Career guidance is typically taught in a specific career-related course that provides an overview of job searches, resume writing, and career assessments, if available. Not all secondary schools, colleges, and universities are alike, and some are better than others when it comes to integrating career guidance principals in the classroom.

Regardless, the implementation of career guidance principles – specifically in the college classroom – whether in a general studies or a vocational-specific course, may help connect the content of the course to real-world work skills. But the learning environment must be conducive to the preparation of employability skills.

I will outline some ideas about filling the gap between classroom concepts to real-life work skills and examples.

What is career guidance?

In order to describe potential integration techniques within the classroom, defining career guidance principles is essential.

For the purposes of this article, career guidance principles include integrating a career interests assessment, narrowing occupation selection, identifying colleges and financial aid options, creating a resume and other job related documentation, preparing for interview skills, teaching employability and work skills, and building techniques for finding and maintaining employment.

Help students make connections between the school and work.

The idea of integrating all these principles into a content-filled classroom might seem difficult, but the actual application of real-life work skills and experiences into the learning environment can help facilitate the students’ connections to real life workplace application of classroom concepts (Jarvis, Richardt, & National Life-Work Center, 2000).

Kuijpers and Meijers (2012) identify various ways to integrate career development or a “career-oriented learning environment” in the classroom (p. 452). In addition to basic career development facilitation concepts, the following ideas support real-life workplace connections in the classroom (Jarvis, Richardt, & National Life-Work Center, 2000).

1. Connect work experiences to course content.

Instead of connecting course connecting to basic theories and abstract information, share a solid work-life example that makes the content relevant to the job experience. How does the content fit into the work environment? What behaviors are demonstrated when applying this content in the work environment? What skills are developed by learning and applying this content?

2. Create an environment of sharing instead of telling.

Initiate a discussion in the classroom by asking powerful questions that elicit conversation and dialogue among the students. Even with limited work experience, students can share how the course concept and content have been demonstrated in the workplace. This is also a great opportunity to have those with longer and relevant experiences share ideas with each other.

3. Make career guidance a part of the ongoing conversation.

Instead of using a career guidance intervention method for students in the classroom, apply career guidance principles at every opportunity. Identify how a particular concept may be translated to a skill and share the importance of active and positive participation and how productive behaviors lead to productive work skills.

An example might be how learning a particular skill could potentially set the student apart from their coworkers, like learning mathematical algorithms in a spreadsheet software application (using if-then statements).

This real-world connection not only helps the student understand what might set him or her apart, but also helps the student understand how to make a practical workplace, job, and occupation connections to classroom content.

4. Make a practical connection with students.

Course content can become much more interesting to students when they see how what they’re learning applies in the workplace, especially when their contribution and knowledge can be applied to a potential future job.

A simple example would apply in business mathematics. Instead of discussing and practicing chain discounts in a typical repetitive worksheet format, provide a real-life work scenario as an example and relate it to various business roles to make the information real.

Provide students the opportunity to see how their knowledge can influence the work environment and outcomes of a business. When students realize that the activities in class connect to work, they will make a practical connection. This connection supports the importance of the concept but also their personal influence in the workplace and to the business.

Ask questions and engage students.

As you implement these concepts, ask questions and encourage student interaction to provide a fulfilling classroom learning experience. Not only will students make connections between course content and work and employment skills, the course will stay fresh with new ideas, discussions, and conversations within the classroom.

Get help from Kuder.

As a reminder, Kuder offers the curricula Direct Your Future(for secondary students) and Take Hold of Your Future™ (for postsecondary students). Both are tied to the Kuder Career Planning System® and provide structure and guidance to incorporate career guidance concepts into a course or classroom unit, eliminating extensive prep time with detailed lesson plans, activities, and more.

Share your ideas with others.

There are many examples to apply to the information in this article. How have you have applied in the classroom to connect course content with real-life work experiences?


Jarvis, P., Richardt, J., & National Life-Work Centre (Ontario). (2000). The Real Game Series: Bringing Real Life to Career Development.
Kuijpers, M., & Meijers, F. (2012). “Learning for now or later? Career competencies among students in higher vocational education in the Netherlands.” Studies In Higher Education, 37(4), 449-467. doi:10.1080/03075079.2010.523144
This article originally appeared in the Kuder Blog July 22, 2015