Employability for francophone studies

Career Management Skills

Staff in the Department of Modern Languages Cultures have developed a student employability and work-integrated learning project, referred to as Career Management Skills (CMS), which has been specifically designed for undergraduate language students and subsumes all the employability requirements of the programme.

The aims of the project are threefold:

● to develop a comprehensive employability strategy for all students enrolled on all undergraduate language courses at the University;

● to maximise student, staff and employer engagement in, and awareness of, the real-world applications of language skills and cultural knowledge;

● to challenge perceptions about the nature of the boundaries that separate work from learning in the disciplinary area of languages and related studies.

Employers often view language skills as peripheral to the core attributes they want and some students can also adopt the same views. It is therefore imperative for students to restore the balance and to learn how to bridge that perceptual gap. In practical terms, this means students need to be planning their career as they plan an essay: it should be an intellectually rewarding task, one that includes an element of research and reflection, and, for language students in particular, it should certainly include some work and reflection on the different working cultures/expectations of different employers across languages and societies in which you may work. In order to do so, students take part in an hour long workshop timetabled within their Languages in Action Module. If they do not take a Language in Action module this academic year, but are taking an Area Studies Module, a special workshop has been scheduled for them. Following the workshops, they are required to fill in a Reflective Log sheet to be integrated in their e-portfolio.

We are able to award three prizes, per semester, at each level for the best Reflective Logs submitted on time at the School Registry Office. The first prize is worth £150, the second prize £100 and the third prize £50. This is thanks to a very successful external business man who is keen to support you in your career planning.

Additionally, Career Management Skills exploits the range and diversity of language-related employment and voluntary opportunities that central London offers and presents them to students as a coherent programme of real-world activities that unfolds across the three or four years of their chosen course. Internships have been developed both in Britain and abroad.

Any activity, paid or otherwise, that allows students to apply their language skills and cultural knowledge in a professional context and gain an awareness of employer expectations, or to acquire experience of the professional relevance and applications of their subject in a way that cannot be achieved in a classroom setting, can be included in the project. Activities that are not language-related in a specialised sense, but which bring out the generic qualities of language graduates, also form part of Career Management Skills.

These activities may take the form of one-off assignments or simulations, for which students might provide language mediation or cultural support, or include regular work alongside established professional linguists as part of a longer-term project. The professional contexts are diverse – students may find themselves “employed” in a business environment, at a museum, a conference or a school. In some cases, students may identify their own opportunities and subsequently incorporate them in their e-portfolio. It will also allow them to record successful completion of work-based assignments and to evaluate their personal and professional development by reference to employer feedback as part of that e-portfolio. At the end of their Degree, their completed e-portfolio will be an invaluable asset in their search for employment. It will allow students to articulate their skills in a wide range of areas in a way which employers understand and value.

Another feature of Career Management Skills was the launch of an Employer Networking Event in autumn 2009. This yearly event is open to all students studying languages from all year groups who are able to network with employers from a variety of sectors. The evening consists of an employer panel presentation followed by informal networking over refreshments. Employers assist students in getting a concrete idea of where their Modern Languages Degree may lead beyond the obvious prospects such as translation work or a teaching career.

For further information regarding Career Management Skills in general, CMS awards, e-portfolios, internships, travel bursaries and the Employer Networking Event, please contact Dr Laurence Randall, Employability Co-ordinator at[email protected]

Career Management Skills has generated internal employment and employability opportunities and will continue to do so as it develops and students are invited to manage some areas of activity, such as client relations or project marketing. But, equally, Career Management Skills seeks to redefine and change perceptions about situations and activities in which you are already engaged, such as casual part-time work or the Year Abroad, which may otherwise be thought of in very different terms by staff, students and employers alike.

Link to Blackboard Employability Learning Environment.