‘Most graduates today have a BA, MBA or PHD but more often are struggling with having a J-O-B’

This quote is so true it’s a bit freaky, isn’t it?

Let’s not sugar-coat it shall we? Most of our students are learning English to improve their job prospects and that is all. Understandable and a totally legit reason. English has become the global language of our time and in so doing is a crucial tool for many in enhancing their CV/resume and their communication skills. But what about the job market itself? Do our young students in particular have any idea what it’s like? How it’s been changing? What skills they or we adults will need in the future? I’m not so sure this topic is covered much in general English classes and personally I believe it should.

I got the idea from an advanced business course book but you can easily adapt it for upper- intermediate level students and teach it as general English.

The quote provides a great starting point for discussion to get the lesson started. After a few minutes of pair-work speaking get feedback and a short discussion going in class about this, see what students think. They should have plenty to say!

Soft skills and work patterns

Follow it up with this speaking task: (make a spider graph with ‘job patterns’ in the middle and elicit the stuff below:

  1. Seasonal work b) teleworking c) self-employment d) temporary contract e) shift work f) part-time work g) casual labour

What do these work patterns mean? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Help with this accordingly and provide examples, so far no materials required! ?

Ask students to brainstorm jobs that are popular in their country at the moment. Which are considered well-paid/ high-status vs poorly-paid/ low status (this is good vocabulary to note down!)

What skills are essential for these jobs or the jobs they would like to do in the future?

Make a list on the board!

This is where students might struggle with providing many jobs or skills so I’d advise you have some ready to give them if they get stuck, or elicit a list of jobs you have in mind (this is probably more fun for them)

Do the same with skills, have a list ready if students can’t provide much. Examples:

  • Strong Work Ethic. …
  • Positive Attitude. …
  • Good Communication Skills. …
  • Time Management Abilities. …
  • Problem-Solving Skills. …
  • Acting as a Team Player. …
  • Self-Confidence.
  • Working well under pressure
  • Flexibility/ Adaptability

Is it better to have a wide variety of skills or to be a specialist? Discuss

If students haven’t included ‘good communication skills’ and/or ‘social skills’ ask them if they are important? Why(not)?  Ask them what soft skills are? explain if necessary

Jobs and a Career

You should have a list of jobs that students might be less familiar with, here are some ideas but you can of course have your own: Here’s an article with ideas (you could print and cut out some of these and post them around the room and get students to match the descriptions with the job titles.)

Content manager (for websites)      Events coordinator                          Human resources specialist

Software engineer                           Data processing engineer             Corporate loans specialist

Tester (software)                              IT technician                                   Video editor

Graphic designer                             Media marketer                               Public relations marketing

Lecturer                                           Biochemist

Ask students what they know about these jobs? You can provide some definitions for each on a projector or a sheet of paper and ask them to match the descriptions with the job title.

Activity: Job description

Here are some important aspects of a job:

Duties, pay, the boss, benefits, training, holidays, health and safety, promotion, hours of work, experience, overtime, job security

Ask me questions about these aspects of my job (pretend only to hear the grammatically correct ones)

If your students don’t work then ask them to pick a job they would maybe like to do. (from the ones you discussed earlier)

Activity: Personal Profiles

What is a personal profile? (a description of yourself as a professional). Listen to this personal profile and tell me what kind of work the person does.

I am a hardworking, energetic and reliable person with a creative approach to tasks.  I can adapt easily to all kinds of working environments as I am very flexible.  An advanced PC user, I am also eager to broaden my knowledge and learn new skills.  I am articulate and I interact well with colleagues.  Able to work efficiently under pressure.  I can prioritize my workload to meet tight deadlines. I am a fluent in Russian and have an excellent command of German.  Given the opportunity I will prove myself a valuable member of any team.

Listen again and write down the key words.

Here are some more useful expressions:

I am an excellent communicator, I enjoy challenges, I have strong leadership skills, I am committed to equal opportunities

Write your own personal profile and compare with a partner. Use words from the personal profile, above and the soft skills we talked about earlier in the lesson.

Wrapping up the lesson

To wrap up the lesson get feedback from the students on what skills they chose and how they can be valuable in certain jobs. Alternatively you can ask them to discuss the questions below.

Questions can be:

Do you think there is an acceptable work-life balance in your country, or is there a corporate ‘work-all-hours’ culture?

Would you like to work in the same field or profession for the rest of your life?

How important is it to be a lifelong learner in today’s world?

There’s a lot of material here and doing all of it in one go is too much but you can break it up into a couple of lessons on soft skills and job patterns as well as the jobs that are available in today’s job market. The follow up lesson could be the all the activities which allows students to put all the vocabulary and ideas into practice.

A great lesson idea that can go with this is describing trends. There is also a video lesson for this where I discuss the language in detail.

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