Breaking into the Classroom: 5 Tips to Integrate Career Components into Student Coursework

By Nicole Poff

At a recent conference, a fellow attendee complained “Our students are so over-programmed with university initiatives that our department can’t compete for attention.” Another attendee responded, “Well, you should consider yourself lucky - we have such a small department that our calendars are completely booked with student appointments, so we have no time to create programming.” Over the next hour, counselors from across the country shared their career services dilemmas. One small complaint created a domino effect of career counselors revealing their strongest pain points. Beyond just over-programming and a small department, some of the most common issues were: lack of student engagement, limited funds, low workshop attendance, unprepared students, and overzealous students who expect to become CEOs upon graduation.

Uncertain about how my peers would respond, I anxiously raised my hand and said: “We don’t have a huge budget; we have a pretty small team in comparison to our massive student and alumni population; our engagement is frequently subpar, but we have found that integrating career components into existing courses is working very well for us. In fact, we have successfully integrated career service components into a lot of our education courses, and we are seeing great success.” At that moment, I was met with both curiosity and resistance as other counselors asked, “Would curriculum integration work for us? If so, how?”

It is important to understand that curriculum integration is not a quick and easy fix, but it could be a permanent one. Aspiring career counselors may need to be instructed (within their Counselor Education Programs) as to how to start the process of integration in their future employment. To help get you started, here are five tips based on my experiences for successful curriculum integration.

Tip 1: Build a Case for Change and Find Faculty Champions

In the beginning, we had to network like crazy! We needed to effectively demonstrate how this shift would benefit our students through data and research. We were met with opposition along the way but found that it took only one faculty champion to rally the rest; slowly, through the promotion by one faculty member, other faculty teamed with career services to start exploring the integration process.

Tip 2: Ask about the Course Development Process and Find Ways to Plug in

Instead of creating a new curriculum building process, we explored those already in existence and found ways to plug in. We began by attending meetings between instructional designers and faculty members to discuss the goals of courses. By joining these meetings, career services was able to introduce itself as a resource to improve courses by connecting course content with real world preparation. These initial meetings led to further opportunities to meet with faculty and instructional designers as they built courses. We provided resources and recommendations on the types of assignments that may be appropriate for the corresponding course level. We know that this process looks different at all schools, but the goal is to make integration as easy as possible from the faculty perspective.

Tip 3: Create Programming and Material with the Classroom in Mind

When creating workshops, webinars, and various programming, we keep the classroom in mind. As counselors build and deliver workshops and webinars, think about ways in which handouts, activities, and virtual learning modules can be turned into easily integrated classroom assignments and discussions.

Tip 4: Establish a “Menu of Services” that is available for Faculty to View

With a “Menu of Services” to reference, faculty independently can figure out how to work your department services and material into their courses. Our menu includes: acting as subject matter experts to help create and brainstorm assignments that connect course curriculum to professional career goals, provide links to existing resources, and review any course content regarding career readiness or career development.

Tip 5: Continue to Provide Value: Tell the Story

A really easy and effective way to provide value is to share success stories that faculty don’t typically get to see or hear. I recently found a success story about an early childhood education student getting hired before graduating and shared it with a couple of faculty members. One emailed me back and said “And… THIS….. is why we do what we do!” It’s important to remember that the majority of university faculty aren’t working with students as they enter their field, so they don’t get to see the fruits of their labor. We have the power to share this information with them which can help fuel their fire.


These tips have launched new and fostered existing relationships between academics and student affairs at my university, and it is through these newfound relationships that we continue to address our pain points and improve the overall student experience. Integration has truly reshaped our office and direction moving forward.



Nicole PoffNicole Poff, MA, is a Career Services Specialist and Online Associate Faculty member at Ashford University. As a Career Services Specialist, Nicole works collaboratively across the university to embed career service components into the classroom. She received her BS in Child and Family Development from San Diego State University, her MA in Education from University of Phoenix, and has spent the last 6 years within various role in Higher Education. Nicole has a deep passion for the adult learner and enjoys the time spent in the classroom as an Adjunct.  She can be contacted at Nicole.Poff@bpiedu.com.

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1 Comment

Michael Stebleton   on Saturday 09/01/2018 at 03:53 PM

Thanks Nicole. Insightful suggestions. I like your idea of finding faculty champions. This is a critical step towards building meaningful partnerships with faculty members. Well-done! Mike

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