How to transform student employment into meaningful career development

On-campus employment provides students with an opportunity to develop the skills they'll need to enter the workforce. Most students, however, perceive campus jobs as purely an opportunity to make money, rather than a chance to bolster their career prospects—even though these jobs can offer both.

In our publication Reimagining Experiential Learning, we profiled Ryerson University's initiative to develop a set of learning outcomes for all of their on-campus student employment positions. The university rewrote each student job description to incorporate these outcomes, aligning each job's responsibilities with learning and development related goals for students. These efforts improved engagement and productivity among the student workforce by helping students understand how their campus job can contribute to their own learning and development.

The initial success of the venture inspired Ryerson to go even farther by completely overhauling its student employment experience. Rebranded as Career Boost, Ryerson's on-campus employment opportunities include a suite of additional resources and development opportunities for students to maximize the benefits of working on campus.

Career Boost provides comprehensive and consistent support

Ryerson's newly imagined program has changed student employment for both employees and supervisors. By first reshaping student perceptions about the opportunities and growth potential associated with paid on-campus employment, Ryerson can enhance students' co-curricular experience and support their long-term career goals. Career Boost emphasizes skill development and articulation, as well as broader professional preparation, to help students practice and improve their skills, preparing them to be competitive players in the job market upon graduation.

To achieve these goals, Career Boost provides students with constant access to resources and regular touchpoints throughout their time in the program.

Early introduction to career development and resources

Ryerson has devised a first-time orientation for all students participating in the Career Boost program, which will take place right before the start of the fall 2016 semester. The orientation session will emphasize how student employment can prepare students for jobs after graduation by adding to their skills and experiences. This frontloading of information will convey to students how their campus job can be a great developmental opportunity—if they're prepared to take advantage of it.

Campus employers will also attend an orientation. At the session, they will learn about their responsibilities to the students in Career Boost and receive an extensive toolkit to support them.

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Periodic checkpoints between supervisors and employees

Supervisors receive the Career Checkpoint toolkit, a comprehensive guide for supervisors to create personalized development plans for each Career Boost student. With the series of tools and templates, supervisors can choose from among multiple variations of the Career Boost program to find one that best suits their management style and preferences. For each element of the program, it provides checkpoint document templates, suggested themes for check-in meetings, and student reflection prompts, eliminating any additional burden the program might have put on supervisors.

While allowing for some flexibility, the guide lays out the basic requirements of the program and provides recommendations and guidance for supervisors to engage their employees. The program's design helps students translate the skills and knowledge they've gained working at Ryerson to their future career and education goals, which is accomplished through a series of student-staff interactions:

Overview of Student-Staff Interactions Throughout Career Boost

Overview of Student-Staff Interactions Throughout Career Boost

The Career Boost and Career Checkpoint initiatives are one of the most progressive ways to bolster the student employment experience through regular career development and guided supervisor support.

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