The new course prepares students for work-integrated learning experiences and beyond.

By: Matthew King (he/him)

Graduate students are feeling more prepared to take on their work-integrated learning (WIL) experiences and future career endeavours thanks to the pilot offering of WIL 601: Career Foundations for Work-Integrated Learning.

The Centre for WIL collaborated with Centre for Career Development (CCD) and industry partners to redevelop the foundations course. Students can enrol during their pre-recruitment term (the term before they start looking for a job). Taking the course during a study term, helps students in graduate co-op and internship programs prepare for their WIL journey. They learn about how to approach things like identifying career goals and researching potential employers.

“At the very beginning (of the course), students write a career identity statement and profile. Both pieces play a role in the way they define themselves and how they wish to be perceived by a specific audience like an employer,” says Robin Andrade (she/her), WIL 601 instructional support co-ordinator in the Centre for WIL. “To create these pieces, students reflect on their competencies, interests and past experiences.”

Much like a quality WIL experience, reflection plays a key part in WIL 601. Reflection helps students identify their strengths and areas for improvement. They can then start to work to make improvements that will benefit them in their future.

Giving students the tools for success

Adam Smith (he/him), a Master of Applied Mathematics student, found the course helpful because it covered all aspects of applying for jobs and evaluating his career aspirations.

Adam Smith, University of Waterloo master’s student in Applied Mathematics

The course helped give me the tools to explain what I have done as a grad student and how that applies to an employer’s workplace. It definitely made me reflect on where I'm at and where I might want to go.

Adam Smith, master student of Applied Mathematics

Students especially appreciate the preparatory pieces like resume-building, cover letters and interview skills. Their feedback indicates they’ve gone back and referred to these pieces multiple times throughout the course.

Ariel Fullerton (she/her) is a graduate co-op student and a teaching assistant on WIL 601. She sees the value this course provides and is able to relate to other students in the course.

“I think the biggest benefit of the course, that I have witnessed, has been seeing students develop their confidence,” says Fullerton. “Especially through shared stories - they conducted informational interviews with industry connections who were in roles, careers or fields to which they aspire.”

Making the most of the modules

The WIL 601 course features ten modules that students work through asynchronously. The topics range from skills evaluation and creating application documents, to interviewing effectively and networking.

“I was not sure how to network with others because I'm kind of an introvert,” says Wenting Ju (she/her), a Master of Electrical and Computer Engineering student. “After taking the course, I feel I have a better idea about how I should approach it (networking).”

Some of the assignments can be robust. For example, one assignment has students reach out to people working in a field they may be interested in pursuing to learn more.

“It's not easy to find somebody that you can interview, and students might read that assignment and find it very daunting,” says Andrade. “Then when they complete it, they realize they have so much more information about the position they want.”

While WIL 601 is a non-credit course in its pilot phase, students who complete the assignments and engage with the modules have found value in the content.

“If you’re in a similar position to me, where you’re sort of wondering what you might want to do, I think the course is a good way to familiarize yourself with that space,” says Smith. “It might help you make decisions about what you want to do.”

“In the beginning, I planned to be a technical expert in my field of study,” says Ju. “But after going through the course and doing all the assignments, I have redefined my values and interests.  I feel that some of those positions are not that meaningful enough to me and I would like to start a venture in the future.”