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Employability in the curriculum: career thinking and the classroom

If you’ve been following this blog series you should now have plenty of ideas about surfacing employability, developing students’ skills and providing opportunities for real-world learning ‘in the classroom’. If you’ve missed any, you can of course still peruse the whole series at your leisure.

So now onto the important final step: ensuring students can connect all of this with where they want to be in the future, so that they are able to explore career options, recognise the applicability of their skills in the wider context, and successfully secure opportunities. This is essentially the process of tying everything together and making sense of it all. In the Careers Service we call it ‘career thinking’. 

Given its importance, encouraging and facilitating career thinking authentically within the curriculum is the focus of this final post in the series. So what does it look like in practice?

Support real-world connections

Real-world learning was the focus of our fourth blog post – and getting another mention here as it’s one of the best ways to encourage students to reflect on possible career options. In practice this could look like:

  • Using real world examples to show how knowledge or methods studied can be applied in industry, or connecting your discipline to current societal challenges
  • Inviting external speakers to provide a professional context, or share their career journey
  • Encouraging exploration of subject interests beyond the classroom, such as related volunteering or work experience opportunities (students can search on myopportunities)
  • Share relevant labour market information or encourage students to explore this themselves –  our LMI webpage is a good place to start. 

Provide opportunities to reflect

Students need meaningful, regular opportunities to reflect and articulate their knowledge, skills and attributes, to then identify where they might apply these. Reflection is key to the personal development pillar of the curriculum framework, as well as being an important skill in itself – self-awareness is highly sought after by employers, and also underpins the lifelong learning and development needed for a successful career.

These are simple ways to build opportunities to reflect into your units:

  • Live pair or group discussion during a synchronous teaching session
  • A discussion board thread or padlet exercise
  • Reflective blog posts, podcasts or short videos at the end of a unit
  • Incorporating into assessment – a short reflective ‘appendix’ to an assessment
  • Individual Personal Development Plans, or portfolios.

How to support students to do it well:

It’s not always easy getting students to reflect – and if we are honest it’s something most of us continue to struggle with throughout our careers! However, here are a few tips to encourage your students (and possibly you!):

  • Give opportunities to practice and develop reflective habits. Short but frequent opportunities to reflect work well.
  • Provide guidance and support: make expectations clear and consider providing examples
  • Communicate the benefits of reflection for their development and progress.
  • Explain the link with their future career – remind them that self-awareness is a skill sought after by employers, and that reflective practice is expected in professional contexts
  • Provide a range of reflection opportunities – recognise different learning styles and preferences and offer flexibility and variety.

Questions you could use: 

Here are some example questions – select according to the task and stage of study of your students:

  • What skills and attributes have you developed / demonstrated?
  • Which skills and attributes has this unit / task / assessment highlighted for you to develop further?
  • What went well for you? What do you think you could have done differently to enhance your performance / contribution?
  • How could you further develop your skills – in your academic studies, or beyond?
  • How could you use your skills and attributes beyond your degree?
  • In what fields or professional contexts will you be able to apply your strengths?
  • What academic knowledge and interests would you like to explore further beyond the classroom? How could you do this – through work experience, volunteering, or your future plans?

For more ideas on interesting ways to incorporate reflection into your teaching, take a look at BILT’s active learning infographic.

Encourage them to go beyond their studies

Our final recommendation is to encourage students to go beyond their studies and make the most of the other opportunities at university to develop themselves. Whether it’s work experience, volunteering, connecting with alumni, or skill development and training opportunities, going beyond the classroom will both help students progress in their career thinking – and also often enriches their studies too.

The Careers Service is here to help students make the most of their time at university – so please do encourage them to connect with us.

Let’s continue the conversation

We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog series as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it. We’d love to continue the conversation. As always please do share your comments below to help us continue to develop our advice and guidance. How are you already enhancing employability through your units or programmes?  What else do you need advice or inspiration on?

Would you like to discuss anything further? Get in touch!

The Faculty Employability Team works with an academic Careers and Employability Lead in each school. We can help you to realise and enhance the potential of your programmes to develop students’ employability. If you’d like an individual conversation, get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.  You can also find out who your Careers and Employability Lead and the designated team member for your school here.


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