to own your career development. Like Allan Howling, who now works for Jaguar Landrover as an Electrical Engineer, you have to take the bull by the horns and carve out your own path. It’s not always a linear path, and it’s not always easy, but the take home lesson here is that you are in control of your own life and your own future, and ultimately no one else is in a position to be able to hold your hand through it all.

Watch this video, courtesy of, and learn more about Allan’s path to becoming an Electrical Engineer. Your path might be different, but here is one perspective from an ambitious young person…


Is it ever too early to start career planning?

Think high school is a fun time to hang out with friends and not have a care in the world? Well, turns out you should get it out of your system in primary school. High school is all business now, big business.

I’m being facetious but only slightly. Of course high school should still be a relatively fun and carefree time in your life, but it’s also the time to start seriously thinking about a career.

In fact, it may even be starting earlier. Which begs the question: Is it ever too early to start?

Probably. Finding that sweet spot is likely important. You wouldn’t want to burn out, lose steam, peak too soon…

Even still, the realities of today’s job market demand an alert, savvy player, not a sideline sitter. The successful career seeker has likely had his or her eye on the prize for years. If you fall asleep at the wheel, even for a second, you might find yourself having to catch up later in life.

This topic was prompted by an article I read via CAREEREALISM (a site with some great content for young people), which shared tips on how to get kids to start networking in secondary school.

Is this a bit too much? Parents reviewing emails, pushing students to join networking groups? Is this realistic? Most teens would rebel or begin to develop a real aversion to networking. Of course there are always a select few who have the drive to pursue these kinds of initiatives on their own. But they are the exception rather than the rule.

For some students, maybe a more moderate approach is better. Here are a few ideas:

  • Help them develop the social skills to interact professionally with people. Teach them social graces: make eye contact, firm handshake, good conversational skills. Remind them to put the phone or tablet down and engage with people.
  • Help them develop a career plan and show them resources to start exploring. Start slow, don’t push. If they show interest in a career related topic or current event, use it as fodder for mealtime discussion.
  • Talk shop around them. Discuss your work and that of close family, friends, and relatives. Even if they don’t appear to be paying attention, over time the content will filter through. This subtle exposure helps them learn the language of these industries.
  • Make a point to expose them to some unfamiliar careers, too. Take advantage of their captivity on family trips and outings. They can’t escape so you can take the opportunity to tour a museum or brewery or anything that would teach you all something new about a certain career or industry.
  • Encourage them to sign up for public speaking courses or other workshops to help them develop skills that meet an interest and will serve them well in the future. But if, for example, public speaking makes you nervous, whatever you do, don’t project this onto them. No need to rehash that horror story from your first school speech. It’s not helping anyone.
  • Introduce them to LinkedIn and help them build a profile. Encourage them to leverage Twitter for career development. Point out a few effective career sites to follow such as @CAREEREALISM, @myFootpath, @WetFeet_Career, @Doostang, @career_explorer, @TalentEgg
  • Model professional behaviour. There are simple things you can do to give them a head start in life. Be on time, dress professionally for work, demonstrate courtesy, fulfill your obligations to people.

For the parents who are reading this – do you have any tips and tricks to share to get your kids attuned to networking and building professional relationships at an early age? For the students – would you do any of these things? Let me know your thoughts!