Meet Our Career Coaches in Residence
Toronto Public Library is excited to welcome our first four Career Coaches in Residence who will be offering remote career and job search help for younger adults (18 to 29) from Sep 28, 2020 to Dec 4, 2020 and from Feb 1, 2021 to Apr 9, 2021. Coaches can help with general career advice, résumé and cover letters, job or employment searching, interview preparation, or developing personal marketing material for your LinkedIn profile, portfolio or website.
In no particular order, meet our Career Coaches in Residence: Cindy Fruitman, Jennifer Gaudette, Ken Lee and Tharsheka Natkunam.
We recently asked them a few questions to get to know them better.
What interested you about TPL's Career Coach in Residence position and what do you look most forward to during your residency?
Cindy: What interested me was the opportunity to be part of the solution. There’s a labour shortage, yet it remains tough for youth to land work or gain employment experience. Ontario’s youth bring a wealth of talent and innovation to the workforce. It’s important now more than ever they possess practical, essential skills and agile tools to navigate and thrive in today’s competitive job market. What I’m most looking forward to is helping program participants get traction on their career goals through practical guidance together with the vast array TPL's resources at their disposal.
Jenn: I was interested in this program because I could see the value of providing career programs for the community. Access to resources and mentorship are especially needed in these challenging times. This position offers an opportunity to work as part of a supportive team of coaches to deliver one-of-a-kind programs designed to meet the needs of youth in a rapidly changing career landscape.
Ken: Having worked in higher education and employment services, I started to recognize the need to provide greater access to career-related support to Torontonians. So when I stumbled on the library’s Career Coach in Residence position, I immediately thought this would be a great starting point. With this in mind, I love the fact that there are so many cool things you can get with a free TPL card. Like borrowing a free wi-fi hotspot with unlimited data access for six months! To know I can be part of an initiative that makes Toronto such a wonderful city, makes me so proud. Honestly, I’m just eager to begin meeting with young people and supporting them in their goals and aspirations!
Tharsheka: I was interested in this position because of my passion for positive youth development and my work in youth employment. I am looking to build my expertise that I have developed over the years by getting involved in initiatives like this residency program that support young adults reach their potential. I look forward to working closely with young people to help inspire and empower them. I want to help them understand how to use the skills they already have to be successful in navigating employment.
Finding a job can be challenging and especially so if you're just starting out. What is one piece of practical advice you would give to someone in the early stages of their career journey?
Cindy: Develop your “soft” skills! Soft skills are defined as “non-technical skills that relate to how you work”. Examples include: interpersonal communication, listening, problem solving, critical thinking, flexibility, reliability, creativity, resourcefulness and time management. No longer considered “nice-to-have” skills for job applicants, more workplaces are expecting their new hires and employees alike to possess a range of soft skills beyond having the technical know-how. There’s a reason they are often referred to as “essential skills”. In a world of constant change, having the ability to demonstrate and develop soft skills will keep you in demand, over the course of your career.
Jenn: One piece of practical advice that I would give is that it is important to conduct research and run "career experiments" in order to decide what is right for you at this stage of your life. You won't always get it right with your first choice and it is OK to make changes. That said, I'd also add that it is wise to take even the most well-intended career advice with a grain of salt. This is especially true if the advice is based on what others think you should do with your career. Only you can really know what career path is best for you.
Ken: That’s a tough one, but I’d say it's crucial for you to first identify who you are, including your interests, strengths, and values. The only way you can do that is through life as well as work experience in the form of co-op, internships, volunteering, and so on. By exploring and trying things, you can discover what you enjoy. It’s honestly better to learn what you don't like in a job after an internship than to fixate on fulfilling a childhood dream. Don't make the mistake of spending months applying for a job or years studying at school, just to stay on a career path that isn't right for you anymore.
Tharsheka: A piece of practical advice I would give to someone in the early stages of their career journey would be to be open to opportunities. When you enter an experience with the mindset to learn you will leave with a lot of growth. So consider any job you take as a step into your career journey. Frame any experience as an asset. There is always something to learn from any type of work experience, as it can be used to help build your employability. So challenge yourself to reframe your work experience to meet your career goals.
I've heard that career development is an important and ongoing journey. What are your top 3 book recommendations on this topic?
What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles
A classic in the career counselling world, this is book is packed with insights, advice and strategies to help you find the best job and career for you. It takes you on a journey through every step of the process, from figuring out which careers make sense for your personality style, to designing your resume, and offers networking and interviewing advice.
Can you Hear Me? How to Connect in a Virtual World by Nick Morgan.
The fact is, when we limit our communication to text or DMs and the world of work continues to shift online, we risk losing essential keys to successful communication. This is your “how-to guide” for communicating in a remote and virtual world.
Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
Based on a course taught by the authors at Stanford University, this book uses design principles to help you figure out how to achieve life and work fulfillment.
Jenn: Career development is indeed a lifelong project. Three of my favourite books on this topic are:
Designing Your Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
This book is a follow-up to best-selling Designing Your Life which applies design thinking and introduces practical tools for tackling career questions.
Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One by Jenny Blake
This career book is more relevant now than ever as career transitions are becoming common and the average length of work tenure reduces every year.
Wellth: How I Learned to Build a Life, Not a Resume by Jason Wachob
The founder of MindBodyGreen shares his memoir and the wisdom gained having taken a conventional approach to his career and then eventually finding fulfillment.
Ken: It's important to stay on top of industry trends so I get most of my book recommendations through current industry podcasts I'm listening to or the blogs that I read.
One website I love is PH SPOT! It’s a career development platform for those interested in public health. They have a blog, podcast, professional development courses, and even a booklist. A book I'm interested in reading next is The Invisible Cure by Helen Epstein.
I'm currently into the podcast, Dietitian’s Discovered. It’s a podcast that explores unique career paths within dietetics. My personal favourite is where the host, Sarah Muncaster, shares her personal journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian. Tip! If you're into podcasts, Overdrive has audiobooks which are a great alternative to traditional books.
Lastly, I love Reddit. You can find a community with common interests and, for example, I’m subscribed to /r/marketing. Stay tuned for a potential AMA with TPL's Career Coaches!
Tharsheka: Career development is an ongoing journey and any happy individual in their career will tell you that the decisions they made involved intention and reflection, leading to taking risks and earning rewards. So 3 book recommendations to explore more into this topic would be:
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear
The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha
The Career Coaches in Residence program is generously supported by RBC Foundation, and the Friends of the Toronto Public Library, South Chapter.