As an expert in your field, you’re more than qualified to offer students insight into the opportunities, challenges, and required skill sets of your discipline and profession. But in the interest of providing students with the broadest possible perspective on potential career paths, you may also see the benefit in allowing them to hear from individuals whose experiences, skills, or work environments differ from your own. If this is the case, you may consider inviting a guest speaker to address career-related topics or current professional issues during one or more of your class sessions.

By virtue of your own expertise and work history, you likely know several professionals who could fill this role skillfully. However, you may want or need to fill out your panel with talented and knowledgeable people outside your own circle of colleagues or contacts. If this is the case, read these suggestions from the Instructor’s Resource Manual for Francine Fabricant, Jennifer Miller, and Debra Stark’s Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work, which address some of the things you should consider when you’re engaging in the process of finding and selecting appropriate guest speakers.

Finding Guest Speakers
There are always professionals eager to speak about their career experiences and many are happy to volunteer their time to talk with your students. By reaching out across campus and your community, you are sure to find a wealth of professionals that will fit your requirements. Consider the following list for offices and organizations that can help you locate professionals to invite to campus.

  • The Alumni Office can help with names of successful alumni looking to give back.
  • The Campus Career Center works with recruiters interested in connecting with students outside of Job Fairs and On Campus Interviews.
  • Internship employers are often willing to participate in campus activities to interest and recruit new interns.
  • Faculty often have industry contacts, usually in specialized fields.
  • Campus clubs, Greek and other campus organizations may know of alumni willing to speak with students and may be interested in co-sponsoring a panel.
  • Professional associations, NACE, and various regional membership groups all have employer members and can be a great resource.
  • Local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Mangers (SHRM) and American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). Connecting with these groups on the local level can be value added for students as they usually offer student membership rates.
Selecting Guest Speakers
Generally speaking, the better you know your students, the better you can evaluate a speaker for the classroom or a panel. Meeting with a speaker beforehand will help you decide whether the speaker will be able to connect with your students and be an asset for the classroom. Consider the title and professional level of the speaker you are considering. Will the students be able to relate to him or her? Is the CEO the best choice or someone who is an associate or mid-level manager? Some of the questions you might think about when recruiting speakers are:

  • How long have they been in the field?
  • Are they satisfied in what they are doing?
  • Do they come across as authentic and positive?
  • Do they stay current and engaged in their industry and field?
  • Are their attitudes on résumé writing and interviewing consistent with yours?
  • Is the information they are sharing consistent with what you know of the industry? (xiv-xv)

Reference: Fabricant, Francine, Miller, Jennifer, and Stark, Debra J. Instructor’s Resource Manual for Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work. 2014. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Do you invite guest speakers to your course? What do students most appreciate about their presentations? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.