Western professor wants you to share your WorkStory

December 18, 2016

As a Psychology Professor at Western University, Natalie Allen knows the top concern for many students is what they are going to do after they graduate.

As an Industrial/Organizational psychologist, she knows people have a narrow view of what jobs are available.

It was this combined knowledge that led Allen, working with David Stanley, a professor at the University of Guelph, to start WorkStory.net, a website where young workers tell the story of their career and their path in the professional world.

Allen said when she talks to students, she can generally predict how they will respond when asked what jobs exist. 

“Most of us don’t know about the vast majority of jobs that make the world go round,” said Allen. “If we did know about the variety jobs we could find out more about the career options.”

Allen said she even learned about jobs she didn’t knew existed.

“The site is designed simply as a resource that has the potential to be inspirational to others, giving ideas of jobs that they may not be aware of,” said Allen. “We wanted to illustrate there are many ways to make a living.”

The site contains stories submitted by students from various colleges and universities in Canada who serve as volunteer WorkStory Ambassadors, and from visitors to the site who submit their own stories. Still other stories have been previously published in other venues, such as alumni magazines. WorkStory primarily focuses on people in the early stages of their careers, typically within the first 8 years or less. Allen encourages anyone who is interested to submit their own story, as it could inspire or inform others.

“We want to make a giant mosaic of work stories people can use for various purposes. We don’t have a focus on one type of employment or job stories,” said Allen. “I know that for many people, stories are more interesting and compelling than statistics.”

While there is a great amount of public discussion around youth employment and career changes, Allen said it is important students know that the path to a career can be varied, and that career changes are normal, especially in the early stages.
“I’m not trying to sweep under the rug the employment challenges students face,” said Allen, ‘’But I’m also not of the belief that there is nothing out there.”

As a psychologist, Allen researches the psychology of teams, what makes teams work well, and how you would put the team together. Her efforts with WorkStory, however, do not have a research agenda.

“I just want young people to know there are many ways to make a living,” she said.