|Students can network in a classroom environment. Here, they engage in poster session style presentations related to each presenter's career aspirations.
Weaving professional development into the academic curriculum doesn't have to involve discrete activities or course projects.
You can build professional development into the day-to-day operations of your course and write it into the syllabus.
Rule #1: Students must be resourceful when they want information or have a question.
Students want to be able to launch their professional careers as "self-starting problem solvers!" But it will never be enough to say that they are resourceful problem-solvers; they have to be able to prove it with concrete examples. Employers don't want employees who have to ask their managers how to handle every detail of a project and appear helpless in the face of a minor snafu (see left column for more on employers).
Here are some examples of what I mean by resourcefulness on the part of students and how you can build it into your syllabus:
1- Did the bookstore run out of books? Solve your problem: ask someone in the bookstore what's going on! Ask if there are any books in the back. Ask when more books will arrive. Ask them is there's someone you should contact (a name on the order). Don't run to your email to ask your professor what to do. Your professor doesn't work at the bookstore (and in a lot of cases didn't even place the book order). Inserting your professor in the middle just adds a layer of bureaucratic communication. You're the customer at the bookstore; work with the bookstore. Then you can inform your professor of the situation (rather than asking your professor to solve your problem for you).
On your syllabus add: "please contact book supplier with any questions or concerns related to acquiring the book."
2- Having trouble logging on to the online course system? Solve your problem: c
lick on the help icon. Google "how do I log on to X course system?" Ask a classmate. Don't contact your professor--chances are that person has given you all the information s/he has. You know that your professor can't access the interface on your computer. Asking the professor to troubleshoot adds another layer of bureaucratic communication between you and the solution to your problem.
On the second day of class, I sometimes illustrate the importance of peer resources by putting a successful student's laptop on the class screen and having that student walk their classmates through it to illustrate the importance of peer resources. Faculty often don't even have the student interface so it looks completely different on our screens than on student screens!
On your syllabus add: "please check with a classmate, course system help resources, or Google if you have trouble getting online."
3- Doing homework online and there's a problem with that online system recording your grades? Solve your problem: c
ontact the online system help desk! Professors are not a help desk/tech support hotline; they cannot troubleshoot a publisher's online system. And your first managers in your first jobs out of college won't want you popping your head in to their offices every time the printer jams either! You have to be able to troubleshoot your own technical problems.
On your syllabus add: "for any tech support concerns, contact the online system help desk."
4- Can't remember the homework assignment / classroom number / next course in the sequence for next semester? Solve your problem: most of this is online and you can search it. So do that instead of asking your professor to do it for you. Or contact a classmate.
Rule #2: Students should practice behaving professionally.
Tell students to write professional emails. When writing an email, make it professional (open with "Dear Professor...," close with "Sincerely,"--in the target language if this is a language course). Do we always have to do that in a venue as informal as email? No! Do students need to practice so they're ready for that college to career transition and all the networking / job searching involved? Absolutely!
On your syllabus add instructions for email writing, including proper salutations and closings where you provide your own contact information.
Previous newsletters have featured specific suggestions for adding professional content to your courses, such as networking, basic office skills, soft & hard technical skills. Contact me if you would like me to forward any of that to you: email@example.com
|One key aspect of resourcefulness is the old adage that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Remind students to practice that on campus when they're trying to work through a frustrating situation: be kind when asking for help, don't act like the crabby customer who is always right, show what resources have already been deployed when reaching out to someone else for help.
Rule #3 Students can and should network professionally while on campus.
Tell students how to use face time with faculty in order to make a good impression. First, they have to find out what would make a good impression on each faculty member. There is no one-size-fits-all way to make a good impression on someone else.
Most faculty want students to be genuine: seek them out to discuss real questions about actual course content. What questions or confusion can be clarified one-on-one with faculty (after deploying all the resources available to figure it out independently)?
Tell students to use professors' office hours; while it's probably okay to give a heads up about stopping by office hours for a particular reason, asking faculty to schedule around you is a mistake--especially if you just want to drop by to say "hi," introduce yourself and talk briefly about your interest in the course, the field and its application to your career goals.
Rest assured that college graduates struggle with appropriate networking and that these exercises on campus are designed to get students over the learning curve before the stakes are high--so they don't wind up in an awkward situation like the one described here.
On final note that may be familiar to newsletter readers:
Be explicit with students about the professional development you've woven into the curriculum. Tell them that the above examples on your syllabus provide them with opportunities to be resourceful, self-starting problem solvers and that they could actually use those specific examples in their job search documents and interviews.
For example, if you have a student illustrate access to the online course system on the second day of class, say, "now Josie can use this as an example of taking a leadership role, solving a problem that others could not, working well with her peers, and networking with a faculty member (who will be able to write a strong letter of recommendation in part because of this example). It's a great example because it's brief, clear, concise and specific. Employers won't have to take her word that she has those skills & qualifications; she can illustrate it with this example."