Launch 2020 with a Career Wish List

career wish list

Whether or not you and your clients celebrate Christmas, there is a lesson we can all take from a tradition of this holiday that will help to establish a strong foundation for our career development.

If you did celebrate Christmas as a child, you may remember your teachers and/or parents asking you to make a list of the presents you’d like to receive. You’d excitedly create the list, mail it to Santa, and hope for the best.

Let’s take the idea of a “wish list” and apply it to the work we do with our clients.

Instead of clients making a gift list asking for a new bike or the latest iPhone, have them apply the concept and list what they want from their careers. The exercise is simple and takes only a few minutes but can prove incredibly fruitful.

The idea is to have clients identify what they most enjoy about their work. Since most clients arrive ready to share what they DON’T like or want, taking a few moments to help them focus on what they DO want makes it much easier for us to identify what success would look like for them.

Here are some prompts to get your client thinking:

  • The job I really want is…
  • The problems I love to solve are things like…
  • The work I most enjoy is…
  • The colleagues I like to work with are…

The point is to help your clients identify everything they like about their jobs so they can seek out more of those things in the future.

As we know, step one in establishing a successful career plan — as defined by Frank Parsons, father of career guidance — is having “a clear understanding of yourself and your aptitudes, interests, ambitions, resources, and limitations and their causes.” It’s worth noting that Parsons advises us to identify “limitations and their causes” when seeking vocational choices. This exercise may help job-seeking clients identify “deal-breakers” — things that would prevent them from taking a job (for instance, long commutes, low pay, demanding employers, etc.). As career professionals, we prevent wasted time and frustration by guiding clients through exercises that steer them away from jobs and/or careers that don’t align with their values, preferences, and/or interests.

Once the list has been completed, clients will undoubtedly have a better understanding of what makes them happiest at work. Now is the time to encourage them to uncover even more. This may result in any number of revelations:

  • A client is actively looking for new assignments, tasks, and direction
  • A client is seeking more/less responsibilities in a certain area
  • A client wishes to advance in their current career and/or is seeking a complete change of career

With newfound awareness, clients will be better informed about themselves, can self-advocate better, and might home in on opportunities they may have otherwise missed.

But this isn’t an exercise strictly for clients. It’s for us, too! We can explore the same questions to identify what we most enjoy about our work.

After I shared these ideas on LinkedIn, career professionals from across the continent weighed in and shared their thoughts on how we can apply this exercise to ourselves.


  1. If career development is a superpower, how do I use mine best? What are you most known for? What do people thank you for or praise you for? I’m best known for idea generation. It might be something else for you – helping clients, knowing theories, understanding ATS, reaching clients, delivering workshops. When you name your superpower, I believe it gets stronger.
  2. What tools, upskilling, professional development do I need and what people do I need to know to be at my best and to serve my clients better? The world of work is changing so rapidly – what are the key elements of my plan that will keep me ahead of the curve?
  3. How can I serve my clients to the best of my abilities? This forces us to think like a client and identify needs and gaps in service. This is where we can be difference-makers. We want to stave off burnout, of course, but there are always ways to improve client services. Ask yourself – what more can I do?
  4. Who are the clients I want to serve? This question, shared by David Mendoza, gives us pause to reflect on who we serve best. Maybe you work on a team and one person serves military members better than any other. Knowing the strengths of your team members, how can you work together to best serve each client?
  5. Where do I want to be this time next year? Fast forward to the end of 2020. What would you like to have accomplished by then? How might you get from where you are today to that place one year from now? Thank you, Susan Murray, for sharing this question.

Meg Applegate suggests that we should consider doing this exercise more often than just annually. “If you want to up the ante, do a check-in quarterly, auditing progress and professional wins. It will keep you and your clients on track with career goals and boost contentment.”


Finally, as we launch into 2020, spend a few moments celebrating the wins of 2019.

We (our clients and ourselves) are often so busy moving forward, we forget to pause and reflect upon our amazing accomplishments. This exercise allows us to capture annual achievements and ease into wish list conversations with our clients. And isn’t that a lovely way to begin a new year? — feeling empowered, successful, excited about our accomplishments, and poised to share them at the beginning of a new decade.

 Maureen McCann is a fierce advocate of career development, committed to preparing Canadians for the future of work. Founder of Promotion Career Solutions, she is one of Canada’s top executive résumé writers with 15-plus years’ experience teaching, mentoring, and facilitating career development. She is a senior board advisor to Career Professionals of Canada and an active member of both the Canadian Council for Career Development Outreach & Advocacy committee and the Canadian Career Development Foundation’s National Stakeholder Committee.

Photo by efetova on 123RF



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