Are Languages Relevant to Careers? Yes!!

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.05.19 PMBoth the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed recently published articles on the decline in university language enrollments.

Literally in the same news cycle, Jeff Selingo’s Washington Post piece on college students failing to gain job skills before graduation came out.

One solution solves both problems: weave workplace skills throughout language curricula.  

This solution provides students with the career prep they need in the low stakes environment of the classroom and makes the course content relevant to their futures–futures that no longer include graduate studies in the traditional literary curriculum (and good thing, too because the news cycle is always full of bad news for all those folks with PhDs when it comes to job prospects. Here’s just one recent take on it from

Language studies are relevant to careers, but the connections have to be made explicit to students. Then students have to make the connections explicit for employers.

This does not require throwing out the current curriculum. There is no need to create new courses, certificates, programs, minors, majors.  Simply choose a skill that you’re willing to weave into the curriculum: networking, interview prep, written & verbal communication for the workplace, solicitation of letters of recommendation, problem-solving & decision-making.  Return to the skill throughout the course and be explicit with students that these are key workplace abilities. Tell them (repeatedly!) that they are getting over the learning curve and shedding the sheepishness and awkwardness now, while the stakes are low, so that it is second nature to them by the time they’re attending job fairs and interviews.

This spring, I’ll be returning to this theme repeatedly:

On February 26th McGraw Hill is hosting webinar at 3:00 p.m. EST that I will co-present with Grant Goodall of UCSD on “Empowering the 95% What learners should take away from their beginning language studies.” Learn more and register here.

In the March/April issue of The Language Educator, my article “Creating a Learner-Centered Classroom to Prepare Students for Life Beyond the Classroom,” shares details on how to weave career prep into language courses.

I frequently travel to lead campus workshops that cover topics such as:

  • How Can You Connect Your Language Major to Your Career Aspirations?
  • How Are Your Language Experiences Represented on Your Résumé?
  • How Do You Choose One Word to Describe Your Language Level on Your Résumé?
  • How Do You Illustrate Your Language Level on Your Résumé?
  • Can You Explain Everything on Your Résumé Clearly and Concisely?
  • The Elevator Pitch: One Sure Way to Make a Good First Impression
  • Can You Highlight Your Language Studies at Networking Events and in Interviews?
  • Managing Your Digital Identity for the 21st Century Workplace
  • Be Ready for An Elegant Close  

Tomorrow I’ll be at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, in March I’ll be at St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges in Northfield, Minnesota and at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and in April I will go to Metropolitan State University of Denver.

2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy:
This entry was posted in Careers for Humanities Majors, darcy lear. Bookmark the permalink.

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