Students often arrive at university level instruction with some idea of their future employment direction. It is important for university instructors to seize their student’s career enthusiasm and foster a connection between the curriculum and potential future career applications. Providing students with an opportunity to connect their classroom learning, (online or face-to-face) with workplace relevance will result in many positive learning outcomes such as motivation, grit, and career goal setting. As stated by Schwartz, Gregg, and McKee (2018) “Guidance and information focused on careers should be included throughout one’s undergraduate experience” (p. 51). To integrate career content into the classroom the following tips are suggested: integrating career focused topics in discussions and activities; using and integrating services offered by career resource centers; including guest speakers; and incorporating additional online career resources. These strategies help foster a connection between course material and professions and careers students may be considering.
Integrating career-focused curricula into all courses through simply integrating career-themed content into the discussions can help students make a connection between the curriculum and practical application. It is important to note, “Without broad exposure to potential careers students often know little about what they can do following their undergraduate studies; this puts them at risk for making uninformed decisions about their future careers” (Freeman, 2012, p. 154). Integrating career-related content into discussions provides an opportunity for students to have this exposure. Many consider class discussions to be the heart of the classroom learning, and integrating key career information into this medium allows students the opportunity to explore, connect, and apply career-focused topics. Below are some ways to consider integrating career content into the classroom:
- Cover the top skills employers seek in candidates and on the resumes. The National Association of Colleges and Employers provides a list annually, which can be referenced at (naceweb.org).
- Provide topics for research papers that focus on company and career research options.
- Outline the relevance of portfolios and encourage students to save key projects to add to a professional portfolio.
- Encourage discussions that loop back to how content may be included in job search documents, such as cover letters and resumes.
Career Resource Centers and Resources
Research suggests that students are not using career services on college campuses. When examining the awareness and use of career services at a large midwestern university, found that the career center resources were underutilized and that many students were having difficulty with career decisions (Billotte, 2013). What was remarkable in this study was that only half of the students were aware of career services available on campus. Despite difficulty with career decision making, even fewer had used the services on campus. In light of these realities, the following are suggestions to integrate information and resources offered by career services into the classroom:
- Hosting career-focused seminars
- Connecting career services staff with students through presentations and speaking engagements
- Working with the career services staff to reach out to alumni who may wish to present or offer information to current students
- Using resources offered by career services, such as employment data, to integrate into assignments or discussions
- Encourage students to connect with their point of contact within the career services office
- Promote activities hosted by career services by positing applicable announcements (via an announcement page, instructor website, email, or verbal announcement)
In addition to the career services staff, a multitude of viable resources are available for students to utilize as a means to investigate career opportunities and information. Many students might not be aware of these resources, making it important for instructors to expose students to these options in a variety of ways such as posting announcements, integration of the content in the discussion, or simply providing a resource file that contains applicable resources. Examples of resources that can be included to help with career research and investigation include:
- Job Finder through Career One Stop
- The National Association of Colleges and Employers website
- O*Net OnLine (presented by the U.S. Department of Labor)
- TedTalks and YouTube videos
Online and campus-based universities maintain vibrant career centers that offer all students career counseling, career networking, and placement opportunities. By promoting the use of online and university-based career resources, students can learn more about the career search process and begin developing a career strategy. Encouraging students to network and conduct informational interviews with professionals in their selected profession can further provide students with real world connections and present the opportunity to have questions answered.
As instructors we have the unique opportunity to help students explore future career opportunities. Research has shown the importance of providing college-level students with the skills needed to explore career opportunities. University students need to be exposed to career exploration in their early coursework, via classroom discussions, university career resources and online career sites, and real-world speakers. Career education is a lifelong learning experience that needs to have a greater focus, from the first semester through the last, for all university students.
Billotte, C. “Career Services Usage: An Analysis of Efficacy and Contextual Barriers Influence”
(2013). Honors Projects. 47. http://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/honorsprojects/47
Freeman, E. e. (2012). The Design and Implementation of a Career Orientation Course for
Undergraduate Majors. College Teaching, 60(4), 154-163.
Schwartz, B. M., Gregg, V. R., & McKee, M. (2018). Conversations about careers: Engaging
students in and out of the classroom. Teaching of Psychology, 45(1), 50-59.
Cathleen Mudd has worked in higher education as a staff and faculty member since 1999, working as an associate director and director of career services and has taught courses including career development, psychology of learning, professional presence, student success, and critical thinking. Cathleen holds a bachelor of science in elementary and early childhood education, a master of science in college student personnel administration, a graduate certificate in human resources management, and has completed graduate courses in adult education and industrial organizational psychology.
Judith Levin has worked in higher education since 2003 working as a developmental education instructor, student success center director, and regional chair of developmental education. She has instructed courses on-ground and online including introduction to college success, career education, psychology, abnormal psychology, introduction to sociology, basic college English, English composition, English literature, and composition and critical thinking. Judith holds a bachelor of science in social sciences and a master of science in special education. She has presented at conferences on topics such as critical thinking and developmental education.