SIP 15.5 Connect Careers to Curriculum using NACE Career-readiness Competencies

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Students come to college for many reasons, including learning more about the world, becoming better people or improving their self-confidence. But they also have reasons related to economic mobility such as bettering employment opportunities, making more money or getting a good job (Lumina Foundation). Faculty members are experts in their disciplines and are not expected to be career advisors, but they can bridge the connection for students between their coursework and career goals. Making this connection and showing students that faculty members are interested in helping students prepare for their careers make students more motivated to learn and be engaged in the classroom (Ritzer & Sleigh, 2019).

By graduating from college, students can achieve their educational and personal goals as well as goals related to their careers. By connecting the content and activities in their courses to career competencies and identifying the needs of students’ communities, faculty members can support the mission of Metropolitan State University of Denver and aid in the 2030 Strategic Plan to be a civic and economic catalyst.

Some disciplines have a direct connection to specific careers, while others create infinite possibilities. No matter the discipline or industry, there are certain skills that students will need for job interviews and in the workplace. The National Association of Colleges and Employers developed eight top career-readiness competencies by speaking to career-services, university-relations and recruiting organizations.
The NACE career-readiness competencies are:

  • Career- and self-development
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Technology

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Make Clear Connections on your Syllabus

The syllabus is a great place to acknowledge that you value helping students build career-readiness skills that they will need in the future. For example, start by naming and defining the ones they will develop in your course. Then, explicitly link those skills to assignments by adding a table outlining each skill and the related class activity or assignment; or by mapping the skills onto your list of assignments. The Classroom to Career Hub is also a great resource to include in your syllabus to raise awareness about the career-preparation services and events hosted by MSU Denver. A blurb on C2 Hub services to go in your syllabus can be found here. 

Modify Existing Assignments or Activities

Explicitly connect NACE competencies to assignments by outlining how they use each skill or by encouraging reflection. Asking students to reflect on which skills they have developed through the assignment and how those skills could relate to their current or future work or passions can help them find the connections between what they are doing now and will do in the future. Though they may not be writing essays for their future employment, they may need to write emails, memos or reports (communication). They will have to develop novel ideas, solve problems and research (critical thinking) as well as meet deadlines and follow instructions (professionalism).

Another reflection exercise to connect course activities to career-readiness is to ask students to create or answer interview questions or prompts using course assignments. For example, “Tell me about a time you worked with others from different backgrounds.” Or, “Describe the role you usually take on a team.” Students can brainstorm examples of how they would answer such prompts using the course assignments as their answer.

Consider adding career-focused assignments or activities

To further students’ Career- and self-development NACE competency, consider adding an additional assignment that requires interaction with the C2 Hub or professionals in the field. Résumé reviews can be completed with an advisor or through the VMock platform for instant feedback. C2 Hub staff members can review students’ cover letters or LinkedIn profiles, complete mock interviews or meet with them to discuss career and graduate-school options. If you require students to make an appointment with the C2 Hub, please inform April Peterson, assistant director of Career Engagement. You can also encourage students to have an informational interview to learn more about career paths from an alumni advisor. Additionally, C2 Hub staff members can come to your class to present a variety of topics. You can request a presentation for your class by visiting this link or registering for the Don’t Cancel That Class initiative.

Meet with the C2 Hub’s Faculty Engagement Unit to learn more

Contact Interim Director of Faculty Engagement Pam Ansburg, Ph.D., to schedule a course consultation on embedding more career preparation into your course.

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