Make Professional Development and Career Prep Part of Your Language Courses–Every Day! tagThis year I have been posting daily professional development and career prep tips using the hashtags #CareerPrepLangs (English) and #CareerPrepSpan (Spanish).

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I combine 4-5 of these tips into a single 5-10 minute lesson each day in the Spanish classes I teach.

Here is an example of how this played out for me during the first week of classes when I used the following as opening “warm up” activities:

Day 1: Networking. Get in pairs and introduce yourself professionally, which means make eye contact, smile, use warm & open body language, and offer your hand to shake.  Use target language expressions to say your name, ask others for theirs and say “nice to meet,” “likewise,” etc.

End (or begin) this 2-3 minute activity by explicitly reminding students that this basic networking skill will be important when making a first impression at a job fair, networking event or job interview.  Better to practice now & get past the sheepish, awkward phase in the low stakes environment of the classroom so that you’re at ease when the stakes are high.

Day 2: Professional introductions.  One-by-one each student has to stand up and introduce one classmate to the rest of the class. Put the target language expression on the board.  Within a few minutes, everyone will have had the opportunity to engage in public speaking–for only a few seconds and in the safe environment of a relatively small classroom setting.

End (or begin) this 3-5 minute activity by pointing out that their ability to take the lead and introduce two people (or groups of people) who don’t already know each other will make them stand out as leaders and influencers when they are in high stakes environments like job fairs, networking events and job interviews.

Also ask students to note how–as a group–they became more and more at ease as the activity progressed. The first few students almost always have to turn to read off the board and have more visible physical signs of nervousness. The last few can usually say, “I would like to introduce you all to…” quite smoothly.  Proof that practice makes perfect! 

Day 3: Exchange contact information. In groups of 3, students will exchange names, phone numbers and email addresses.  Provide any relevant vocabulary (“@” “.com” etc.) Before they form groups, model this with the whole class, instructing them to deploy specific strategies to take control of the conversation and get accurate information:

“how do you spell that?”

“is that with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’? ‘i’ or ‘y’?”

“I got the first name, but not the last name, can you spell that, please?”  

“Please repeat the number one digit at a time.”

“I got 321-74…what’s the rest of the number?”

“I’m going to repeat that back to you…. Is that correct?”

These strategies are effective unlike global requests for repetition (“What?” “Repeat that, please”), which often just increase the frustration level for both parties.

End of this 5-7 minute activity by telling students that this skill–exchanging basic contact information–can often be the difference between access and denial of access when corresponding across language barriers–you want access & you want to grant it to others to succeed in the globalized workplace!  And if all you can do is get or leave a name & number so a more proficient speaker can return the call later, that’s much better than an utter inability to communicate at all.

Day 4: Exchange contact information. Get in new pairs, and exchange names, email addresses, and dates of birth.  The first thing to point out is how much faster students completed this activity than the day before–often less than half the time! They know what they’re doing now, letters & numbers are fresh in their minds, and they possess important strategies to get the information they need in the form they need it.  I can’t say it enough: practice and polish these soft skills while the stakes are low!

My students were studying numbers greater than 100 in this day’s lessons so this activity  provided an opportunity to discuss the difference between date of birth and birthday and the official professional uses for date of birth. We concluded by calculating ages to determine who are the oldest & youngest students in class.  

Day 5: Numbers greater than 100.   Open class by asking students in the target language if the financial markets are up or down.  Ask where the DOW is at the moment. The S&P?  Students apply those high numbers in a real-world context that is of professional interest to many of them.  

Point out changes in punctuation if commas and periods are used differently in the target grammar, noting how disastrous confusing the two could be during an important financial transaction.

In groups, students select a popular stock and report the current price.  Then they exchange with another group who has to calculate how many shares can be purchased for $10,000.   End the class by pointing out that these are exactly the kinds of real world uses to which they might put their knowledge of numbers when they seek employment in the globalized workplace. Being able to confidently communicate about prices, share quantities, and market fluctuations in more than one language might be important in their careers!  

Note: I ask students to use their portable electronic devices to get the market information for this activity, but I could have just as easily posted a screen shot from the drop down on the home screen of my iPhone to avoid having students use cell phones in class.

Day 6: Real estate.  I list 5 different communities throughout Chicago on the board and have students work in 5 groups to research the median price of a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in each of the 5 communities.  Then they have to choose one home from a real estate site such as Trulia, report the price to the class, calculate how much it would cost to put 20% down, how much the remaining mortgage would be, and what current interest rates are.

To keep this activity to 5 minutes and simply illustrate another important real-world use for numbers (and the ability to do basic calculations), I ended there. But an online mortgage calculator could be used to continue the conversation: how much will the monthly payment be? How much of that is interest with the first payment? What about the last payment?  

Throughout the winter and early spring, I’ll continue to post tips to social media (#CareerPrepLangs and #CareerPrepSpan) with occasional full posts like this one.

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 Career Advice, Careers for Humanities Majors, darcy lear, Networking, presentations. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Make Professional Development and Career Prep Part of Your Language Courses–Every Day!

  1. Pingback: College Preparation v. Career Readiness: Close the Gap! | darcylear

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