In preparing students for the 21st century, we must revisit our curriculum and ask a very important question: “Am I preparing students to compete in a global society, equipping them with the skills requested by prospective employers?”

Julie Bort, in her article, 3 Skills College Grads Still Need to Learn to Impress Hiring Managers, posits a survey conducted by compensation software company PayScale. The survey included 64,000 hiring managers and about 14,000 college grads. Interestingly, 44% of the managers pointed out that writing proficiency is a skill in which recent college graduates were deficient. This is a true indication of the importance of writing not only in English classes, but also other disciplines. Regardless of what the job may be, there may come a time in which students will need to communicate other than on the phone, texting or face-to-face.

Alluding to the same survey, 60% of managers mentioned students were deficient in critical thinking and problem solving. Thus, an assignment that I use in my student success courses is the Career Exploration Project.

What is the Career Exploration Project?

The Career Exploration Project is a three-fold project which includes the following:

  1. Students use research skills to explore and compare two difference careers of their interest.
  2. After researching both careers, students are asked to choose one career and interview a person working in the field.
  3. After the interview with guided questions, students are asked to write and submit a synthesis essay combining information received from their research and the interview. Students are strongly encouraged to visit the Writing Center to seek assistance with their essay. Presentations to the class can be in the form of a poster, Power Point or video.

Value of the Career Exploration Project

This assignment highlights important skills students will use in the real world: researching, evaluating information, writing, interviewing, critical thinking, summarizing and public speaking. Several students told me that after researching their chosen career and conducting the interview, they have a new perspective of what future employers expect from prospective graduates. In a couple of cases, students decided to change their major and plan to visit the Writing Center more often to improve their writing skills.

My fellow Cengage Faculty Partners have shared similar strategies for prepping students’ writing skills for the workforce. View more to develop your own strategy.

Essie Childers is a professor of Student Success and Developmental Reading at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, and a Faculty Partner with Cengage. Comments are welcomed ([email protected]).