Sowing Seeds for Career Success

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

Several years ago, I was selected to represent the Kanda Gaigo Career College (KGCC) in the annual staff meeting of the Kanda Gaigo Group in Japan. Actually, you could say that I was competing against the staff of the Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) and the staff of the Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages (KIFL) to make the best presentation at the meeting. My (fortunately successful) presentation began with a man planting a seed. He took care of the seed, and eventually it grew into a tree. In this TESOL Blog post, I would like to focus on how we plant seeds of success in our learners.

In my previous TESOL Blog post, I wrote about the core principles of ESP. One of these core principles is that there is an immediate need for English language communication skills in work or training. When I prepare my learners for success in their future careers, however, I am often not focusing on an immediate need. What I am actually doing is sowing seeds for their future career success. In this case, I do not consider myself to be doing ESP.

For example, in an e-portfolio class that I teach at KUIS, we look at student e-portfolios in the U.S. and in other countries. Further, we discuss what should be included in an e-portfolio. I want the students to be strategic in their choices of what to include in an e-portfolio; specifically, they need to show how their qualifications match the requirements in a job description.

In connection with a job description above, the Career Guide (2014-2015) of Cornell University (p. 66) describes the objective of a job interview to be as follows:

The employer must learn about your qualifications in relation to a specific position and will evaluate your:

  • Abilities—skills that match requirements listed in the job description.*
  • Accomplishments—a pattern of success.
  • Personal qualities—attributes that are likely to contribute to your success with the organization.*
  • Enthusiasm—your desire to work for this employer in this position.
  • Short- and long-term goals—a sense of direction and interest in the career field.

*See lists of qualities and skills employers value on pages 4 and 41.

My aim is to make my students aware of what employers may be looking for. The students need to think strategically about their résumé, interview stories, essays, portfolios, etc. They need to have clear objectives and be aware of how their communication skills can help them to influence others to achieve their objectives. I am planting seeds that may yield fruit in the near future or in the distant future.

In preparing my students to think strategically about how to achieve success in the workplace, I bring in materials from various sources. One such article that I used in a class recently is from the website Bplans (which stands for business plans). In the article titled “How to Find Hundreds of Business Ideas,” Landau writes:

Even if you work for someone else, try to get into the habit of finding the pain points….Once you get into the habit of finding problems, you’ll probably start to enjoy it. Remember, every problem is an opportunity for a new product, service, or company, especially if it’s a problem many others have too.

My follow-up in class to Landau’s advice above is to tell students to always be looking for ways to change their environments for the better. In this way, they can advance their careers. I also have my students come up with specific problems and explain how these problems can be opportunities for products or services. Again, I am seed planting here.

By making my students aware of things they can do to achieve success, it is my hope that when the time comes, they will be able to apply what they have learned in class to achieve success in their careers. For this reason, I will continue to sow such seeds although I may never see the fruits of my labor.

What seeds are you sowing?

All the best,



About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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