Canadians are well educated. More than half of us (53 per cent) have a tertiary qualification -- placing Canada above all other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and far ahead of the OECD average of 32 per cent. That's the good news.
The unfortunate reality is that many Canadians are "mal-employed" -- working in jobs that do not take advantage of their abilities and that do not require a post-secondary education. Two of the groups most affected by mal-employment are those who are new to Canada and those who are new to the workforce:
• Just 24 per cent of foreign-educated immigrants trained for regulated professions, such as engineering, medicine, nursing and teaching, work in their field - compared to 62 per cent of Canadian-born regulated professionals
• About 40 per cent of Canadian university graduates aged 25 to 34 work in jobs for which they are overqualified; it's likely that's part of the reason 42 per cent of Canadians in their 20s continue to live with their parents
If you feel you could be doing better, based on your hard-earned education, here are three strategies that can help you achieve your career goals.
1. Upgrade international credentials
If your training was outside Canada, there are efficient ways to meet Canadian requirements. Programs geared specifically to internationally educated professionals (IEPs) are available in fields such as accounting and finance, dietetics and nutrition, health research and health management, middle-level management, midwifery, physiotherapy, social work and engineering. Look for programs with a high percentage of successful graduates. For example, one year after graduation, more than 80 per cent of The Chang School's dietitian and social work IEP grads are working in their fields. Give yourself the best chance of success by choosing a program with a proven track record.
2. Find a mentor
Mentorship by established professionals can help advance any career, and is especially important for immigrants to Canada and young people. Forward-thinking employers are starting to realize they can benefit too, and some are setting up workplace mentorship programs. Find out what's available from your employer, or seek out mentors on your own.
The impact can be significant. In one recent study, the percentage of mentees who were employed in their field of expertise went from 27 per cent at the start of a mentoring program to 71 per cent one year after completing it. Their salaries went up too - from $36,905 to $59,944. A mentor's insights can help you plot the shortest route to your goals and sidestep common mistakes.
3. Design your own program
In many workplaces, training budgets have been cut. In fact, between 1993 and 2013, spending on workplace training declined from $1,207 per employee to $705 per employee (in constant dollars) - putting more of an onus on employees to pay for their own training. Of course, especially when it's your money, you want to target your investment. Look for modular, customizable programs that give you exactly what you need -- such as The Chang School's innovative Experiential Learning Exchange.
Consider Distance Education, too. It can be a convenient way to fit education into your busy schedule and is available for a growing number of courses and certificates. Remember that education isn't one-size-fits-all. Tailoring your learning helps you ensure you can quite literally employ it.
Reach your full potential
Mal-employment can be extremely frustrating for anyone who experiences it. If you feel that your job isn't using your talents and skills:
• Talk to people who are doing your ideal job
• Identify and fill any gaps in your credentials
• Map out your path towards a career you love
It's well worth the effort. Reaching your full potential means much more than a better title and a higher salary. As you become more satisfied with your work, you'll throw your energies into it and excel. As a result, you'll advance -- likely faster than you expected.
On a regular basis, I get to see the breathtaking speed of success when The Chang School's learners find their way into the right role. It's inspiring and keeps my team motivated to continue looking for innovative solutions to the challenge of mal-employment in Canada.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Follow Dr. Marie Bountrogianni on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marieatryerson