Your Career for Life – Career Compass Blog Series

Written and Submitted by: Vanessa Mainella, Student Copywriter – The Ryerson Career and Co-op Centre Student Team

Welcome back to the Career Compass blog series, Ryerson. This is our first official Career Compass article, thanks for being here! 

We’re talking about your “life’s career” in this post. Scary topic, I know.

 Do you know the difference between having a “job for life” and having a “career for life?” They sound pretty similar, but there’s a pretty significant distinction between the two. A job for life is the rare idea that post-secondary graduates will enter the workforce and maintain a single job until their retirement (which barely happens anymore). In comparison, a career for life describes work patterns we’re noticing as more frequent, where people take on multiple roles across diverse industries. Over the course of a career, you can expect an average of 15 jobs across three phases of development. What are those three phases, you ask? Well, they’re fancy institutional names for three potential points in your career – the Foundation Career, the Mid Career, and the Legacy Career. By progressing through these stages, you build a career for life. 

Technological advances combined with multidisciplinary fields of work have caused a non-linear progression in career development.  Although a non-linear progression can sound disheartening, (who wouldn’t want a straightforward “recipe for success”?) a fluctuating career path is not a bad thing! In fact, it’s encouraged. So many opportunities shape our career development. Instead of sticking to one job after graduating, you may choose to change jobs a few times to gain further training, secure a higher salary, or to simply experience new challenges. It’s through this goal evaluation and job transition that you build your career for life!

You might be thinking, where do I start? Well, have you ever volunteered? Been part of a student group? Worked a Co-op job, internship or part-time job? You’re already well on your way in your career journey! You’re developing skills and making decisions about what you enjoy doing and what you do best. After you graduate, your career for life continues to develop through the three phases. Let’s break them down: 

  • Foundation Career – Building experience and gaining new skills

As a graduate and new professional, you apply your academic experiences to the workforce. In this initial stage, now called the “Foundation Career,” you will continue to learn new skills and grow your professional network. It’s a career stepping stone that people experience for potentially 10 to 15 years after graduation. 

  • Mid-Career: Identifying and seizing growth opportunities

This sector involves refining your professional self as you discover what drives you. This allows you to reevaluate your goals and possibly change career paths or pursue continuing education to strengthen your skill set.

  • Legacy Career: Staying adaptable

Rather than retiring, professionals today are building “legacy careers” and working into their 70s as they explore and adapt their career to suit their lifestyle. 


As you journey through your career for life, the most important quality to foster and maintain is adaptability. Don’t be afraid to try a lateral change! A career for life is a continual learning process. 

See you next week, Ryerson!