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SparkPath 2018 Annual Letter to Readers

SparkPath 2018 Annual Letter to Readers

Students at the Elmwood School in Ottawa using the Challenge Cards. (December, 2018)

Most public companies issue an annual letter to shareholders. These letters present an opportunity for those entrusted to run the company to communicate with the people who own the company, the shareholders.

Stewards of companies have a legal duty to do what is in the best interest of shareholders. I feel a similar obligation to you. You trust me with something incredibly important: helping your students and kids create extraordinary lives.


Looking Back: 2018 in Review

Spreading the Message

One of my priorities in 2018 was to ‘flip career development’ and spread the message of the Challenge Method. To do that, I’ve presented at dozens of conferences, events and schools.

In June 2018, we attended the National Career Development Association conference in Phoenix, AZ. We sold out of the 80 decks of challenge cards we brought with us!

Some of our favourite moments from the past year include presenting at the Cannexus, NBCDA, and FirstWork conferences where we were able to reach hundreds of new career development professionals. We are grateful to all the new people who have integrated the Challenge Cards and Challenge Method into their work.

Thanks to Gisèle-Lalonde, Mer Bleue, Béatrice-Desloges secondary schools, students in my hometown of Ottawa learned about the Challenge Method firsthand. It was a joy to see their reaction to the ‘Challenge Face-off’!

In the Spring, SparkPath partnered with CERIC to deliver a two-part webinar series titled: Looking Beyond Job Titles: How to Prepare People for the Future of Work. Finally, we presented the Challenge Cards on the French language TV Show Entre-Nous.


JP Michel interviewed for the French-language TV program Entre-Nous. (December, 2018)


The Challenge Cards in a City Near You!

In 2018, we sold and distributed 3,152 decks of Challenge Cards. We sent cards to Belgium, Italy, Israel, Australia, China and many more countries. There are now over 3,335 Challenge Cards being used around the world. We are thrilled to imagine the number of lives that will be impacted by this! Thank you to all the guidance counsellors, teachers and parents who committed to help students discover exciting challenges, problems and opportunities. 

A special thank you to the York Region District School Board (YRDSB), who acquired a Classroom Set of Challenge Cards for each of their 33 schools. To support the implementation of the Challenge Method, the board also trained over 30 staff to use the cards with individuals and groups. We look forward to partnering with YRDSB as they continue to innovate in the career development space. 

We are also proud to have partnered with La Cité in Ottawa, and Cambrian College in Sudbury, who bought into the Challenge Method this year. Both colleges purchased Challenge Cards and distributed them to hundreds of high school guidance counsellors in their cities. Thank you for spreading the word!

JP Michel a few minutes before his presentation at Cambrian College. (June, 2018)


Looking Forward: What’s Next in 2019

The Future of Career Development

The first time I helped a student with an individualized coaching program was in 2009. Every year since then, I've learned more and more about career development and what students need. Here are the top 3 lessons I learned last year:

  1. We need to prepare students for reinvention.

Change is a constant in their lives, and we need to prepare students to reinvent themselves on an ongoing basis. We need to go beyond helping to build one vocational identity before they have graduated high school. Instead, we need to teach the steps behind the creation of vocational identity, so that they can repeat the process when they experience change in their careers.

  1. Positive outcomes for effective career development.

How do you measure whether or not a career development intervention has had an impact? In the old models, if you could simply match someone to a job title, you had succeeded in your intervention. Since most people will hold multiple job titles during their lives, this measurement approach is no longer sufficient. 

Instead, I focus on ensuring youth understand and embrace the following outcomes:

  • Understand the career development process.
  • Feel empowered and encouraged.
  • Take meaningful action towards their goals.
  1. Career development does not start and finish - it is ongoing.

Since we go beyond matching people to a single job, it is evident that career development is a process that needs to happen continuously instead of just once as a ‘solution’ to an employment ‘problem’. People need to constantly learn more about themselves, the world of work, and how to get to where they want to go.

I am currently exploring ideas about how I can have an ongoing impact (instead of a one-time intervention) with the students I work with. I have seen first-hand the fundamental change that occurs when students have been taught that career development is a lifelong process, instead of feeling forced to make one choice that will dictate the rest of their lives.  

Update on Coaching and Training

Training - If we've worked together in the past, you know how much I enjoy facilitating training sessions. I'm excited about continuing to train school boards, educators, and teachers again next year. One exciting development on the training front is that I will be giving the first Challenge Method Certification this year. If you'd like to participate and become part of our first cohort, please email me at jp@mysparkpath.com. 

Coaching - Although I love to coach students one-on-one, I am exploring other formats to discover how I can help students learn on a larger scale, one that is more collaborative. We will be hosting more Career Camps this year, and beginning to create the Challenge Cards App. 

Challenge Cards – The App

Ever since I created the Challenge Cards in 2017, I've been asked to create a digital version that users could use with remote clients. This year I will be working with local technology incubators to research the feasibility and development of a Challenge Cards app. 

Trades Cards

Two other requests I get often are to feature more skilled trade opportunities and develop cards that are more suited to a younger audience. I've done just that with the upcoming Trades Cards. I am quite excited that through these easy to use tools, we will be able to connect students, as young as 10 years old, with opportunities in the skilled trades. 

A preview of one of the new Trades Cards - coming soon! 

Thank you

My passion for helping students reach their potential fuels everything I do at SparkPath. I am committed to lifelong learning and reinvesting the proceeds from the Challenge Cards into new ventures that can help students at a larger scale.

Next year, you will be able to follow my journey in researching the creation of an app, the first sales of the Trades cards, and the addition of great content on how to dynamically use the Challenge Cards.

I look forward to continuing to learn with you. Thank you for supporting us and for the important work you do in helping young people create incredible lives.



Thank you to Farnam Street for the inspiration to write this post.



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