Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


Some Professors Now Teach Interpersonal Skills to Help with Job Hunting

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Nov 20, 2023

GettyImages-1141464027 Teacher Woman Female Class Course Education

Among younger adults, so-called soft skills, such as networking and civil conversation, may seem to be lost, but a growing number of college professors in various disciplines are trying to change that, The Wall Street Journal reported.

One is Jana Mathews, a professor of Medieval literature at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. She puts on Job Market Boot Camp class, a mixer with alumni to practice professional networking, and also checks the bathrooms to coax out students hiding from it.

One student had trouble sleeping the night before and considered skipping the event. But once another pulled her into a conversation, she opened up and spoke about her dream of finding a job for a nonprofit. She now works for a group that aids homeless families and those at risk of becoming homeless.

Mathews recommends that students swipe deodorant on palms to avoid clammy handshakes, use breath mints and  prepare for questions such as “Tell me about yourself” by consulting a prepared script. She has students practice moving from introductions to asking about the other person to giving their elevator pitch that covers their interests, work experience and skills.

Claire Ralph, a Caltech computer-science lecturer, told the Journal that, when she started at the campus in 2016, a fifth of her students had spent five months looking for a job and were not even getting interviews. When she asked to see copies of their cover letters, one began, “Hey wazzup y’all.” The student explained that “someone said a cover letter should be friendly,” Ralph said.

Ralph created Tech Fest, a networking event with alumni, and Dining with Teach, which pairs students and professionals for a simulated business lunch at a campus restaurant. It seems to be working, she said, as seniors seeking jobs after graduation are now all getting offers.   

“Students’ interpersonal skills are not as sharp as they used to be,” David S. Salisbury, a professor of geography, environment and sustainability at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., told the Journal.

Last year, he joined students and alumni at a cocktail party in advance of a conference aimed at helping students to network with younger professionals. He gave the students tips on what to say, and advice on what to wear, telling them to err on the side of being too formal rather than too casual. During the event, he helped to introduce timid students to alumni connected with their professional interests.

“Some of us were freaking out because we didn’t know how to respond,” Jeff Tsai, a sophomore biology major, told the Journal. “He supported me in striking up a conversation.”