Case Study: Ice Cream and Challenge Cards: A No-Pressure, Expansive Approach to Career Exploration

JP Michel

“SparkPath’s Challenge Cards are an enjoyable way for students to discover opportunities that they were not aware of. For students who are feeling the pressure to choose a direction, it can relieve that pressure and provide for a values-driven, connective experience to a meaningful future!”

Carl Remmes is a Career Design Consultant at the University of Buffalo. Carl works with undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students to help them understand their journey, process, and the next steps in their vocational lives. Carl’s role includes career exploration, resume creation, interviewing skills, and employer and community connectivity.

Carl’s career advisory department has many tools; each person takes one of the toolsets to “own” internally. Carl was given SparkPath’s Challenge Cards and mindset to champion internally. He was immediately drawn to the no-pressure, expansive nature of the career exploration tool. 

A Flexible Tool

Carl’s primary challenge was finding a career exploration tool that complemented his expansive and open approach to working with students.

Carl works with students seeking to change their major or who haven’t identified it. He also advises students who have a major but aren’t sure what to do with it. Carl finds that traditional career exploration tools create an appointment where the student spends much time sitting versus engaging in conversation. Wanting to provide a more engaging experience for students that allows them to jump into conversation and exploration, Carl began experimenting with SparkPath’s Challenge Cards.

Ice Cream Bike: Meet Students Where They Are

Beyond his one-on-one appointments, Carl has also leveraged the Challenge Cards and Challenge mindset at events and workshops. Carl also brought the cards to the student body through an ice cream bike he rode around campus. Carl facilitated the Challenge Cards from the bike to any student who was curious to learn more. This complemented the cards well, as the tool is colourful, engaging and fun.

The Challenge Cards help students build their decision-making process and explore themselves, ultimately helping them make better career choices. Carl believes the tool is intuitive and that no training needs to be done. The Challenge Cards are complimentary and not competing with other career exploration tools.

What Would You Do?

Carl integrated the Challenge Cards into a “Five Ws” process that he does with students, finding it helpful to do the cards and then schedule a follow-up consult with them. 

When Carl meets with the students, he’ll use the physical Challenge Cards to do a card sort with the student. They’ll sort the cards into piles - ‘love it,’ ‘don’t love it,’ and ‘maybe’ - and explore each pile. Carl feels there is as much value in exploring why students don’t love something as in focusing on the challenges they love most.

Once Carl explores the discarded Challenge Cards, he’ll turn the conversation toward the ‘love it’ stack. It is here that Carl puts the challenge cards through his “Five Ws” process to help the student paint a vision for their career:

  • Who is in this picture/vision with you?
  • What are you doing in the role?
  • When is this occurring?
  • Where is this vision taking place?
  • Why are you doing this?

Following this conversation, Carl will ask the student, “If you were to do something specific with this card, what would you do?”

Carl noticed that the cards help students understand many possibilities and allow them to go into a deeper conversation to explore their options. The student is encouraged to take notes through the process, including capturing beliefs about their career, life, majors, etc., and the existing myths. Carl has noticed that the Challenge Cards inspire the right feeling in the conversation and leave a lasting memory with the students he serves.

An Inviting Sandbox

The Challenge Cards are an inviting sandbox playground tool that can significantly impact students. The cards help students feel more confident and comforted in their career exploration process. Carl thinks that post-secondary institutions should invest in the Challenge Cards as they are an excellent tool for career exploration.

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