Professional Development for the First Week of Class

IMG_4945This is the first week of classes on many campuses and it’s an opportunity for one of my favorite activities: integrating professional development into any already-existing course in such a way that it also improves the administration of the course.

Here’s the tip–take 3 minutes to go over the basics of writing a professional email:

  • use the subject line to communicate clearly what the message is about,
  • use a formal greeting for a first-time communication (“Dear…” in English, “Estimad@” in Spanish, etc.)
  • in the body of the message, concisely answer all of the relevant who, what, when, where, and why?
  • use a formal sign off for a first-time communication (“Sincerely,” in English, “Atentamente,” in Spanish, etc.)

Here’s the assignment:

Use the above to write me a professional email. The body of the message should say:

“I have read and understand the course documents [syllabus, calendar, assignments, etc.”] and I have access to the [campus] and [textbook publisher] online learning systems.”

Grade as you would any similar homework assignment and save in an email folder.

For students, this can also be an activity in developing executive function and analysis/synthesis skills. You may want to point out that:

  • a good message reflects the ability to analyze and synthesize information so that everything necessary is included, but a lot of excess information is not added.  
  • with the two sentences you ask them to send, they are putting in writing the resources that they will independently consult when they have questions about the course (whether it’s due dates, how much a given assignment counts toward the final grade, the location of your office & office hours, the tech support for the various online learning systems). With that message, they are telling you that you won’t be the first point of contact when they have a question, because they know where to find the basic level of resources.

These are skills employers repeatedly report that they want in recent graduates who are new hires: analysis, synthesis, written communication, independence, resourcefulness, problem-solving. 


LearHeadShot2018Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in  job search documents, interview preparation, and academic documents. She is the author of the forthcoming volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses.” For help customizing your job application documents and navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com

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