by Janet Mizrahi, The Guffey Team
One of our readers told us she recently experimented by starting her business communication class with a unit on employment communication. Nicole Adams at the University of Dayton says she had such a great response from her students that she’s sticking with the course structure. “Students are engaged from day one,” she says.
My colleague at the University of California Santa Barbara, Gina Genova, has been starting her introductory business communication course with a résumé and cover letter assignment for years. I sat down with Gina to learn more about how this plays out in her classroom.
What is your teaching strategy behind starting the class with a résumé?
My strategy is that students will need these two documents to get into the business world, so we begin with an assignment is relevant to them. Also, the timing syncs with many of the job fairs that come on campus during fall and winter, when I teach the course.
Are you able to squeeze in instruction on writing cover letters and thank you notes?
Yes… and the writing process, too! I begin the second day of class (our first real lecture) with the writing process. Our second lecture is the cover letter, and the third is the résumé. I have students prepare those two assignments as a bundle. At the end of that lecture, I briefly address thank you notes and some of the post-interview follow-up inquiries as time allows.
Do you teach an entire unit on the job search, or is the assignment just a résumé and cover letter?
In the quarter system, there just isn’t time to cover everything I’d like, such as interviewing and the job search. But I think that would work well within the constraints of a semester.
Does your assignment require students to prepare a résumé linked to a particular job or internship?
Yes. I ask them to choose a position they would really apply to so the assignment is practical for them. I also have them turn in the ad to which they are responding so that I can see they have tailored the cover letter and résumé specifically to that position.
How do you prepare students for the assignment? Lecture? Readings? In-class workshops or exercises?
Prior to the class in which I lecture about the résumé and cover letter, I assign reading to support what I discuss. During the lecture, we dissect two or three examples in class.
Do you meet with students individually to discuss their résumés?
I don’t require meetings. However, about half the students bring both the cover letter and résumé for me to review during office hours. I would say this assignment creates the most student contact time over the quarter. It helps me get to know the students at the beginning of the term, which is another bonus of organizing the course this way.
What other benefits do you see by organizing the class with the résumé assignment coming first?
It immediately engages the students because it’s a very individualized document that will yield personal rewards if done well. Students instantly see the value in the assignment; they’ve either been in the job market or understand that they will need to be soon. It’s an easy sell in these regards and makes a nice transition into the rest of the business documents they write over the course of the class.
What kind of student feedback do you receive about this assignment?
This is hands down the student’s favorite assignment. Every quarter I get at least 8-10 narrative evaluation comments saying that the résumé and cover letter assignments were the most “helpful” and “practical.” During the term, I also get many remarks from the students, especially in the fall, about how the assignment prepared them for the job fairs that follow. Additionally, I frequently receive e-mails or visits from former students asking me to look over their new résumé to help them in a current job search for post-graduation employment.
How do you organize your business communication course? Start a discussion!