This article highlights strategies employed across varied disciplines, and at various levels, at the University of Arizona and demonstrates that a “career everywhere” approach is effective in meeting the complementary but unique needs of students and educators related to career readiness in higher education. What follows are suggestions and real examples of teaching and career development strategies adopted by multiple educators at a large, R1, land grant, HSI university. The goal is to help educators from diverse institutions boost career readiness by presenting various strategies that suit different comfort levels and degrees of engagement.
Informing and infusing curriculum with career content
Academic units have the option to adopt a comprehensive four-year career curriculum, tailored to address the diverse needs of students as they progress through their undergraduate journey. First-year courses can help students acclimate to the university, encourage personal reflection and goal setting, explore potential professions, and plan for internship and experiential learning experiences.
In subsequent years, students are guided through the process of researching, preparing, and applying for hands-on experiences aimed at building a robust CV. Students have the flexibility to select from courses that prepare them for graduate school or hone their professional career skills. As they approach their final year, students can opt for a leadership course that equips them for life beyond college. This approach is highly tailored to a student’s major and requires significant investment by the department or college leadership.
Academic programs can incorporate NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) Career Competencies into their syllabi to ensure students are adequately prepared for professional roles after college. This strategic inclusion in course syllabi empowers students to effectively articulate their essential job-readiness skills to prospective employers. Remarkably, educators take pride in the fact that 100% of their undergraduate course syllabi now feature this crucial information. The ultimate goal of this endeavor is to create a career competency “transcript” of sorts to showcase the graduates’ career readiness to future employers.
In academic units focused on nurturing students’ entrepreneurial mindset, educators can partner with Career Center professionals to align their course learning objectives with college-identified entrepreneurial competencies. Consequently, students gain access to a dedicated website where they can track how specific courses contribute to the development of specific entrepreneurial skills. Educators’ role in facilitating these connections for students significantly enriches their career readiness narratives.
Moreover, academic programs may require student participation in interprofessional education (IPE) activities. This initiative brings together varied perspectives from multiple disciplines and professions, aimed at enriching skills essential for professional practice. It involves active interaction, either in-person or virtually, between students and professionals across different fields. In this process, students are challenged to integrate the perspectives and expertise from these external disciplines into their own professional education, equipping them to effectively solve real-world issues.
Relatedly, academic units may require students to undertake internships or capstone projects, during which they identify skills that align with their accomplishments in these experiences. This approach enables students to evaluate and showcase their proficiency in both academic and career-related competencies. They achieve this by creating electronic portfolios, which include examples and descriptions of their work from the internship. These e-portfolios, showcasing their range of skills and achievements, can then be presented to prospective employers and/or graduate/professional programs.
Non-credit bearing training opportunities for students
As students prepare for internships, academic units may require students to participate in non-credit bearing workshops or trainings specially designed to enhance their internship experience. During these workshops, students are encouraged to reflect on both their academic and professional competencies, as well as their career and professional interests. This reflection serves as a valuable foundation for their applied practice experience and the deliverables they generate during their internship.
In contrast, other units provide career preparation workshops. While timing these workshops can be a challenge, students frequently require guidance and information on various topics related to their application materials, hiring timelines, interview best practices, and online and in-person networking etiquette. Additionally, facilitating employer and alumni panels can prove highly beneficial for students exploring potential career pathways. Of course, when these experiences can be paired with a class for credit, student engagement tends to be higher.
Alternatively, academic units may also offer Graduate School Preparation Workshops. Given the department’s understanding of its student demographic, there is typically a clear idea of how many students are likely to pursue graduate degrees and in which programs they are most likely to enroll. Consequently, there is often a core group of students who greatly benefit from timely insights and support regarding the graduate school application process. This support includes information about application materials, timelines, funding options, entrance exam information, and preparing the CV and personal statement for competitive admission into these advanced programs.
Professional development opportunities for educators
It’s important to recognize that creating opportunities for students is just one aspect of our mission; we also value the ongoing growth and learning of teaching professionals. Educators often find that attending events tailored to students helps them better understand how to support their students effectively. Additionally, participating in specific professional development activities such as panels, workshops, and readings can equip educators with insights on how to enhance their support for students.
Cooperation between academic departments and service units can lead to the creation of training programs aimed at equipping educators to help students with career choices. In this setting, educators can become “Career Champions” in their areas. These champions undergo training and receive a certification, demonstrating their dedication to their students’ long-term career success. They serve as an essential bridge between their department and the university or college career center. Their role is crucial in shaping the career center’s resources and guiding students towards relevant professional opportunities. Notably, some colleges ensure each department has a representative in the Career Champions program.
Moreover, educators can benefit from participating in learning communities and other training opportunities where they can engage in meaningful discussions with their peers. These discussions revolve around best practices for integrating career strategies into the classroom. Notable classroom activities include explicitly identifying transferable skills, such as project management, critical reasoning, and creativity, and clearly communicating the rationale behind assignments. This approach helps students understand the purpose of assignments within their degree programs and their practical applications. Additionally, educators often assign reflection questions to encourage students to contemplate newly acquired skills or presented content and consider how these will influence their future career decisions.
While we recognize that many are likely already utilizing some of the strategies mentioned in this article, it is our hope that there is at least one new, or a new twist on an old, strategy to be taken away and potentially used. We aim to showcase that the career everywhere approach can be scaled to individual educator’s comfort level and unit investment. Small scale efforts can still be impactful, and we hope that by sharing what some educators are doing at the University of Arizona, other educators may get inspired to try as well.
Spencer Willis, Jr., DrPH is a joint appointed associate professor of practice in the College Teaching Graduate Interdisciplinary Program and educational development consultant in the University Center for Assessment, Teaching and Technology (UCATT), as well as a aecturer of health promotion sciences in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.
Christy M. Ball, MEd is an associate professor of practice and the director of undergraduate career development in the psychology department at the University of Arizona.
Joel Muraco, PhD is an assistant professor of practice in human development and family science in the Norton School of Human Ecology at the University of Arizona. He has over six years of experience providing career and professional development education and programming.
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