Saint Mary's University

"The Online Storyteller revolutionizes how we here at Saint Mary’s Career Services engage clients in exploring and telling their own stories and how they see themselves."

Nestled in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Saint Mary’s University is marked by iconic buildings, green spaces and fresh ocean air. A vibrant and culturally diverse community, Saint Mary’s is a national leader with 29% of students being international, hailing from 119 countries. Career Services consists of a team of professional counsellors, staff and student staff who provide a comprehensive package of career exploration and development services.


When Karen Schaffer started at SMU a decade ago as the first full time Career Counsellor, she was looking for a framework that would help post-secondary students define their career exploration that both gave them a specific goal but left the process open to personalized career counselling approach and clients’ changing needs and desires as they matured. 



In 2011, Karen discovered the OneLifeTools narrative system and saw immediately how it would serve her population, as it easily captured the information generated from sessions and gave clients a specific goal of creating a Career Statement. She established this as the go-to framework and it worked well. Students really liked that they were going to walk away with something specific and tangible out of sessions.  

If I could’ve wished for anything, it would’ve been an easier process given the constraints of how we practice at SMU, one with less admin on my end, and an easier, more inspiring way for clients to see their progress and write their Career Statement. Mark Franklin and his team at OneLifeTools came through. In 2017 we were introduced to the Online Storyteller web application, which placed the Career Sketch, the Career Statement, the Exploration Plan, plus a Narrative tool and a Get Feedback tool under one roof, clearly and simply laid out in an appealing mix of colour and white space. This new web application changed everything.


Over my time as a Career Counsellor, I have gone from having no framework - just asking clients to trust me that these open-ended conversations are leading somewhere, to finding OneLifeTools and having a solid framework that both myself as the practitioner and my clients enjoy using – and my fellow Career Counsellors and Career & Employment Coaches agree. The Online Storyteller revolutionizes how we here at Saint Mary’s Career Services engage clients in exploring and telling their own stories and how they see themselves.

- Karen Schaffer, Career Counsellor, Career Services, Saint Mary's University



Now, Karen’s favourite part of a first session is when she first take the client to the Career Sketch page and their eyes light up. Clients understand the Career Sketch and the career exploration process right away. The enticing layout just calls out to be filled up with their personal insights. Even better, creating a Career Statement is a few easy clicks away, a faster, more flexible way to transition to the next stage.  

Since the client’s account is accessible anywhere, clients have more ownership of their information: they get to play with around and try out the other tools on their own time, all which feed into the Career Sketch, captured in a user friendly way. Meanwhile, I save admin time because I either enter insights with them side by side in session, or assign self-capture as part of homework.  

As a practitioner, Karen says, “I enjoy the pop of energy that comes when a client sees a positive visual summary of how much they know about themselves. They often reflect that seeing their Career Sketch filling out so easily raises their self-confidence.” Students with learning and attention disabilities have reported how easy this site makes the process of entering information and creating a Career Statement. “The site design naturally encourages experimentation; there is more flexibility to create a Career Statement and then go back a few months later and add, re-sort and create a new one based on what the client is learning about themselves and their possibilities.” 


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