Career Centre

Career Checkpoint: Equipping Students for Their #RoadAhead

This story begins three years ago, when the offices of the Vice-Provost, Students and Vice President, Administration and Finance set one very simple goal: Make all on-campus, student-jobs opportunities for learning.

Five supervisors from across those divisions were selected to give this idea a first go by integrating defined learning outcomes into the supervisor’s’ student-staff job descriptions. A review of existing literature and samples of student job postings across Ryerson showed clear themes in terms of the learning outcomes that are a natural part of student jobs, and which of these learning outcomes appear in professional level positions.

Next, it became evident early in the process that some of the supervisors were already using learning outcomes, while others were new to the idea that a part-time student position should have value for the student beyond a paycheque. Some of the supervisors in the pilot group, eager to make the most of this opportunity, started asking for additional resources to help them effectively guide students through the process, while others were concerned with the time required to make this happen.

The pilot was a good start, but how do you build a complete cross-campus program that touches every student job on campus?

Fast-forward 3 years to Career Checkpoint—a cross-campus program that touches virtually every student job on campus. How did that happen? How did we go from 5 supervisors offering learning outcomes to their student-staff to a program that offers a bank of on-campus job opportunities organized by job families; an orientation and training day for all students; tools for staff to help facilitate student-staff development tailored to length of employment and level of experience; as well as a student career planning guide?

How We Got Buy-In

“Before we go any further, we need to talk buy-in,” was a phrase that came up early, and often. If campus partners aren’t on board, the program can’t work. No matter how great the tools we develop may be, they are useless if supervisors won’t actually use them with their staff, which means there’s no point in us spending months developing them. So how did we get buy in?

Simple—before adding more work onto peoples’ already full plates, we did our best to make sure that any tools developed and any processes we suggested benefited everyone involved in a way that made sense.

That is why the entire program is built within strict parameters, created to ensure value through:

Beyond these program parameters, we regularly asked—and are continuing to ask—for feedback from students and supervisors throughout the process and are not afraid to change how the program works. After all, no matter how much time and effort we put into the program, it has to work for more than just us.

For instance, in our eagerness to provide as much learning to students as possible, we piloted multi-day mandatory induction sessions across our pilot departments. The feedback we received was that although the content was very engaging, the format was too time consuming and difficult to expand on a wider scale. As a result, we are scaling back and moving to a one-day, mandatory induction at the start of a student’s internship in the next stage of the program.

What is an Induction Session?

It’s a one-day, mandatory program held at the beginning of each Career Boost Program, designed to build job readiness skills and allow students to connect and network with their peers. The program introduces students to concepts and ideas that will help them develop the learning outcomes integral to their future professional success. Topics covered as part of the induction include equity, diversity, and inclusion; health and well-being; and professionalism. The program also allows students to learn from past student-staff and build their professional networks with peers.

What Does the Program Look Like?

Career Checkpoint actively seeks to put three key student development theories into practice:

  • Alignment of Chickering & Reiser’s 7 Vectors of Student Development (1993) through learning outcomes associated with each on-campus job;
  • Personalized development plans and a professional development program designed to push students while being coupled with a supportive backdrop (Sanford, 1962);
  • Building an environment which encourages reflection, goal-setting, and intentional planning to support students in developing abilities and perspectives associated with self-authorship (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004).

The Career Checkpoint program itself is made up of five components:

1) Career Builders:

1,000+ on-campus student job opportunities that will allow all employees to build the top 10 employer skills demanded by organizations today, from communication to digital literacy & technical aptitude.

2) Career Families:

A library of student jobs grouped within a Ryerson Job Family to ensure streamlined messaging and consistency in the types of student opportunities available across campus. For supervisors, this means a library of jobs to help inform the design of their own student teams. Searchable job families include on-campus roles in Community Events, Peer Support, and Multimedia & Design, among others.

3) Career Connections:

A dedicated program for student employees that includes cross-campus induction and wrap-up programs, to facilitate reflection on their work experiences, and the ability to articulate their growth on the job and with skills learned.

4) Career Conversations:

Thoughtful and planned conversations between student-staff and their supervisors to contribute to students’ professional awareness. For supervisors, these include a Toolkit and training on managing student development plans.

5) Career Compass:

A career planning guide for all student employees to support their career planning and reflection, complete with profiles of community leaders to provide students with a real-world understanding of how their current roles will help lead them to their chosen professional roles.

How Long Does a Program Like This Take to Create?

This is a hard question to answer. For us, Career Checkpoint is the culmination of 3 years and many hours at the Career Centre and across the Student Affairs portfolio, with invaluable time and assistance from colleagues across the University. For instance, to make the Career Compass alone a reality took a year of Career Centre staff time to write the content and collect input from community leaders. (Not to mention the work of the RyersonSA Creative Unit in developing the design!)

And we are still adding to the program, currently developing complementary editions to support colleagues supervising distinct student groups—with Career Checkpoint for international students, Aboriginal students, and returning student employees—due to roll-out before year-end.

As we continue to add to Career Checkpoint, we keep that ultimate goal in mind—making all of our 1,000+ on-campus student jobs opportunities for learning; this goal is our key to making Career Checkpoint a success. After all, there are few things that can bring as much joy as seeing our students grow into professionals and knowing that we helped to get them there.

Irrespective of institutional background, we are all invested in the professional growth of our students. Career Checkpoint, embodying this mission, is a program dedicated to opening up new opportunities for us to empower students to carve out their careers from pre-arrival through to professional life.

For colleagues looking to learn more about the Career Checkpoint program and how it can be adapted to your campus, please contact:

Update September 2017: For more information about more recent iterations of Career Checkpoint, please email checkpoint@ryerson.ca or call (416) 979 5000 ext. 7518 . 

Career Checkpoint: Student Employee Development ProgramCareer Checkpoint: a guide to student development, whatever your management style.