ASPA Member Highlight – Shari Thompson, Student Professional Development Strategist/Director of Career Development, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan

Written by Karen E. Mosier

Shari obtained her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina in 1988, attending the satellite office in Saskatoon.  Prior to acceptance into Social Work, she took two years of Arts and Science completing all pre-requisite coursework at the University of Saskatchewan.   In 1993, Shari became a Certified Job Finding Club Facilitator, completing a Human Resources Advanced Certificate in 2010, and the Mental Health First Aid training in 2018. Shari has worked at the University of Saskatchewan for almost 18 years, in the areas of career and employment with students in all colleges, having worked for 15 years as an Employment Coordinator in the Student Employment and Career Centre.    

In the College of Law, Shari collaborates with law students on their legal career development plan and helps facilitate connections with employers and recruiters across Canada, the USA, or internationally.  USask Law students are in either a three-year degree program or a four-year program if they reside in Iqaluit, NU.  Shari spends most of her time getting to know the first year students, about 130 of them, by hosting professional development sessions, and being part of orientation and the Welcoming Ceremony.  She works one-on-one with each student to help them with their career development plan, answer their various questions, and guide them on refining their job search documents, so that they can get to the interview, and compete with their peers across the country for all types of positions.  Shari also prepares them with mock interviews that include potential legal interview questions and provides solutions for enhancing their candidacy.  She organizes student/employer panels, networking sessions, and the Career Forum, which is the college’s legal career fair.  Shari considers it a bonus to her position when she has the opportunity to attend USask Law Alumni events and recruitment tours with the students in cities such as Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver to better understand the legal markets as law students land articling positions across Canada.  Shari liaisons with law firms, the Provincial and Federal Courts, the Department of Justice Canada, and the Ministry of Justice in Saskatchewan and other provinces.  One of the requisites to becoming a practicing lawyer is to complete the articling requirement.  Shari helps guide students by providing all the job search resources and support required until they find their articling position.  The length of time (in months) and the type of experience (such as the courts) for obtaining articling positions differ in every province. 

What Shari likes most about her job is the active engagement that she has with all law students as they begin building their legal careers and journeys.  She values the staff and faculty that she works with and especially the support that she has received from Dean Philipson.  Her passion for employment and career development is a perfect match to help law students with their legal career journey.  What inspires her the most is the autonomy she has to create a unique career development program for every law students!  Her motivation is to “share in the student’s joy” when they land the position they seek, such as a summer, articling, clerking (in a court), or an international opportunity!  Most days, when she closes her office/home door, she is content that she has helped another student to be on the receiving end of a positIon that they have desired.     

Shari credits her Bachelor of Social Work as crucial in helping her in her current position, providing the foundation needed to help people.  She can advocate on behalf of a student, refer additional services, supports, and resources, or just be a positive support for students.  Looking for work is hard work in itself, and you have to develop resiliency to ‘dust yourself off’ and carry on the search.  It has allowed her to mentor and supervise practicum students from social work. A social work degree allows her to help all types of people. She also encourages everyone to take Mental Health First Aid training.

What Shari values most about being an ASPA member is her ASPA collective agreement. She had worked from contract to contract before she started working on campus. She also appreciates the ASPA pension, the great benefits and the dollars for professional development that have allowed her to attend conferences and find out about best practices in career development, both in Canada and internationally.  Lastly, she is thankful for the ASPA merit process so that members are recognized for their hard work. Shari enjoys the ASPA pizza lunches, pancake breakfasts, welcome back to campus activities, and ASPA’s special 40th birthday celebration with its professional development sessions. She adds, “By just standing in line waiting for pizza I have had conversations with the people around me”. It gives her the opportunity to put a face with the name of many people that she has worked with over the years but never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face.

Shari’s advice to all ASPA members is “Go to the Annual General meeting and ASPA get-togethers and get to know what is important to people in ASPA.” 

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