Exploring the unexpected path to career fulfillment


Pooja Khandelwal is the lead for UBC’s Career Navigation and Transition program

What type of work would make you feel most fulfilled?

The question may seem daunting, yet UBC’s Career Navigation and Transition Consultant Pooja Khandelwal hopes it’s one you’ll reflect on regularly for the sake of your wellbeing.

“When we talk about career success, it’s really about moving away from the word ‘success’ and towards ‘wellbeing’,” says Pooja. “It’s about figuring out what really matters to you and designing a career from there.”

As a Master Certified Coach, Pooja is the lead for UBC’s Career Navigation and Transition program, a free service that helps staff find pathways to their most fulfilling career. The program is designed for those looking to enhance their work, or those transitioning from a role that’s ending.

Yet Pooja’s work isn’t about matching clients with a specific job – instead, it’s focused on helping UBC staff find a match between their skills, passions, and resources in the community to help them get their next great role, or to enhance their wellbeing in their current role.

“Career Navigation asks you about what you want,” she explains. “Once you know what you want and why, you’ll be able to connect to the right opportunity at UBC or beyond.”

At its core, the service is designed to maximize self-awareness and fulfillment. After working through resources that help with self-reflection, making professional connections, and building confidence, participants are better equipped to find satisfaction in their current role or leap into other opportunities best suited to them, even if it sometimes means leaving UBC. The hope is that when the right role eventually becomes available at the university, a fulfilled and skilled former colleague is more likely to return to the institution.

“We know they may come back and bring a great deal of knowledge and experience with them,” says Pooja.

Often, the most challenging part of finding career satisfaction is knowing where to start, which is where Career Navigation and Transition shines. It’s also part of what Pooja enjoys most about her work.

“It’s so gratifying to see others feel the safety to be themselves, to learn from when things don’t pan out, and to find joy in growth and the unexpected,” she explains.

Indeed, Pooja followed her own unexpected path, leaving a 15-year marketing career in India for a fresh start as a coach in Vancouver, and eventually beginning her role at UBC in 2012.

“I decided I owed it to myself to live my best life, so where better to do that than in the best city in the world?”, she says.

Many of Pooja’s clients at UBC also express interest in making big shifts in their careers. She tells a story of one client in a senior leadership role who, after 20 years at the university, met with Pooja to better understand what mattered to them in their work. After eight months of working with Pooja, the client gained greater clarity and eventually transitioned into a role at UBC that was substantially different, yet incredibly meaningful to them.

So what does Pooja recommend if someone is looking for help with their own career wellbeing?

“Think about your to-be list,” she encourages. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to be?
  • What are my career strengths saying?
  • Who am I becoming, or who can I become?

Ultimately, Pooja recommends following a piece of advice she says is the best she’s received: “Know your heart, and then trust yourself to make it happen. The only way we can get to know ourselves is to do the work.”

“And I can help you,” she adds.

Staff interested in Career Navigation and Transition support can learn more and register online.