Transitions, hope, and career planning

Canada is home to many who came here by choice or happenstance. Learning to adapt and succeed in a new culture can be a daunting process when all we have at hand is a bag full of undefined goals. The road sure gets bumpy. Our goals start forming at an early age, they’re more like daydreams about what we want to become. As we grow, surrounded by a microcosm of familiar things and people, they are reshaped, reimagined, and reinvented. Even though our macrocosm pertains to a bigger picture of the world as a whole, we are still seeing it through the specific cultural lenses we have at hand. It gets to be a slightly different picture for every single one of us, depending on our background and our personal perceptions. Our microcosm includes all the customs and traditions linked to our smaller circle, such as family, friends, or mentors, or even just to a single family tree.

Even if this is a multilayered situation, we can quickly see what happens when we move to a different demographic carrying this precious microcosm on our shoulders. Those goals are now uprooted. They require some meticulous planning. The planning doesn’t happen. We’ve packed clothes in a suitcase and moved money into an account and we think that’s enough. The suitcase gets really heavy and we’ll just push those thoughts away. At night we rest and feel this invisible load pressing heavily on our chest. The thing is, all that carefully programmed cultural background cannot be simply deleted. Our system sends desperate warnings. It reminds me of that computer warning we receive when we’re deleting something major – a big red “STOP” sign pops-up and opens a window reading “are you sure?”

In a beautifully exhilarated state of mind (normally called courage) we quickly click “yes” and dismiss the “are you sure?” that popped up. It’s done. We’ve decided to start over. New everything. As our courage and spirit of adventure takes over, preparation is either forgotten or left behind. But this is a real world. Not only everything is new, but everything gets very real, very fast. No matter how prepared, we all know that flawless transitions are a myth. Yet again, we like that saying so much (“if you don’t get hurt, wet, hungry, and lost – you can’t call it adventure!”) and we forget how different we are. We forget that not all of us are necessarily adventurous. We forget that what makes people beautiful is their diversity. Yet in the end, it’s acceptance that makes us glowing and successful. Acceptance of cultural diversity and understanding of cultural integration.

Supporting young talent throughout this transition has inspired me in ways I didn’t foresee. Several work scenarios and life experiences I’ve encountered in one or the other of many roles I’ve taken up along the way (student, mother, homemaker, daughter, immigrant, worker, manager, advisor, educator), made me reflect on the importance of using different approaches when supporting people from various cultural backgrounds who struggle to identify their career goals and reconnect with their calling. Driven by a tool used to measure hopefulness and hope-centered competencies, the Hope-Action Inventory,[1] I’ve started to encourage international students to use self-reflection in the process of finding their career goals. In turn, this supports a better management of their own career expectations. The Hope-Action inventory is based on the following elements:[2]

  • Hopefulness
  • Self-reflection (identifying what is important to you, what you value, what skills you possess, and what you want to develop further)
  • Self-clarity (developing answers to the questions arisen from self-reflection)
  • Visioning (considering future possibilities that are desirable)
  • Goal setting and planning (identifying meaningful goals using the answers you’ve clarified)
  • Implementing (taking action)
  • Adapting (re-evaluating when there’s new information)

Reading ‘Hope-Filled Engagement’ (Amundson & Poehnell), has enriched my understanding of the powerful role hope plays along our life happenings: “We believe that people have been created to be people of hope. It may be very difficult to see hope in some lives; it may be hidden beneath layers upon layers of hopelessness laid over the years, as if they were layers of wallpaper or paint. But it is there. One just has to look at young children to see that hope is a gift given to us at birth”(p.52) [3]. If you just went through a significant change or transition, or had to swim against the current for whatever reason, it’s normal to feel hopeless. Using self-reflection to return to your roots, values, dreams, and hopes, will empower you to move forward and clarify certain questions. Find appropriate supports in your immediate network and take action to discuss the future possibilities you envision and to set meaningful goals. You can do it with grace. Bristle at prejudices, buckle up, and enjoy the journey.

[1] Niles, Spencer G., Yoon, Hyung Joon, & Amundson, Norman E. The Hope-Action Inventory. Online assessment, ©2017,

[2] Niles, S. G., Amundson, N., & Neault, R. Career flow: A Hope-Centered Approach to Career Development. Pearson, Merrill Prentice Hall, 2011.

[3] Gray R, Poehnell, Norman E. Amundson. Hope-Filled Engagement: Creating New Possibilities in Life/ Career Counselling. Ergon Communications, 2011.

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