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Making it all add up

“So what are you going to do with your degree?”

It’s a common question at many holiday gatherings every year, often causing consternation among students who worry they don’t have the skills or experience to land a job in the competitive workforce.

[Holy Mathias]
Holly Mathias wrote down some of her talents and activities in hopes that it adds up to a career in global health.

To combat that stress, Queen’s Career Services and the Alma Mater Society (AMS) created the It All Adds Up campaign. The campaign aims to challenge the myth that students must always be adding more and more work, volunteer and extracurricular activities in order to succeed in the future.

Colin Zarzour, Academic Affairs Commissioner, AMS, says media coverage of the skills gap has made students fearful of their future job prospects. However, he has found from conversations with other students that they tend to sell themselves short.

“The campaign is about encouraging students to stop and reflect on this basic question: ‘what do you have going for you?’” he says. “Through conversations with Career Services counsellors or volunteers, students can “add up” their existing experiences and skills. They realize these often qualify them to do work in what they are passionate about, and helps them think about how to communicate those skills on a resume or in a job interview.”

Career Services and the AMS were inspired in part to create the It All Adds Up campaign based on student surveys:

 

• Student ranked “future/career” as the third highest source of stress (2012 Student Health and Wellness survey)

• Thirty-one per cent of students surveyed reported they found “career” traumatic or very difficult to handle in the past year (2013 Student Health Survey Report)

The campaign kicked off in a big way in November with Career Services counsellors and AMS volunteers talking with students at high traffic areas on campus. Students were encouraged to write some of their activities, characteristics and traits on a whiteboard and post a photo of it on various social media channels with the hashtag #Qaddsup.

“Students who participated relaxed quickly because they realized that they are actually already very engaged,” says Christine Fader, Career Counsellor, who also noted that students enjoyed feeling empowered to make decisions about activities, rather than simply succumbing to the pressure to add more.

Through November and early December, Career Services ran polls which asked students to weigh in on questions such as, “When it comes to activities, do you go for breadth or depth?” and “Other than school, what is the ‘right’ number of activities to have on your plate at one time?” Throughout the year, Career Services will continue to promote the All Adds Up message in meetings with students and on its website. Holly Mathias (Artsci’16), a work study student who is helping promote the initiative, is profiling students’ preparations for life after university. She is also profiling recent alumni to show current students the different paths they can take to find a career that matches their passions and interests.

“Students have really enjoyed the social media component and seeing how their friends are making it all add up,” Ms. Mathias says. “Students are also engaging with each other and reflecting on the strategies their peers are using for career preparation, which is encouraging.”

Visit the Careers Services It All Adds Up webpage for more information and to read the profiles.