Career Services – You Get What You Pay For!

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  • You get what you pay for!
  • You don’t get something for nothing!
  • There’s no free lunch!

These are phrases you often hear when people are dissatisfied with the quality of service they received, but also acknowledge they either didn’t pay for it, or paid very little.  We’ve all been there.  Some institutions offer items for free as loss leaders, either because the competition is offering similar items, or their customers expect it.

Because loss leaders alone do not generate revenue, financial managers tend to not invest much in the loss leaders.

Sound familiar?

In the minds of the financial managers of your campus, your career center is a loss leader, and to them – career services is a cost center.  On most campuses, management has invested as little as possible in career services.  This has forced career professionals to cut services to the bare bones and provide only basic services to the general public.  As a result, there are few resources available to promote and market the importance of taking ownership of one’s career via events and the sundry services available to students.  The budget is also often far too small to serve the special needs of veterans, international students, physically challenged students, athletes and/or first generation minority students.   Even more importantly, there is no way career professionals could offer, good, better, and best services, even if students and parents were willing to pay for them.

On a recent long bike ride, I started thinking about students’, grads’ and alumni’s perception of the free services offered by the career center.

  1. A survey by the John Heldrich Center and Workforce Development found that 58 percent of graduating seniors felt the career center did not do enough to prepare them for their first professional job searches.
  2. A recent survey by AfterCollege found 48 percent of graduating seniors felt the career center did not adequately prepare them for the working world.
  3. A NACE survey found that more than 61 percent of graduating seniors either never went to the career center, or only visited once or twice.
  4. In candid conversations with majority of parents and students, I hear the same thing: “The career center did little to nothing to help (fill in the blank) prepare for his (or her) first professional job search.”  (I always challenge them– as the survey in point three above shows where part of the blame lies.)

The lack of career exploration, career planning, and career management shows that grads are having a tough time finding jobs:

  • A 2014 survey by AfterCollege showed 83 percent of graduating seniors did not have jobs lined up by graduation day.
  • The Associated Press/New York Federal Reserve Board and other surveys show grads 25 and under have higher unemployment and underemployment rates than previous generations of grads.
  • A NACE survey showed it took the average grad 7.4 months to find a job and the chances were high according to multiple reports by the AP/NY Federal Reserve Board that they would be underemployed

And–even MORE telling– is a study by the Career Advisory Board that found:

  • 52.7 percent of career directors did not think their students’ resumes were at the level they needed to be.
  • 48.1 percent of career directors did not think their students were ready for their first professional job searches.

We don’t have enough space in this blog article to consider all the reasons students are having trouble getting employment, but the one factor I do want to consider is that career services are free and because of that, students place little importance on them.  Most consumers don’t value free services.  Research has proven that the more expensive an item, the more consumers value it.

So why not charge for career services?

In any business, stats like the ones I shared above would propel management to implement drastic changes to better serve customers.  In the rough and tumble college market, where pennies are being doled out to some of the most important departments, there is little hope that management is going to significantly increase funding to the career center.  So if career services is going to change these dismal stats, it’s time to get entrepreneurial and generate your own revenue.

But why charge for career services?

To many, offering free career services to students and alumni has been a sacred ritual and unchangeable policy.  The thought of charging for services has been akin to lunacy!   In fact, in countless discussions with career professionals I’ve been told in no uncertain terms, “We’d never charge students or alumni for our services.”

I question if this is relevant today when legislatures, the media, parents, students, grads and alumni are asking– and in some cases demanding– the college do more to help them use their degrees to land jobs.  Most colleges charge for athletic events, lab fees, transportation fees, technology fees, and sundry other fees.  So just what makes charging a fee for career services sacred?

People value what they pay for!

The current “no cost” career services model is completely ignoring parents and students who would be willing to pay for a good, better or best career services model.

I have a friend who is willing to pay top dollar for anything to ensure that he is getting the very best.  Dick will pay a premium because he has higher expectations then most, and of course, he has the resources to pay more.  Some of your friends more than likely exhibit the same behavior with the goods and services they buy.  One friend may be driving a BMW because he or she values the quality, another may buy a Louis Vuitton purse because of the prestige, and another may live in a more expensive home than he or she can afford because they value the quality of the schools.

Your students’ parents are willing to invest in career services!

A multibillion dollar cottage industry has grown up around helping prospective students improve their ACT/ACT scores.  Kaplan, Princeton Review, Revolution Prep and thousands of “coaches” are now available to prospective students and offer solutions as simple as a $100 guide book to advanced courses, and one-on-one coaching for $10,000.   It’s a huge industry and obviously one that is supporting a need.

It’s time to act now!

To me, the data collected by reputable organizations is suggesting that it’s time to introduce changes and experiment with new ideas and strategies.  These well known stats beg a response as the lives and careers of current and future students are at stake.   We have to rock the boat.  We have to introduce change, and we have to do it now!

According the Freshman Survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute, 88 percent of the 2013 freshman class indicated they were going to college to improve their chances of getting jobs and launching their careers.  It’s time for campus bean-counters to recognize what their customers want and provide you the funding you need.

You have numerous ideas about how you can implement change to offset these deploring, gloomy pools, and it’s time to get management’s ear and show them how your career center can generate review by charging for good, better and best career services!

For more details check out my blog article, Career Services Pricing Like the Airlines!

 

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

One thought on “Career Services – You Get What You Pay For!

  1. Although I find the overall point and premise of this perspective extremely interesting, the bottom line from the student perspective (and their families), is they feel as though they already paid for career services (and now we’re charging them twice). Students pay X amount of dollars to attend college and have come to expect a certain level of service. Colleges and Universities are getting hammered every day regarding the expenses and charging for career services opens the door for even deeper criticism. I fully agree that colleges and universities view the career services operation as a loss leader. This is the ultimate mistake. A good to excellent career operation is actual a profit center in what it can do for both admissions and alumni relations (institutional advancement). If the employer partnerships are top rate, the internships are high quality, the graduate schools are easily recognized, admissions is in their glory. Someone smarter than me once commented that an employed alum is a giving alum (paraphrased)–so the more we can help employ, the more they can potentially give. If colleges made the investment in the career operation with staffing and technology, it will more than pay for itself.

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