Career CentreThoughts, Feelings

More Than Just A Typewriter: the Power of Transitional Knowledge in Career Development

As a part of the induction for the Career Centre Summer 2015 student team, I was asked to give our new student-staff a tour of the office and share my own summer job experiences. It took me quite some time to figure out what I should share with them. I wanted to give them something they could take away and reflect on afterwards, something to help them achieve their goals more efficiently.

On the induction day, five students attended my session and spent 20 minutes on a fun Career Centre Scavenger Hunt. Before I sent them off to the next activity, we sat around the table and I looked into each of their eyes and said sincerely: “In the following four months, I want all of you to think about how your Career Boost experience will help you to learn transitional knowledge.”

Transitional knowledge is flexible and adaptable knowledge; skills that are transferable from one task, job, or career to a future task, job, or career. It’s important for us, as student affairs professionals, to teach our students transitional knowledge because once students understand how previously learned skills and knowledge contribute to their personal and professional growth, students will bring their best selves to work and be open to new challenges.

When I started administering the Career Boost program three years ago, I didn’t fully understand the value of the program. I’d heard great feedback from supervisors on how wonderful are their students, but I wondered if students valued the program the same way? It was not hard for me to gather the information I needed. Working in student affairs allowed me to have direct and frequent access to students who are already a part of the program. Almost every student I spoke with gave me a similar message—“I love my job, I’ve grown so much at work, I’ve made great connections.” Their passion and pride for the job truly touched me and made me start reflecting on my own experience as a student and transitional skills I developed.

I came to Canada two years after graduating from the Senior High School (equivalent to Grade 12 in Canada). Unlike Canada—where community work, part-time jobs, and summer jobs are common for high school students—students in China (in my generation) didn’t start having jobs until they started university. All my summers during high school were mainly spent at home, travelling, or in tutorial classes. One summer in Junior High School, I was given a gift: a white typewriter with sleek black keys. I instantly fell in love with this new “toy” and spent my entire summer with it. I simply loved the sound of typing. At the end of that summer, I was able to type a whole document page without looking at any keys; even the symbol keys that are hard to reach.

The year after I graduated from Senior High School, I went to a job agency hoping to find an office job. Guess what? I was tested on my typing skill and I scored the highest in my group. As a result, I was one of the two students that earned an interview opportunity. Without that summer playing on my typewriter, practicing my typing, I wouldn’t have passed the skill test with such high scores and been offered an interview opportunity as a result. This is a typical example of how transitional knowledge has helped me succeed and brought me one step closer to my goals.

The beauty of transitional knowledge is that it gives you transitional skills that can be applied anywhere. In my previous role with the Career Centre, I was a Resume and Online Profile Advisor. In this role, I had to develop my interpersonal skills by interacting with many different students to help them improve their resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile. As a Career Engagement Ambassador, I have to use those same interpersonal skills to interact with different leaders on campus so that we can communicate and plan events effectively.
— Urooj S., Faculty of Engineering & Architectural Science, graduating in June 2016

In my opinion, students participating in the Career Boost program are similar to the younger me who was given a typewriter in many ways:

  • We both were given an opportunity;
  • We worked hard to learn and develop the skills;
  • Mistakes were welcomed while practicing;
  • The skills we developed weren’t necessarily useful at that very moment, but will one day contribute to our goals.

No doubt, the Career Boost program is also much more complicated than my typing test. To name a few highlights of the program:

  • The program provides students with a taste of professional workplace before graduation;
  • Students receive support and guidance from their supervisors, professional staff, and constructive feedback accelerates their growth;
  • Students are expanding their network with professional staff, peers, and even external stakeholders.
This program has been life changing for me. It really invests in your professional and personal growth. Through the Career Boost Program I have improved communication, multi tasking, time management, and many more skills! I was able to put academic theory into practice here. My supervisors are now my mentors. This position really helped me expand my network, gain confidence in my skills, and explore career paths that interest me.
— Nujhat N., TRSM, graduating in June 2016

I truly believe in the value of the Career Boost program to our students. If there is one thing I can tell every student who is interested in the program, it’s that any job you work has value  because of what you can learn from it—if you choose to learn. The same can be true of your hobbies and extracurriculars.

From what I’ve seen, students have high regards and respect for the Career Boost opportunities. They glow, grow, and evolve in the program. For some of them, this is their first ever professional job. Our role is not only being their supervisors during the program time, but also being a mentor and coaching them through skills they can develop and how to apply those to other aspects of their lives—especially to their future careers.

As an Employer Engagement Assistant, I have an opportunity to interact with employers over the phone and in person. Therefore, my interpersonal skills have been polished and I have also gained experience in working effectively in a team. These transferable skills helped me land my current job placement at Shangrila Hotel as an event planner.
— Kylie D., TRSM, graduating in June 2016

The Ryerson Career Boost Program provides financial assistance to eligible students and allows departments to have additional resources for operation needs and special projects, but more importantly, it is a perfect opportunity for students to practice their existing skills and develop new transitional skills and knowledge that will benefit them for their entire lives.

To make the jobs you offer more transitional knowledge friendly and encourage students to embrace their transitional knowledge, I suggest:

  1. Using Career Checkpoint to aid your students’ development at work. (You can read Paulina’s article to learn more about the Career Checkpoint Program).
  2. Encourage students to try different roles, both on and off campus.

Transitional knowledge has the everlasting ability to help someone achieve their future goals, and as student affairs professionals we should do everything in our power to foster the growth of these skills in our students, our employees, and ourselves. If we do, there’s no telling what we can develop.

  • Wincy Li

    I love that story about the typewriter! I also learned how to type on one of those, and got one myself around the same time as you (early teenage years). Except mine didn’t come as a gift – I found it in a dumpster. 😀

  • Rebecca Dirnfeld

    Wonderful post Christina! Also loved the story of the typewriter. For me, it was learning to swim. I didn’t realize the time I spent perfecting my strokes and building my endurance would lead to a job life guarding and swim instructing! Also enjoyed reading the student feedback – we do love our students in the Career Centre :).