By Eric Holmes, Department of Composition
While reading the Purdue Global Academic Report 2015-2016, one portion stood out:
We believe the classroom…is the environment best suited for students to acquire competencies: it’s where they learn, practice applying what they have learned, and demonstrate mastery that translates to a work setting.*
Each of us is a part of Purdue Global’s success and reputation as a leader in developing students into working professionals, and a large part of that comes from our ability to teach students in a way that leads to continued development both in class and in their careers during and after their time at the University. Our work should be directly applicable. We strive to deliver superior employment outcomes to our students, and the goal of this article is to share some ideas about how to best assist students in finding success in their chosen field.
While rare today, students commonly received career services information from faculty as recently as the 1940s.† This is not to say that instructors should review resumes and give interview tips (although that is not out of line), but that they need to use their own success as the foundation from which they teach and to demonstrate how skills learned at Purdue Global will be useful later. As an instructor, I fall back on my own successes and failures as teaching tools. This helps to break down the barriers that students often erect between their academic and their professional lives.
Many students incorrectly silo their classroom experience from their professional lives. They often see coursework as a hurdle to overcome, not as an opportunity to develop career competencies. To use a sports metaphor, they see most of their courses as time off the field (washing their uniforms, traveling to games, etc.), when in reality, their coursework is the practices that lead up to the game (their eventual careers). As an instructor, I work with students to help them understand that what they do in the classroom can get them on the path toward their chosen career. I insist to them that their task is not to simply earn a certificate or degree and then begin pursuing their career, but rather that the process of earning those accolades is one and the same with pursuing their career. The work that they are doing now as students cements their place in their industry even if they are not currently drawing a paycheck from it.
Ways to Support Students
As instructors, we are fortunate to teach our students content that is applicable to their career goals. However, we must go further and teach them to be proactive in pursuing their professions. To do this, here are a few ideas to implement:
- Show them how to use coursework as an opportunity to develop professionally. Advise them to choose topics to write about that align with their specific career goals. For example, if a student wishes to work in law enforcement, recommend that he or she write a paper on interviewing suspects instead of some other topic equally viable but not as helpful. This allows the student to learn more about his or her field while doing something that the student would already be doing (thus saving time and effort).
- Demonstrate how coursework can assist in growing a professional network. Tell students to seek out interview subjects at companies and organizations that they are interested in both to benefit their coursework as well as to make valuable contacts for their job hunt. If a student has an interest in working for a specific company (such as Nike), urge the student to write about a topic related to Nike that fits within the assigned requirements. Let them know that even if interviewing someone is not required for an assignment, they can still choose to do so.
- Remind them that their career is a journey. Their career does not start when they earn their degree or get hired to their first industry position—it is ongoing, even right now. Just because a student works in food service while pursuing a degree in information technology (IT) does not mean that the student is not part of the IT community. Education is an integral part of all career fields, and being a student makes him or her as much a part of the field as an entry-level worker, mid-career professional, or executive.
These concepts are encompassing and largely philosophical. They should be adjusted to fit your own communication style and play to your unique strengths. If you are looking for further information or examples to use, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading and here is to a successful term!
*Kaplan University. (2016, December 13). Purdue Global - Academic Report 2015-2016. Retrieved from www.kaplanuniversity.edu/kaplan-university-academic-report.pdf
†Dey, F., & Cruzvergara, C. Y. (2014, July 15). 10 Future Trends in College Career Services. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140715120812-11822737-10-future-trends-in-college-career-services