As the first person in my family to attend university or college, I once believed that further education was a means to an end. A chance to develop one specialized skill set and get a stable career with a company where I could dedicate all of my working years. For some people, this is still the dream. But for me – and many others – a love of change and life-long learning drives us to take on new and different roles throughout our careers.
A former colleague once told me, “I never want to marry any job, I just want to date”, and this type of thinking is increasingly more common. Longevity at a company is not as essential to employment as it once was. Employers are starting to adopt, or at least understand this new mentality as well, and I have been fortunate to work for a few organizations that truly supported professional development.
Think of it this way – your career is a journey, not a destination, and making connections using your transferable skills will help facilitate your travels.
You’ve got to start somewhere
When I was studying Criminal Justice at Ryerson I became friends with several Social Work students, and was drawn to connections between our two programs. Specifically, I was interested in addictions and mental health issues – so much so that I went on to complete a masters in Criminology, focusing on drug policy issues. I had it all figured out. Once my degrees were completed, I was going to work in policy analysis within the criminal justice system. But when I began my first field placement doing just that, I was disappointed. It just wasn’t the right fit for me.
But remember, it’s ok to take a detour
Rather than see this as a dead end, this detour in my journey taught me that discovering what you don’t want to do is just as important as discovering what you do. I later completed a second field placement in a substance-abuse counselling role, which helped me to realize my passion for providing direct service to vulnerable individuals. This was something I could not have predicted in myself.
I’ve been fortunate enough that every professional position I’ve had, has given me the opportunity to build new skills, which in turn allow me to move in a slightly different direction, (in my case, social work). After graduating and working for a short time at a front-line shelter, my first substantial career role was working as a substance use counsellor at a women’s treatment centre for several years. I then went on to work with women as an employment and trauma counsellor, also in the non-profit sector. Recently, I started a new public sector position, in social services and employment.
The right path for you may not be clear…at first
At first glance, it may not be clear how criminal justice relates to my career trajectory. What I’ve realized is, understanding some of the circumstances that contribute to crime is invaluable in social work when I’m attempting to address some of the root causes of poverty, addiction and other social issues. My point is: no field exists in a vacuum. There’s always a parallel, albeit different option to investigate – if you want to.
Jaclyn Broughton, MCA (née Bristow; Criminal Justice ’09) is a certified counsellor and a social services case manager. Her writing has been featured in Psychologica, The Justice Report, and Running Room magazine. In her spare time she enjoys fitness, arts and culture, and volunteering.