As I discovered from talking with parents of college students and recent grads, there is an assumption that the first place to look for help in a student’s first professional job search is the school’s career services center. The reality can be discouraging. (Note: blogger just would not cooperate today. Format is funky.)
Today, when catching up on LinkedIn group discussions I was rendered speechless by a particular discussion. The discussion started in the Career Services Professionals group with 14,000+ members. (This is copied verbatim from the posting).
“What do I do with a major in?... Any good free resources out there where I can direct students? Maybe something like focus but free? Appreciate your help!” The first commenter said, "This is a great question to ask, because you will definitely be able to benefit from the many resources already developed (no need to reinvent the wheel?) AUURGH! Other comments provided websites to check out.
What’s even more astounding, it was posted by a director of a center for career development. And yes, the person has many years of experience in this area.
SERIOUSLY! Was I reading this correctly? I sent this discussion to a number of college consultants and bloggers to hear their take.Are they as outraged as I am? They sure are. As one said, " Wow. That's stunning. How does somebody like that get a job in this field?"
Why are we surprised that surveys say many students are unprepared for the job search.How could they be when the very people schools hire to be professional guides for students are unqualified to help. I’m tired of reading articles and LinkedIn postings that place all the blame on students. There’s plenty of blame to go around and that includes the schools and parents.
Career Services Centers Share in Some of the Blame
In A Roadmap for Transforming the College-To-Career Experience a report based on a conference that included more than 250 higher education administrators, faculty members, corporate executives and national thought leaders concluded:
While transformational changes have occurred in the world of work, many college career offices look and function the same way they did twenty years ago. When we think about how dramatically the world of work has changed, it is remarkable that the methods utilized to prepare students to enter it have remained static. Yet instead of investing, schools slashed career office budgets by an average of 16 percent this past year while prospective students and families pleaded for increased support to help find gainful employment. Unless we can demonstrate to prospective students and their families that the four years spent at college will result in better employment prospects, there will continue to be those who disparage a college education as a waste of money.
Correct. And for those college career service professionals who post discussions complaining they can’t get students to engage in their programs ask not how to, instead ask: Is what we offer what students want? Are the programs/resources relevant to today’s job market and students or can the materials be downloaded from other websites? Are we providing the coaching students need? Can we provide students with ongoing support they need during their job search? Do we have a quantifiable track record of success? Do we have the appropriate connections with employers? Do we even know what employers value? Vision and a value proposition only go so far especially when the programs don't deliver outcomes.
Make career services a criterion for college selection
Parents you have power and it’s time to use it. With the high cost to send your son or daughter to college to earn a bachelor’s degree, you need know more about the school’s career services.
According to a study authorized by More Than a Resume:
- Over 50% say college career centers aren’t up to the task
- When asked, “My child’s college has excellent career service resources,” 54% somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement and 64% of those parents who are involved with their child’s first job search say the same
- Over 50% of parents did not consider career services or job placement rate as college selection criteria
- Over two-thirds of parents didn’t investigate, visit or compare career service centers
Lynn O’Shaughnessy in College Solution posits, “…one reason why colleges haven’t made career services a priority is because they have been able to get away with it. Since a way didn’t exist for families to measure how well schools did at helping their grads find jobs, they didn’t have to be accountable." Yep! There’s no incentive for school’s to change until parents demand it.
Parents, you must learn how the school views, funds and staffs its career services center. You need to ask questions, make the school show the job placement data (they have some data) and demand an upgrade in staffing and in the services provided. After all, the tuition fees you pay support these centers. Are you getting your money’s worth?
 Thirty-one percent of employers believe that recent graduates are unprepared or very unprepared for their job search. That’s according to a study of over 700 employers, conducted in late fall 2012 by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, titled “The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions”.