Program integration at University of Toronto

Helping PhDs explore non-academic careers and build Career Management skills through a 2-meeting narrative assessment segment of the 12-week OPTIONS Program

The University of Toronto is a global leader in research and teaching, with 3 campuses and 88,000+ students of which over 17,000 are international students. With over 18,000 graduate students, U of T graduates more PhDs than any other university in Canada, and more and more of these individuals seek non-academic careers.


An increasing number of doctoral candidates and post-doctoral fellows needed help to explore non-academic careers, especially facing a limited job market for academic careers. This was especially true in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering where the career exploration needed was accompanied by a need to build career management skills.



What happened and how. The OPTIONS Program is an initiative by the Vice-Dean, Graduate Studies and the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) to support U of T Engineering PhD students and post-docs who wish to explore career options. Participants take a deep dive into career management within a 12-week, non-credit program, covering job market realities, strengths and desires clarification, and job search strategies. We integrated a 2-session solution featuring the OneLifeTools Narrative Assessment into the Program. First, participants were introduced to the narrative framework then instructed to use the Self-Directed Narrative Assessment to reflect on their stories and generate new possibilties. In a 2nd meeting, they reflected on insights from their stories, read aloud their Career Statements, and built Exploration plans. We also led the Who You Are Matters! game for a group of 65 PhDs and post-docs, with excellent results. One player said the game “effectively balances vulnerability with control.”


"The Online Storyteller tool helped me to organize my thoughts and make a concrete plan. I am now very inspired to take the next steps for my career.”

- Moah Christensen, PhD, physicist


Among U of T OPTIONS participants, 92% rated Online Storyteller as 'very useful' or 'useful,' and using same measure, it was 96% for 'Creating a Career Statement.' For the Who You Are Matters! game, participants rated it 4.5 out of 5. Participant teams presented back to their peers in a final Program meeting, consistently saying how powerfully the Program helped them generate career options, gain clarity, learn career management skills, and take action. U of T now has a 2-session program element embedded in OPTIONS, and a new way to attract, retain and support these unique members of Grad School.


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