Do you incorporate career readiness into your courses? If so, how?
Dear Workforce Curiosity,
Thanks for the thoughtful question! My answer is that yes, I (Janet) always incorporate career readiness into my courses. This decision is a reflection of my personal values, the demographics of the students I work with, and the broader literature. In a national survey, 84% of incoming college students reported that a very important reason they were attending college was “to get a better job” (Stolzenberg et al., 2019). Given that there are a wide range of opportunities for psychology bachelor’s degree holders in the workforce, it is surprising to learn that only 27% of graduates report that their jobs are closely related to psychology. Sadly, the majority of psychology majors (62%) report that their jobs are only somewhat related.
Clearly, there is a disconnect between what students are learning in the classroom and the ways in which they think it applies to their jobs. Further, most psychology majors do not attend graduate school, but move directly into the workforce (56% of them do not pursue any graduate degree, 30% earn a master's degree, and 4% obtain PhDs. The remaining 10% pursue graduate work outside of psychology).
One way to reduce the “knowledge-skills” gap and to prepare students, no matter their career path, is to be intentional in our teaching.
If you want to include some ways to incorporate career readiness into your course, I outline some of the ways I include it into my teaching (statistics, research methods, intro, and organizational psychology).*
*Disclaimer: Every instructor has their own set of resources, opportunities, and hurdles. The following ideas are not meant to be prescriptive, but rather provide the opportunity to reflect on what is possible and contribute ideas and resources for those curious about supporting career readiness.
Foundational Level: Explicitly Connecting Learning to Life
The first step is not changing what you teach or how you teach it, but rather to make explicit the connections between course concepts and the underlying skills. One of my favorite resources I have found is APA’s resource guide for the “Skillful Psychology Student” that outlines workforce relevant skills that are learned through psychology (Naufel et al., 2018). Seriously, if you don’t have this handout already, YOU NEED IT. I use it all the time to clearly connect what we are doing/learning and how it will serve students in their future professions.
If you need a little help or want to see an example of how I do this, you can check out my PPT. In it, you can see the slides I use to help connect course content to job-related skills/competencies at the beginning, middle, and end of semester. If you want to update the skills slide, you can look up current trends in employment skills, such as the Forbes list of skills you need to succeed in 2020.
Finally, you can also incorporate self-reflections into your course wherein students make their own connections between course content and their lives/career aspirations. Such reflections can make salient and reinforce the connections between class concepts and their professional development.
Moderate Level: Opportunities for Professional Skill Development
Another way to incorporate career skills is by reframing the work in your classes. This takes a bit more effort than just clarifying skills students are already learning, but it also creates new opportunities for connection and professional growth. Let’s brainstorm some ideas!
· Perhaps in a community health psychology class, students write a public policy position paper that addresses a local concern (instead of a generic research paper).
Skills from APA: Cognitive (analytical thinking, critical thinking, creativity, information management, judgment/decision making), Communication (written), Personal (integrity, self-regulation), Social (collaboration, service orientation), and Technological (depending on medium)
· Instead of a generic final presentation, students present to an external audience - maybe local experts, middle/high-schoolers, or non-psychology majors (audience depends on your learning outcomes).
Skills from APA: Cognitive (analytical thinking, critical thinking, creativity, information management, judgment/decision making), Communication (oral), Personal (integrity, ethical, self-regulation), and Social (inclusivity, collaboration, service orientation)
· Instead of a final paper, students create a podcast or infographic
Skills from APA: Cognitive (analytical thinking, critical thinking, creativity, information management), Communication (oral/written), Personal (adaptability), Social (collaboration, service orientation), and Technological (flexibility/adaptability to new systems, familiarity with hardware/software)
Note: You can still require the work to be based on quality, peer-reviewed research. It’s just that the method of communication and mode of delivery might look different than a research report.
Advanced Level: Fully Integrated Projects
For those desiring the highest level of skill-based career readiness, you might consider a service-learning or problem-based learning project. The applied nature of these types of projects can make professional skill development more salient for students, while also reinforcing their ability to transfer their knowledge to complex, real-world situations. For example, in my statistics course, we pair up with a local non-profit organization to analyze their data. Each week in lab, the students conduct an analysis and write-up the results. At the end of the semester, students present the results back to the community partner.
Typically, these are large-scale projects that require a strong community partnership and are integrated throughout the duration of the course. Thus, they require significantly more planning and time to develop. If you are looking for ideas for some of these larger scale projects and high impact practices, I recommend one of STP’s newest e-books, High Impact Educational Practices: A Review of Best Practices with Illustrative Examples. Here is just a sample of the creative ideas in the book:
· Chapter 13: Research Team: Impactful Team Building and Professional Skills
· Chapter 17: Collaborative Assignments and Projects to Address Real-world Issues: Using a PSA Group Project to Combat Stigma
· Chapter 38: Service Learning: A Review of Best Practices
· Chapter 48: The Value of ePortfolios in the Psychology Curriculum
We hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration for how to incorporate career readiness skills into your courses! The process and outcomes might look different across faculty, classes, and institutions, but the endeavor is meaningful for all!
Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee
Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.
Karenna Malavanti, Ph.D.
Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.
Molly Metz, Ph.D.
Janet Peters, Ph.D.
Daniel Storage, Ph.D.