The Student Employment Experience: Turning Work into Learning

November 14, 2023

For more than 4,500 students employed by the Office of Student Life at The Ohio State University, their job is more than a paycheck. It’s an opportunity to learn the soft skills that employers want, and that students will need as they begin their careers. 

Student Life’s Buckeye Careers department offers the Student Employment Experience (SEE), a program that turns work into intentional, hands-on learning. It's not just about students earning money but gives students a chance to learn and grow both personally and professionally. 

“I view it as training my future boss,” says Buckeye Careers director Nancy Thompson. “Students don’t always realize that they are learning important skills at their on-campus job that will help them in whatever career they choose. SEE helps students identify their transferable skills and engage in real-world learning experiences.” 

The SEE program includes Guided Reflection on Work (GROW*) conversations, providing students with a platform to connect their university employment experiences with their future career aspirations. GROW conversations are an opportunity for student employees to intentionally make connections between their work, their academics and their future careers. 

Isabel Biasella took part in GROW conversations through her work as a student employee in the Student Life Senior Vice President’s office. “I continue to learn about myself through these conversations. These GROW conversations have prepared me for other meetings, interviews, internships, conversations and more.”

Students also have the opportunity to attend a variety of hour-long workshops on topics like public speaking, networking and job search strategies. This learning-based approach includes professional development opportunities such as resume reviews, career development workshops and chances to connect with both on-campus and external employers.

Isabel remarked, “I have developed and advanced transferable skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, planning, listening, leadership, time management and communication, to name a few, that will be useful throughout my personal and professional life. Overall, the student employee experience has been transformational to me and my future.”

One major goal within the program is to make the process easy for supervisors. They’re provided with a host of resources including facilitator’s guides for GROW conversations, career assessments that students can take and serve as conversation starters and a monthly community of practice meeting for supervisors to connect with each other on best practices. 

Research shows that student employees involved in the SEE program were 2.5 times more likely than their peers not involved in the SEE program to report that their supervisor helps them make connections between their work and life as a student. Moreover, Students in SEE are 1.8 times more likely to report that they think about how their employment can benefit them in other areas of life and demonstrated more learning and skill growth compared to those who did not participate in SEE.

“We believe that students are gaining important transferable skills in all of our employment positions – like customer service, working on a team, meeting deadlines and being a leader - and we want students to stop and reflect on this, so they are able to share it with a future employer,” says director Thompson. “All students employed by Student Life are part of the SEE program. Our goal is to expand this program to encompass all of the 15,000 students who work for Ohio State to help them engage, learn and thrive.” 

More information about the SEE program is available online

*GROW is registered by the University of Iowa and used with permission.

Jordy Puterman
Office of Student Life