Personal Development

Level UP: Making Sense of Your Experiences

I have never considered myself to be an eloquent speaker or writer. It never feels as professional or put-together as I hope it is when I am talking with colleagues or interviewing for a job. It’s not because I’m not smart or anything, I just learn and process things with less structure than others. That being said, what I’ve realized as a recently graduated student that had countless valuable experiences in my time at Ryerson, is that I still have my own way of articulating all of my great ideas, stories, and reflections, despite occasionally worrying how they will be immediately perceived. I think what I’m trying to say is that sometimes my mind is unfiltered, and chaotic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make it work.

In my recent experience looking for jobs, I’ve found that resumes do not speak enough to the work that we put into what we do as students. Sure, we can list that job that we worked really hard at everyday for two years, or the contributions we made to various student groups in short form bullet points, but we all know how much more we put into our commitments than that. It’s all about the proof and examples we can give. When applying to a job, the reason they ask for a cover letter is so they can get a sense of what you are bringing to the table. Even then, is that enough? I know for myself, some of the work I am passionate about doing is event planning and graphic design. Personally, I find it hard to illustrate my creative process and the time that is put into every project I do on something like a cover letter or resume. I am very detail-oriented and love to explain everything I did, whether I was successful or not. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner, which is why I like to be able to show people instead of just tell them about my experiences and skills.

In participating in the Level Up pilot in my last year as a student, I found that having a resource like the ePortfolio was beneficial for me to compile the work I produced, and the experiences I was having. It gave me the ability to illustrate what I was trying to say with examples and proof of my work. Where I don’t always feel like my words are the right way to articulate myself, being able to provide examples helps others understand what I am trying to convey. By not having to follow a specific format, I’ was able to create the ePortfolio that was most beneficial for me. On that note, I also really realized how valuable it is to have a place to collect all your experiences as a student. A platform like the ePortfolio allows you to be able to look back years later and remember all the things that got you to where you are, what you learned along the way, and the skills you gained as a result of whatever it is you’ve been doing. From my perspective, even if at first this wasn’t something I would have considered useful, as someone who is now looking back after four years, it is a resource I recommend students take advantage of.

To help you better understand what I’ve been trying to explain, I have an example. I spent the summer working as an Events Assistant for the Ryerson Orientation Team. My summer culminated in 9 days filled with different types of events that were meant to cater to the incoming class of 2017. The outcome was a great week of programming, but how would anyone understand how much work went into it? I think through my ePortfolio I am able to elaborate where our ideas started vs. where they ended, how I perceived each event as it unfolded, what I would do better or differently next time, etc. I think this is not only a great tool to show future employers how I am able to make my ideas come to life, but also benefit the student who will be working in my position next summer. They will be able to take my notes and feedback to help make next year’s Orientation Week even better.

My way of learning may not seem like the most effective way for me to implement my ideas, and my work, into the ePortfolio, but I think because it is so versatile, students are able to adjust how you use it to benefit your style of working and learning. As someone who is not a natural storyteller, I think providing an open platform for expressing your story however you’d like is an integral piece of this platform. Storytelling is really important, it shapes the way we live our lives. Everything we hear, understand, and connect to changes how we experience everything in this world. By sharing your story, you’re able to impact this world in a way that you may not realize right away. The stories you share are a huge part of what defines our community. Every story is worth sharing.

Karen Espinola, Ryerson Alumni & avid consumer of mozarella sticks.

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By students, for students: RU Student Life is dedicated to sharing stories of what it’s really like to be a Ryerson student. We strive to make everything inspiring, informational, amusing, useful, and critical, and we believe every one of us has a story worth sharing. Visit studentlife.ryerson.ca/about to find out more.