Teaching Toward Career Readiness
Supporting our students in developing the skills and competencies to prepare them for successful careers is vital. Students need assignments and occasions designed to help identify and develop career readiness skills.
To support faculty in meeting this student need, and to amplify the excellent work faculty have already done around career readiness, the Career Readiness CAIT, UO Career Center, and Teaching Engagement Program have collaborated to create resources that instructors can use to develop students' career competencies.
See a list of CAIT fellows involved in the project here.
What is Career Readiness?
At UO, student success means students graduate from UO "having had a positive experience and will be well educated, socially responsible, and career ready". In other words, helping students prepare for successful careers is a foundational goal for our students.
Specifically, the UO Career Center defines student Career Readiness:
Students are career ready when they have, through their coursework and experiential learning, attained and can demonstrate requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for successful transition into the workplace.
What are the Career Competencies?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identifies key career readiness skills that employers are looking for and that resonate across UO’s Core Education and unit-level goals. These crosscutting competencies are relevant to students across a student's field of study - they are the broad skills that help students start successful careers regardless of their major. Read NACE's definitions of the competencies here; notably, several of the career competencies overlap well with UO's Areas of Inquiry and Cultural Literacy requirements.
Tools for Teaching Career Competencies
Instructors teach career competency skills every day. However, for students, these skills are not always nameable and translatable. The goal is for students to be able to 1) name competencies and translate them to new contexts, 2) practice and reflect on their growing competencies and 3) translate their academic uses of the competencies into relevant careers.
In addition to using the strategies below, the University Career Center’s staff is available to support students, including by delivering presentations in classes. See their Faculty and Staff Resources page for more information.
Though students practice these competencies in courses, they may not be able to readily identify the skills they are developing. Naming the skills in syllabi, transparently designed assignments, and verbally in classes can help gain awareness of these skills and how they show up in different courses.
Using Shared Language with Students
Students develop career competencies throughout curricular and co-curricular experiences at UO. However, recognizing these competencies within different contexts can be challenging. Developing a shared understanding, language, and iconography across campus can support students in making these connections and reflecting on how they can translate their skills toward relevant careers.
We encourage you to download the icons and use them in assignments, syllabi, slides, and in communicating with students about the relevance of these competencies toward their career development.
Transparent design aims to make the knowledge and the skills practiced in an assignment clear to students so they can better identify and articulate their own skills. Transparently designed assignments explicitly call out the purpose, skills, tasks, and criteria for success associated with your assignment. Incorporating transparent assignments improves students academic confidence and self-rating of career competencies (references here).
Need help designing transparent assignments? Here is a helpful template on transparent assignment design with examples.
Or contact us for a consultation on developing transparent assignments!
Example Career Readiness Assignments
Find examples below of how Career Readiness CAIT faculty are using transparent assignments in their courses to call out career competencies.
Ashley WalkerFile HPHY Visual Abstract Assignment
Students practice and reflect on growing competencies
Students need multiple opportunities to practice, and importantly, reflect on their growing competencies. Instructors can provide metacognitive and reflective activities to help students be able to articulate how they have developed career competencies and which competencies they want to continue to develop.
Career Readiness Reflection Assignments
Find examples below of how Career Readiness CAIT faculty help students reflect on their competencies.
Damian RadcliffeFile Career Skills and Knowledge reflection exercise
Jagdeep BalaFile Career competency reflection
See more sample assignments below from the career center.
Students have developed their Career Competencies in classes; they can use assignments to further understand and explain how those competencies will help them in their future career.
‘Ready’-Made Assignments: Bring the Career Center Into Your Course
As UO students explore career paths, both academic advisors and career coaches can support them as they consider possible career paths and make decisions about the academic paths to follow.
While some students are served by academic and career advisors in the UO professional schools, if students are in doubt, they are welcome to connect with the staff in Tykeson Hall:
- Tykeson academic and career advisors support students learning about UO majors a major and considering how majors can link to possible career paths
- The University Career Center’s career readiness coaches help students to implement career choices as they search for internships/jobs, prepare for interviews, and much more.
The three assignments below can be adopted and adapted for your courses! Each assignment is available in canvas commons:
- Using Handshake to Locate Jobs or Internships, and Writing an Effective Cover Letter
- Informational Interview Assignment
- Articulate Skills with BigInterview
- Using Handshake to Locate Jobs or Internships, and Writing an Effective Cover Letter
In order to get hired for an internship or a job, you need to convince a prospective employer that you have the skills and the sincere interest to succeed in their position. Your education at the University of Oregon is helping you to develop the tools to succeed – we refer to these as the UO Career Competencies. But in order to get hired, you’ll need to effectively communicate your unique blend of competencies to the prospective employer.
In this assignment, you’ll use Handshake to locate an internship or job that interests you, and you will write a cover letter which convinces the employer that you’re someone they should interview.
- Locate an internship or job which matches your interests using Handshake, the job and internship portal for students at the University of Oregon.
- Write a cover letter which persuasively explains to a prospective employer how your skills match what they are looking for in a prospective employee.
1. Log in to Handshake and locate an internship or job that you could reasonably apply to now or sometime soon. (Note that for this assignment, you will not be expected to actually apply to the position. You’re just practicing!)
- If you have not previously logged in to Handshake, you will be prompted to activate your account. Follow the instructions provided; it will only take a couple of minutes.
- All current UO students and UO alumni can access Handshake. If you are a UO faculty or staff member who needs access, contact the University Career Center.
- Once you have set up your account, Handshake will highlight positions which match your interests. You can also click on the “jobs” tab at the top of the page to browse all positions. For more tips, check out the Handshake Help Center.
- When you have chosen a position to use for this assignment, print it out so you can easily access it later. You might also wish to click the bookmark icon in Handshake so the position will be listed in your saved positions.
2. Review your internship or job description and the list of Career Competencies and choose two competencies you’ve developed that you will highlight on your cover letter. Think about:
- Are there any competencies which seem critical for your internship or job?
- For your chosen competencies, review the sample behaviors that are listed on the website. How have you demonstrated those behaviors in the past? Be sure to consider how you’ve demonstrated the behaviors through your in-class education at UO as well as through part-time jobs, campus involvement, internships, or other out-of-class activities.
3. Write a cover letter which explains your interest in the position and persuades the employer that you are someone who they should consider for the position.
- The best cover letters are succinct – around one page – and persuasively explain how your past experience has prepared you to succeed in the new role.
- If you’d like to have your cover letter critiqued by a Career Readiness Coach, contact the University Career Center or another career center on campus.
- For information on writing cover letters, see the University Career Center’s website, other career centers at the UO, or other online sources. You may also find this short video to be helpful.
4. Submit your cover letter and a copy of the job description to your course instructor to complete the assignment.
- Informational Interview Assignment
Students benefit immensely from conducting informational interviews with alumni or other professionals in their field – yet they are often reluctant to take the risk of asking for an interview. This assignment walks them through the process.
In the University Career Center, our Career Readiness Coaches are happy to meet with students to help them with informational interviews – we can help them use LinkedIn or other sources to find contacts and assist them in preparing for their interviews.
Did you know that about 85% of jobs are found by networking rather than applying for posted positions? So how do you network? A great way to start is by reaching out to a professional and asking them for an informational interview. In an informational interview, you are simply interviewing a professional to gather information about their field or expertise (this is NOT the time to ask for a job). You can ask the professional about career interests of yours, skills needed to get into a particular career, general job application and interviewing tips, best advice for you on your career path, etc.
This assignment is designed to help you develop your networking circle! Think about a working professional you’d like to interview. If you have never done an informational interview, identify one mentor/working professional on campus that you’d feel comfortable interviewing (an instructor, and advisor, a coach, etc.), or perhaps a family friend or alumnus/a you know. Otherwise, reach out to a professional you’d like to meet. To get help on networking resources, schedule an appointment with a career coach at the UO Career CenterLinks to an external site. by calling 541-346-3235 or scheduling through Navigate (Links to an external site.). The UO Alumni Association (Links to an external site.) is also a great way to find alumni locally, around the U.S., and worldwide.
Use the 4 steps below to guide your process for informational interview. When completed, submit a one paragraph reflection about who you interviewed and what your learned from your conversation.Research: Spend at least 10 minutes doing research on the professional you want to reach out to and their organization/department. Doing this research will impress the person you interview, help you frame the questions you ask, and allow you to dive deeper into topics during the interview. If you are on LinkedIn, browse the professional’s profile to learn about their work history, their educational background and their professional involvement. Connect: Write an email to the professional asking them to meet with you for a 20-30 minute informational interview on the phone or virtually. Tell them your connection to UO as a student, how you found their contact information, and the type of information/advice you would like to learn. Include various windows of time you’d be available for a phone call/virtual meeting in the next 3-10 days. Also, remember to thank the person for their time and consideration.
Write a thank you email to the person you interviewed. This will remind them of you and encourage them to let you know of future opportunities. Follow-up with future emails or phone calls to let them know how they’ve helped you and how you are doing in your career exploration. This will further remind them of you and encourage them to let you know of future opportunitiesFollow up and keep in touch!
Always Ask for Referrals!You’ve been so helpful! Can you think of anyone else I could speak with for more information?
AssignmentsWhat is a typical day like for you? What percentage of time is spent doing what? How many hours do you typically work each week? Do you often work in the evenings or weekends? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in my position? How would you advise a student such as me to obtain the necessary experience?
InsightsWhat is the best lesson you’ve learned on the job? What do you personally find most satisfying about this work? What is the most challenging? What skills or strengths do you believe have contributed most to your success in this field/job? What have you used the most from your educational background?
TrendsHow do you think this industry will change in the next few years? What do you think the employment outlook in this field will be?
Introductions:Can you tell me about your career path? Why did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
You can use one of these templates below for topics such as career exploration, or you can write your own personalized message.
Email Sample 1:
Subject: UO Student Seeking Your Advice
Dear Sandra Jones,
I am an exploring freshman at the University of Oregon. I’m passionate about helping people and am currently exploring my career options after I graduate. I would love to hear more about your work as a physical therapist and get your advice about pursuing it as a career. Can we setup a time to talk over the phone or over Zoom within the next couple of weeks? Thank you in advance for taking the time to talk with me!
UO student ‘ 24
Email Sample 2:
Subject: Career Planning Connections
Dear Professor Anderson,
Thank you so much for teaching the class Psychology of Trauma last term. As I’m entering my junior year at UO, I’m beginning to think more about my career plans for after college. I was very inspired by the class and want to explore careers in helping people who have experienced traumas. I’m interested in speaking with someone working as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselors with a specialty in trauma. Would you be willing to introduce me to someone you know who does this work? Thank you in advance for taking the time to help me get connected.
Best,Prepare questions ahead of time to ask the professional to help you clarify if this is the right career path/organization for you. Here are some sample informational interview questions:
UO Psychology ‘21
- Articulate Skills with BigInterview
This assignment uses an online tool called Big Interview (https://uoregon.biginterview.com/) to allow students to record answers to interview questions and to share them to you. Big Interview is available to any UO student, and also includes written and video tutorials to help students learn about conducting successful interviews.
People use interviews to assess a candidate’s ability to articulate how their skills and experiences relate to the opportunity they are interviewing for. These opportunities include part- and full-time jobs but also include internships, leadership and research positions, and graduate school programs.
Prior to any formal interview, students are encouraged to learn interviewing techniques and to practice their interviewing skills. Preparing for and practicing these skills can help reduce stress and anxiety about interviewing and boost your self-confidence. For additional resources on preparing for interviews see the Resources section at the end of this assignment.
This assignment gives you a chance to practice your interviewing skills through the Big Interviewing online interviewing system. You’ll be asked 8 interview questions. Answer the questions as though you’re interviewing for a job you’ve had in the past, one you have now, or one you’d like to have in the future.
NOTE: You will need a working computer and webcam with a microphone to complete this assignment. If you don’t have access to these items please speak with your professor to see how you can be accommodated for this assignment.
- If you haven’t already, create an account in Big Interview using your uoregon.edu email address and password of your choice https://uoregon.biginterview.com/
- Click on the “Assignments” tab and in the “Have an Assignment Code” box enter this code: b638d1, press the green “Go” button.
- You’ll see a box saying “This assignment requires a response under 03:00 minutes for each question.” Press “I’m ready!” (You may need to give Big Interview access to your computer video camera to record your answers.)
- On the left side of the screen click the play button to hear the interviewer ask the first question “Tell me about yourself.”
- On the right-hand side of the screen you’ll see a video box which says “Record your answer for this question”.
- Press the red “Start recording” button. You’ll have a 3 second countdown before your answer is recorded; you have the option to re-record your answer as many times as you would like.
- When done recording, choose the red ‘Stop recording” button and then press the green “Save answer” button. Wait for the “Your answer was successfully saved!” box at the top of the video screen before going to the next step.
- Click the green “Next question” button when ready and repeat the process for all the questions.
- When you’re all done click the green “Submit Assignment” button.
- At the very end click the green “Submit final answers” button.
- If your professor has asked you to rate yourself, go back into the Assignments section of Big Interview and click on the “Submitted” option near the top of the screen. Find the “Practice Interviewing Assignment for UO Course” box and choose the “Review yourself” link located at the bottom of the box. Proceed to rate how you felt you did on the 8 criteria shown for all 8 questions making sure to click on the green “Save Review” button after each question.
- Next, go back into the Assignments section of Big Interview and in the upper right-hand corner of the “Practice Interviewing Assignment for UO Course” box you’ll see an icon of a circle with an arrow inside with a minus sign underneath it. Click on this icon and fill out the “Send a review request” box with your professor’s email address. After you type in their email address you’ll need to click on the “Add email” option to populate the email field. Click the green “Share now” button to send your videos to your professor for credit.
Resources for Departments
While UO has numerous opportunities for supporting student career readiness, the students who benefit the most may be the least likely to seek out development opportunities. The best way to ensure every student leaves UO with the career competencies to help them succeed is to build these opportunities directly into the curriculum.
Below are some steps department can take to help embed career readiness into every student's academic experience. For additional questions or support, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Broaden awareness of career competencies.
Many of the career competencies overlap with the foundation of a liberal arts education and many are likely already taught in your majors. Consider using a department meeting or faculty retreat to broaden your unit's understanding of the career competencies and discuss which are most important for your students and what coursework and experiences in our major are most important for preparing students for careers.
You can invite TEP, the Career Center, and Career Readiness CAIT fellows to discuss how they are using the competencies in their departments and courses. Contact us to set up a conversation.
- Adopt a career-readiness learning objective.
Adopting a career readiness learning objective in your major helps move beyond individual course experiences. It supports alignment and coordination of career-competency development across the curriculum.
Sample career readiness outcomes:
- Students will be able to identify and communicate their competencies relevant to their future career paths.
- Students will be able to explore career paths and translate how their own skills and interests match a chosen major/career path.
- Students will be able to write professional documents (resume, cover letter, thank you letter, and elevator pitch) to use for jobs, internships and post-graduate program applications.
- Students will develop a mentoring network that provides insights and connections to help them make their career goals a reality.
Adopting a specific career readiness outcomes paves the way for the next steps for you department, mapping how students develop that career competency through the curriculum, and providing an opportunity to assess how well your department is meeting its objective.
- Map and embed career readiness objectives to your courses.
Find out what your department is already doing to develop career ready students.
Survey faculty or students to find which competencies are focused on in your curriculum, in which courses, and to what extent. For example, many competencies are practiced in courses but students may not be able to name them or articulate how they are relevant to their careers (see framework above).
Build in earlier opportunities for students.
Early experiences with career readiness help students prepare for their career journey throughout their UO experience instead of at the end when they prepare to graduate. Embedding career readiness assignments earlier in your major curriculum can help students see the relevance of more courses to their future careers, can help students take advantage of other resources at UO that can help prepare them for their careers, and can help them choose other courses that can develop the skills they want to be successful in their careers.
For example, are there entry-level courses where your unit can embed career relevant assignments and reflections?
Map your curriculum.
How do the career readiness experiences students have in your courses build upon each other as students progress through the courses in your major? Are there gaps in which competencies students develop? Use a curriculum mapping process to identify where students are developing competencies and how those experiences may build on each other from one course to the next.
- Develop new courses.
Some departments have course offerings to help identify and build upon the career competencies developed in their major or to offer credit-bearing courses tied to supporting student learning associated with internships. Consider adding a career-related course if your department does not already have one.
The Geography Department offers one example of a career-focused course in "GEOG 419: The Professional Geographer," taught by Dr. Leslie McLees.
- Assess student career readiness.
Your department can use the annual assessment process to focus on career readiness for your majors. The steps highlighted above are all examples of assessment work that your unit could do to support career readiness for your students. For example, collecting data about how your faculty are already teaching toward career readiness, adopting a new career readiness learning outcome, and embedding career readiness experiences into multiple points of your curriculum are all valuable parts of the assessment process that can be highlighted in annual assessment reports.
The next step of the assessment cycle is to collect more evidence of whether students are meeting the career readiness goals you have set for them. This process could draw from multiple sources including:
Direct evidence from student coursework: Are there specific assignments where students can demonstrate the goals you have set for them? For example, students writing for an external audience, student presentations, students preparing resumes or other application materials.
Indirect evidence from student surveys or focus groups asking students which competencies they develop, which are most relevant, and which are missing from their experiences.
Using existing data sources: Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) displays earnings outcomes and employment flows for UO graduates compared to other Oregon institutions and from 22 other states. Read a brief description here.
If your department is interested in focusing on career readiness, contact Austin Hocker (email@example.com) for more assessment ideas and resources.