By Janet Mizrahi
I recently read an article about how all faculty, independent of discipline, are being encouraged to integrate career counseling into their curricula. It reminded me about the importance of helping our business communication students connect the dots between their educations and their futures. This is especially important now because students increasingly evaluate the choice of earning a college degree as value proposition that measures the cost compared to the long-term worth of that investment.
As bizcom instructors we may not be able to include career assessment and occupation selection into our curriculum; however, we are in the unique position to include many facets of career guidance that link students’ education to their careers by integrating the strategies below into our teaching practice.
First and foremost is consistently connecting course content and real-life work. Of course, we teach work-related written and oral communication, using case studies and examples from textbooks and perhaps, personal experience. Many of us also teach professionalism across the board—workplace etiquette, meeting behavior, and teamwork. All of this helps cement skills and behaviors that add value to students’ educations and careers as employees and merits conscious repetition throughout the semester.
We should also maintain a regular dialogue about work experiences. While not all students work, many do, and all members of the class benefit from hearing how the learning in the classroom plays out in the workplace. By using class discussions or small group sessions with guided questions that probe students’ work experiences, we can further bring home course learning objectives in a meaningful way.
This leads to the next point: talking about careers often. Doing so demystifies the process and helps students segue from academia to the workforce. In today’s climate, students are especially anxious to learn how the pandemic has affected the world of work, specifically what kinds of work they will be able to find and which industries are hot (and which are not). This situation makes discussions about the opportunities for employment in local industries especially pertinent.
Obviously, bizcom teachers design course activities around the job search as a matter of course. But we must rethink how we do that. The pandemic has changed the face of work, from where employees do their jobs to the creation or demise of entire industries. To nudge our students forward, why not require them to apply for an actual internship or job they find online (they need not send it in, but they should have the experience of responding to an actual job spec) and prepare them with a series of assignments on résumé writing and interviewing skills?
Finally, we can drive home the importance of productive behavior that may start in our classroom but that crosses over to the workplace.
Bizcom instructors hold a unique position to guide students toward rewarding careers. It bears reminding that while no student is forced to visit the career center, all must attend class—where we can be preparing them for their future careers.