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Career Exploration & Development

The primary goal of the Aggies Elevated program is employment after graduation. Currently, 17 of our 19 graduates (90%) are employed at or above minimum wage, with several finding full-time employment with benefits.

The Career Success Sequence of coursework is outlined below:

Semester 1

Career Exploration 1: Discovery (2 credits)

Topics: Assessments (interests, work skills, work values, transferable skills.) Where can I gain transferable skills? Using O*Net to research careers. Two informational interviews. How to find a job posting. How to read a job posting. How to identify transferable skills in a job posting. How to write a resume. How to write a cover letter. Emotional self-regulation (DBT-based) as a job skill. Reflections on the process of career exploration.

Many jobs require people to apply online, and no cover letter is necessary. The process of writing a cover letter helps the students to determine if this job really is a good fit. If they can’t write about the required skills because they don’t have those skills, it’s not a good fit and they should look for something else.

Emotional self-regulation (resilience) is taught as a job skill in the Career Success Sequence and includes mindfulness; the difference between thoughts, feelings and behaviors; distress tolerance; and communication (soft) skills. We use the Emotion Regulation Skills System for Cognitively Challenged Clients by Julie F. Brown.

Semester 2

Career Exploration 2: Job seeking and interviewing skills. (3 credits)

Topics: Attend job fairs. Create an elevator speech. LinkedIn. Networking. How to answer the Top 10 most common interview questions. Four practice interviews with people you don't know (record the first and last practice interviews). After spring break, the search for the summer job begins (apply for 3 jobs per week: find job postings, write cover letters, apply). Job shadows for 2 hours per week. Emotional self-regulation (DBT-based) as a job skill. Reflections on the process of seeking and interviewing for jobs.

Example“Tell me about yourself” interview question: One student started with where he was born, when he moved to Utah, where he went to elementary school, etc.

Practice interview details: Students are required to find a job posting that they are interested in and qualified for. Instructor provides volunteer interviewer contact information. Students are required to contact volunteer interviewer; provide job posting, resume and cover letter; set appointment; attend appointment; video-record first and fourth interviews; complete a self-evaluation. Volunteer interviewer also completes an evaluation. Student identifies a goal to work on for the next practice interview.

Summer

Student is expected to work at a job during the summer between the first and second years of the program.

Semester 3

Career Related Social Skills (2 credits)

Textbook: Improve Your Social Skills by Daniel Wendler. Topics: Following instructions. Asking questions. Asking for help. Responding to criticism. Communicating assertively. Asking for accommodations. Appropriate conversations in the workplace.

Internship Seminar 1 (3 credits)

Seminar is 1 hour per week to problem-solve what happens during the 50-hour-per-semester internship. 3-4 hours per week is required, most students work about 10 hours per week. Paid or unpaid, on- or off-campus. Job coach available if necessary. 5 learning objectives required.

Topics: Updating a resume after the summer job. Appropriate work behaviors. Identifying cognitive distortions as they relate to the job placement, and how to correct those distortions. Most discussion based on problems/issues encountered by students at their internships.

Required internship: Students are expected to participate in finding their internship placement. Some have learned that it is possible to get fired from an unpaid internship due to inappropriate behavior. Placements can be changed during the second semester if necessary. 

Semester 4

Internship Seminar 2 (3 credits)

Seminar is 1 hour per week to problem-solve what happens during the 50-hour-per-semester internship. 3-4 hours per week is required, most students work about 10 hours per week. Paid or unpaid, on- or off-campus. Job coach available if necessary. 5 learning objectives required.

Topics: Appropriate work behaviors. Marketing yourself. Online resume/portfolio. Four practice interviews with people you don't know (record the first and last practice interviews). After spring break, the search for the permanent job begins (apply for 3 jobs per week: find job postings, write cover letters, apply).

Past internship sites on- and off-campus have included the USU Assistive Technology Lab, USU Event Services, the Aggie Recreation Center, The HPER Service Desk, Aggie Blue Bikes, the USU Campus Store, the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Sound Beginnings Preschool, the afterschool program at Ellis Elementary School, Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, the Utah Conservation Corps, The Logan Family Center, The Sorenson Center for Clinical Excellence, and The Family Place.