Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 2.54.21 PMOne week from today I’ll be in New Orleans for ACTFL 2018.  My book, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses,” will be at the Georgetown University  Press booth in the exhibit hall.

It’s a very practical guide. Each chapter covers a workplace skill that can easily be woven into already-existing language curricula: course management, gatekeeping, networking, professional correspondence, presentations, and digital literacy.  

The format is user-friendly; each chapter starts with an explanation of what you are already doing in the language classroom that is tied to the professional skill, then walks you through what to add to explicitly integrate workplace skills before concluding with specific activities, lesson plans, and sample rubrics that can be adapted for any language or course. If you’re going to be in New Orleans, please reach out (darcylear@gmail.com) or stop by the exhibit hall.  

In addition to this volume aimed at language teachers, I’m looking for insights from former students on how they use skill from their languages studies–in expected or unexpected ways–in their professional lives. I’d especially like to know what they wish they had learned while still in college that would have helped in the college-to-career transition or workplace.  If you are a former language student or are in touch with former students, please comment here or send me a private message: darcylear@gmail.com


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

Can Your Language Students Take an Accurate Message?

IMG_4135I have  blogged about the professional value of being able to take phone messages before (see posts here and here).

Today’s post is about getting started with taking phone messages in a foreign or second language.

In an introductory language course, students can get practice with the building blocks of language (the alphabet and numbers) while also developing some fundamental communicative strategies.  

The alphabet and numbers often get short shrift in language courses. And the typical L1 activities to build fluency in letters and numbers are designed for pre-schoolers–cute songs and basic counting games. However, adult L2 learners can deploy similar repetitive practice in introductory language courses by asking, “how do you spell that?” regularly (when studying new vocabulary, talking to new people whose names they don’t know, etc.) and by regularly taking phone messages.

At the end of each week or at the end of each unit of study, I read a simple phone message to students. In first-year classes, they just have to get an accurate name and phone number so that a more fluent speaker can call back. In second-year courses, students can take simple messages.  

The key strategies students need to effectively take a basic message include being able to take control of the conversation and ask for information “one letter at a time” or “one digit at a time,” repeating the information back and asking if it’s correct, and know how to say, “someone will return your call.”  

Eventually, small groups of students can work together with one leaving the message and the others taking the message.

With all of that in place, here is what first- and second-year students struggle with: the alphabet.

Even as students develop fluency in speaking, reading, writing, and communication strategies, they don’t get much repetitive practice with the alphabet like they did when acquiring their L1s.  Despite regular practice with strategically taking phone messages, Spanish students a few weeks into a first-year course write “h” when the letter “g” is said (the letter “g” in Spanish pronounced like English “hay”). Students have to train themselves to mentally compare the Spanish pronunciation of “g” to the Spanish pronunciation of “h” (“hache”), which they don’t tend mistake for a different letter. Or they must develop the strategy of repeating it back to the person so that when they say, “hache,” the speaker will correct them.  Similarly, vowels bewitch learners of Spanish because the Spanish “e” and “i” sound exactly like English “a” and “e”–so chaos can ensue when conducting a simple exchange along the lines of “how do you spell that?”

This is a testament to the need for a lot of opportunities to practice spelling in the target language. All the strategies in the world ultimately won’t overcome a lack of knowledge of the basic building blocks of a language. Additionally, students should develop mechanisms to check themselves, such as jotting down all the vowels: a-e-i-o-u and saying them to themselves to review which is which (in the case of Spanish).  

Teachers too often skip over the most basic information–like letters and numbers–which is a lost opportunity to both build a foundation in the target language and frame the experience within a professional development context.


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 andnavigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
 
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Develop Transcultural Competence through email Writing

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 9.36.37 AMIn a previous post, I talked about the importance of using the subject line of an email to convey important, contextual information and make the recipient want to read the content of the message as well as the value of using formal greetings and sign offs. On the latter point, I have noticed that even when I explicitly script for students, “Estimada Darcy:” and “Atentamente,” I still find myself impressed with the professionalism of their messages–and more willing to enthusiastically answer them. I tell students this and explicitly suggest to them that professionals (including their professors) are probably going to be even more impressed than I am when they receive professionally-crafted emails.  

Here is another aspect of email writing that coincides with principles of language education: transcultural competence.  This comes into play when crafting a subject line. For example, if students use the following subject line: “Spanish class today,” that probably doesn’t give the average Spanish instructor enough information. I ask students to put themselves in the position of the recipient and improve that subject line.  Most students quickly understand that most instructors probably teach more than one course (I sometimes add that many teach on more than one campus) and edit the subject line to “SPAN 1101, section 4.”  

A week or two later, a more challenging transcultural competence task tied to email writing might be appropriate. For example, it’s the middle of the second week of classes (on the quarter system, that’s more than 15% of the course) and your instructor is receiving messages like this:  

I am writing to ask to be added to your SPAN 1101/4 class. I’ve always loved Spanish and I took two years in high school; the university placement test placed me into this level and I really look forward to studying Spanish.  

When I ask students to deploy their transcultural competence skills and imagine themselves in the role of the recipient of that message, they struggle.  They offer what we’ve already covered earlier: “They need to use Estimada!”, “Atentamente?”, “It doesn’t say what campus they’re on!”  They intuitively understand that the message itself is polite and subtly flattering. I nudge: “It’s the middle of the second week of classes; more than 15% of the course is completed. What is the one question the professor has that the student writing that email has not answered?”

Some students start to slowly brainstorm: how are they going to make up all the missed classes and work? That would be good to know.  I push a bit more: are there any inherent contradictions or big gaps in the content of that message? If all of that is true, then….? Slowly it dawns on some students: ..if all of that is true, then why are you trying to get into the class so late? Why didn’t you register for it back during registration?

The instructor needs the backstory. Did you start in the wrong level and you’re just trying to bump up or down? Did you start in a different section but have a schedule conflict?  Did you start in a different language and find yourself in over your head? Did someone just drop the class freeing up a seat? Those are all simple explanations that make sense and provide important context for how one might proceed, especially if offered along with a plan for independently catching up on missed content so the instructor isn’t being asked to offer two weeks of independent study.  

If this content is part of a workshop, we can often delve deeply into the intersection of language studies and professional email writing. If it’s part of a language course, the whole activity should take 1-2 minutes so as to proceed with the usual course content.

In any context, I also try to be encouraging by telling students that developing transcultural competence is hard; we all send confusing emails once in awhile; typos abound in emails for a variety of reasons; putting yourself in the position of others and seeing yourself from the outside takes time and effort each and every time you do it; none of us will always get it right. Transcultural competence is aspirational for all of us. Always. This is partly because the whole point of transcultural competence is that it is a constant process of observing, being aware of our own mistakes, taking steps to correct them, and learn as well go through life.


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
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who Reads Your Resume & Cover Letter?

person holding black pen

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This is something I talk about with almost all of my clients in career transition.  

The first reader of your application materials is probably going to be…an algorithm.

These applicant tracking systems (ATS) or robot readers are programmed to pull keywords that match a specific job ad. The ATS then sends the top applications on to human readers.  That means a single document has to be optimized for both robot and human readers.

This great blog post from Jobscan is a testament to the importance of carefully matching keywords from the job ad to your application materials–even when applying to very similar jobs. It can be vitally important to change “projections” to “forecasts” (in the accounting context) or to carefully select from among “communication strategies,” “communications strategy,” and “communications strategies.”  Every letter can matter.  

Most of what needs to be said is in the post, 8 Things You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems. Remember: it is worth spending your time customizing each application to each specific job ad. Your yield will be much better than spending your time blasting 100 generic resumes to 100 different job openings where ATS readers will never pick up your application and send it on to a human reader.


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 andnavigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
 
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Include “Spanish” on Your Resume–A Specific Example

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 4.07.50 PM

As one small part of the course, students in the Spanish for the Professions class I taught this spring had to bring a draft of their English-language resumes to class.

Why English?

Because most, if not all, students will apply for jobs in the U.S. and will therefore need English-language resumes for the search process.  

BUT language and cultures skills are also very important to include on your resume.  This is one of the many areas where the resume has to show, not tell. You can’t just list languages (or any other skills); instead, your resume has to show how you used your language skills, preferably in some sort of professional or quasi-professional context.  

Let’s look at specific examples. A typical first draft of a resume lists skills without any explanation of the candidate’s proficiency or illustrations of how the candidate deployed those skills.  This is NOT ideal:


SKILLS

COMPUTER: Proficient in Microsoft Office, PLEX ERP system

LANGUAGES: English, Spanish  


In every case, the skills listed above should be highlighted elsewhere on the resume. Take the example of Microsoft Office: what projects were executed using Excel? What special features of Excel were used? Did you create a database, fill it in with stats acquired from a certain source and then generate a pie chart, line graph, and bar graph?  Explain that in one or two lines under a subheading that provides the specific context (a course, a club, a volunteer project, a job) within a broader heading that is richer than “Skills;” for example: “Professional Experience” or “Technological Applications.”  It might looks something like this: 


TECHNOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS

Rowing Club of University X 

Used Excel to create and maintain database of 350 members, dues paid, and events participation; presented 3 graphs that tracked growth at quarterly meetings


The same goes for languages: how did you use your language skills?  Provide a specific example that illustrates what you can do with the foreign language. That will tell employers a lot about what they could expect you to do for them in that language. For my students in the spring 2018 Spanish for the Professions course, they could put something like this on their resume to illustrate how they had used their Spanish skills in real-world, quasi-professional contexts while also highlighting some of the tech skills they acquired:


Language Experience

  • Researched, collected data on resources and needs of Hispanic community within Metro-Detroit, and created a website entirely in Spanish: https://desireersmith.weebly.com
  • Read, summarized, and analyzed 25 Spanish-language articles, videos, and podcasts on law and human rights

The above entry gives a rich example that is far superior to “SKILLS: Spanish.” Anyone reading it can quickly understand that this student can do the following: design a website, conduct research, and add content all in Spanish–that’s a lot of tech and language skills to illustrate in 20 words + one URL. Any interested employer can then go to the URL and see the graphic design, the content of the research project, and the format of the blog.

The second entry speaks to the professional content the student researched: law and human rights.  In a job interview, this could be the jumping off point for a conversation about legal issues in the Spanish-speaking world and what that candidate knows, both about the Spanish language and media content in the legal realm.  

What technology do you use in your language courses?  At a minimum, you probably use an online learning system from the textbook publisher and a campus learning management system. Can you illustrate broader tech skills on a resume using these as examples?  What assignments or projects can you describe in a brief resume entry that shows or illustrates your language skills and what you can do with the language? 


2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. She is the author of the forthcoming volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses,” which includes a chapter on digital skills building. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
 
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Can You Design Websites?” One Way to Prepare Students for the Professions through Digital Skills Development

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.23.14 PM

With minimal guidance from instructors, students can design endless varieties of websites for language courses. For all the websites featured in this post, the instructions were to design a website with at least 2 frames and 3 tabs and turn in the URL by email.

“Can you design websites?” has become a common job interview question addressed to recent grads (who are presumed to be tech savvy). A surprising number of candidates would answer “no” to that question despite the fact that most could design a website in less than an hour.

Digital literacy skills were among the professional skills covered in the Spanish for the Professions course I taught this spring. In class, we talked briefly about the concepts of “native” and “immigrant” as applied to the digital realm, where misaligned expectations can often arise between older managers in the workplace (many of whom are digital “immigrants” who had to learn more explicitly about technology as it was introduced in their adulthoods) and young new hires (who are digital natives, born into a world full of user-friendly technology and therefore don’t necessarily have the explicit, meta-level tech knowledge managers might expect them to possess).  

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.26.32 PM

One student’s website designed using Wix.com had 5 tabs across the top, a central image, and a second frame with featured content below the image pictured here.

We did not spend much time on theory, though, as the students had lots of hands-on tech work to do in practice. During the first week of class, one assignment was to design a website (see samples of the final products here, here, here, and here). Each student had to turn in a URL for a two-frame, three-tab website. They could use any web authoring tools they wanted (my students happened to choose from among Wix.com, weebly, and WordPress). Initially, they did not have to add any content to the site.  

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.25.55 PM

Another look for a website featuring the legal profession, human rights, and the Albuquerque, New Mexico region.

In addition to forcing students to develop enough tech skills to be able to answer “yes” to that interview question (“can you design websites?”), this assignment required that students grapple with some of the important soft skills that employers most want in new hires: independence, resourcefulness, decision-making, and an ability to deal with ambiguity.  The lack of instructions can make students nervous–afraid that they’ll “do it wrong” or “get a bad grade.” But this assignment not only mimics the ambiguity of the real world, it also plays out beyond the credit / no-credit grade in the class because, ultimately, students have to decide if they want to tout the website on their resumes and in job interviews, leave it up on the internet so it will appear in Google searches for them, and highlight it in professional situations where the ability to design websites is relevant. The real-world utility of each site varies with each individual student–some will delete their websites at the conclusion of the course.  For my purposes as an instructor, the website can be a bland, black-and-white, text-only website; as long as the coursework that has to get posted there actually gets posted there, it does the job and the student will get full credit for that week 1 assignment to design a website.  

The content of the Spanish for the Professions course that I was teaching in the spring required that students add the following to their websites:

  • Regular blog posts in which they 1- summarized content they had read, viewed, or
    Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.24.06 PM

    A screenshot of one student’s blog that shows the teaser for 4 entries.

    listened to related in some way to their career aspirations, 2- reacted to the content, and 3- noted any new vocabulary acquired (this activity is based on the presentation by Marta Chamorro of the University of Tulsa at the 2011 CIBER conference in Charleston, SC).

  • The components of a research project on the region where they plan to live and work, including the demographics of that region, existing resources for professionals in that region who interact with Spanish speakers, and a report on the unmet needs–and possible career niche for the student.  

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 1.26.16 PMMost students also included an “About me” (“¿Quién soy?”) tab.  Next time I teach first-year Spanish, student websites might minimally include this tab and any writing assignments students complete as well as images of classwork and some “before” and “after” highlights that show student growth from the beginning to the end of the course.


 

2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. She is the author of the forthcoming volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses.” which includes a chapter on digital skills building. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
 
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can You Write a Professional email in Spanish?

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 9.36.37 AMThis is a question I ask students at all levels; and often students in the highest level language courses offered on their campus do not know the basics of sending professional emails in their second languages. In my intermediate Spanish for the professions course, email is the practical skill that we cover during week 3, by which time there is usually a need for some email correspondence in the administration of the course.  

First, students have to send an email that:

1- Uses the subject line well (so that the recipient will know what to expect in the body of the message). This should be something like “SPAN 2000 presentation date & topic”

2- Uses an appropriate professional greeting: “Estimado,” “Estimada,” “Estimados,” “Estimadas” in Spanish. Fully half of students usually use the wrong of those four choices on their first try.

3- Uses an appropriate sign-off: “Atentamente” in Spanish.  

For my students, the content of that first email is simply the date of their first in-class presentation. This activity gives very basic practice in the most fundamental norms of professional email writing.

The upside for the instructor: when students want to know what date they signed up to present on, they can consult their own “sent” folder.  

For the second email assignment, I add the 5 W’s of journalism: make sure you include all relevant content that answers the questions who? what? when? where? why? / how?   The specific assignment is to send me an email to schedule a one-on-one appointment in my office to talk about their websites, their daily writing logs, or their course-long projects.  Students have to be resourceful to find information such as the location of my office so that they can clearly assert where they will meet me. It’s not difficult to look on the syllabus or the department directory, but it’s also not something most students have explicitly thought about.  

A third email would add more nuanced elements like “don’t bury the lede” and “don’t put your problems in someone else’s inbox.” These can be the most troublesome emails faculty receive, but the hardest to simulate as in the examples above.  

“Don’t bury the lede” usually comes up with letter of recommendation requests; students feel the need to “catch up” via email and write far too much before coming out with the letter of recommendation request.  I tell students to put “letter of recommendation request” in the subject line so that they don’t bury the lead no matter how much they write in the body of the message.  The body of the message should include the following: first name, last name, title of course and semester you took it with me, a clear summary of the work you uniquely did in my course (not the assignments–I have the syllabus too and can look up what I assigned; I need to know what you did that nobody else did), and a description of the connections between what you did in my course and whatever it is you’re applying to.  This is challenging. But if the student can’t do it, I won’t be able to do it either.  And this is excellent practice for cover letter writing in which the whole goal is to convince the employer that you uniquely meet a need or solve a problem that they have.

“Don’t put your problems in someone else’s inbox” are the emails that include, “what should I do?” anywhere in the body.  Instead, students should explain the who, what, when, where, why and include what they’ve done to resolve the problem (so that they’re just bringing you in the loop or letting you know they’ll stop by office hours) or propose a couple solutions for you to choose from.  I assign this when students are scheduling out-of-class oral exams and need to make a change–or simulate making a change–so that they can run through the possibilities of solving the problem on their own by getting classmates to agree to switch with them, getting a partner to agree to switch times, etc.  

As with all of these professional skills, pick and choose the examples that solve a problem you have; use these ideas to make the administration of your courses easier or more pleasant for you and your students.


2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. She is the author of the forthcoming volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses.” To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
 
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment