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Reflecting on 20 years of ContactPoint

As 2017 marks ContactPoint’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sections of our website as well as the most-read articles through a series of blog posts, and reflect on what they say about how the field has evolved over the past two decades. In the first post of the series, CERIC’s Executive Director discusses the origins of ContactPoint.

Creation and evolution of the online platform designed for career practitioners in Canada

By Riz Ibrahim

What started as an idea on a restaurant napkin turned into something quite enduring, lasting over 20 years. Yet, it became quickly evident early on that it wasn’t as much the novel, progressive idea as much as a wanting community of career practitioners that ensured that ContactPoint would be built in record time and launched at NATCON 1997, receive private foundation support through The Counselling Foundation of Canada and be steered by a multi-sectoral, pan-Canadian Board of Directors; that it would grow, experiment and ride the dot com boom and bust and come out of those heady days as desirable as it was at inception.

Thinking back to the beginnings of a website dedicated to the resource and professional development needs of career professionals harkens back memories of how rudimentary our online world really was, how nascent the need for resources, information, listings was, and how vital and driven the desire to connect collectively was – to forge a common identity and make a mark that together these were the professionals and practitioners in Canada engaged in career-related work and ContactPoint was the place to showcase this.

Humble Beginnings and Lasting Impact

The cacophonous screech of our dial-up modem notwithstanding (yes, dial up and excited to upgrade to a 56K modem late in 1997!), we were actually ahead of the curve compared to many in the field. Individual email addresses were not common, and organizational websites and personal web access at work were rare. Our website grew to be a collection of flat HTML files, often hard coded and manually uploaded. It took time, patience and the generosity of a community willing to try this thing out with us. ContactPoint initiated “C-Space” chats (think an early cousin to GoToWebinar), MyContactPoint pages that personalized and captured one’s career portfolio, The Flash! (think a simpler version of our now popular CareerWise), and The Bulletin (which is now Careering magazine).

Perhaps the most enduring quality of ContactPoint has been its ability to evolve – to be responsive to the needs of an ever-changing community of career professionals, as articulated by that community. From adding wikis and resource directories to awards listings that celebrate excellence in the field to a database of who was doing what research in Canada within career development, ContactPoint has evolved as the field evolved. This includes how and where career professional get their information. Long gone are the days of the flat files and discussion groups; the site is powered by content-rich databases, responsive to mobile, pushes content out through CareerWise, and carries the conversation out to popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Careering is a glossy industry magazine and a great representation of the broad expertise in the field – available in hard copy but also online through the site and through ISSU. The essence of what ContactPoint aspired to be continues to this day, albeit with a different look, different deployment and different content. And tomorrow, it will change again…such is the nature of the idea and the field it supports.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Riz Ibrahim is CERIC’s Executive Director and works with the organization’s cross-sectoral Board and Advisory Committees to develop strategic and functional partnerships that enhance the body of knowledge for Canada’s career professional communities. Additionally, Riz oversees all areas within CERIC’s mandate including the Cannexus National Career Development Conference, the ContactPoint and OrientAction online community collaboration portals, the peer-reviewed The Canadian Journal of Career Development, and a host of internal and external projects including national surveys of Canadians’ perceptions about career planning and about career development and the workplace.

Lucie Morillon
Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

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