Do Careers Get Enough Focus On Your Campus?

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Mandatory participation in groups and activities prevents students from investing time in career planning and management

In doing research for my book The Employed Grad, Skills, Knowledge and Information Your Grad Will Need to Get a Job, I spent some time explaining to parents why colleges have not historically been focused on career exploration, planning and development, and why the career center can’t make their son or daughter come to the career center to explore careers or build a job search strategy.

I did this because parents assume the college is going to do everything in their power to help their sons or daughters prepare for a successful careers within their degrees. But as you know, if you can’t get a student to your career center, there is little you can do to help!

My goal was to get parents to understand this so they could play a role in requiring their sons or daughters to take ownership of their careers and use the career center resources from the time they get to campus.

One of the reasons students are not focused on careers is that the administration and culture of the campus is focused everywhere but on careers!

Here are a couple of examples:

MANY colleges require students to invest time in various volunteer activities prior to graduation.  It’s not unusual for a college to require students to show proof of investing 30-60 hours in volunteering activities in order to graduate.    Yet, at the same time, these same institutions do not require students to invest ANY time in career planning and management.

Campus Compact

During my research, I came across an organization called Campus Compact whose focus is to act as a clearing house and support structure for campuses that are committed to require their students to invest a specific amount of time in volunteer and community service projects.  Over 1,200 college presidents have signed the Campus Compact which shows their commitment and that of their college to encourage students to adopt civic minded projects and behavior.

In fact in their 2011 yearly report entitled Deepening the Roots of Civic Engagement, they reported that 91% of Campus Compact member schools indicated that their institutions had a mission statement that included service, service-learning, or civic engagement; 90% noted that their strategic plan explicitly addressed these areas.  Here is a statement from their website:

Campuses offer a variety of mechanisms for community members to have a voice in campus decision making. Most (78%) offer formal opportunities for community members to discuss concerns with the administration. Nearly three-quarters (74%) include community members on the Board of Trustees. Community members may also serve on committees overseeing academic (29%), hiring (26%), or budgetary (12%) matters.

In the book, I outlined nearly 20 different things colleges are doing to provide students an outlet to learn how and why they should give back to the community.  The list of achievements, and more importantly, the time and commitment of students from these 1200 member campuses is impressive.   In fact, in 2011, the estimated value of the volunteer time and services provides by students were estimated to exceed $9.1 BILLION dollars.

President’s commitment to sustainability

In doing research for a recent blog article titled Annual Mentoring Campaigns, I came across a college that was a member of a national organization that supports sustainability issues on campus.  It’s called the American College and University President Climate Commitment.   This organization has 665 college/university presidents who have signed a commitment to lead and encourage their colleges to take an active part in minimizing their carbon footprint and to educate others about the long term affects our current energy use and policy will have on our planet and culture.

Here is a brief statement the organization’s mission:

We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.  For more information about the organization, click here.

So what is my point?

I’m beginning to believe there are a lot more organizations like these that your president and the college are committed to.  At the end of the day, I support these, but what I am saddened by is that leadership is committing not only their college, its people, and culture with a stroke of a pen, to require students, faculty and staff to these initiatives, but they are also making a financial investment.  In tough economic times, your college is going to have to start to identify which organizations match their principal missions and core competences.

What we should all be concerned about is that these memberships and organizations are taking away from your need to keep students focused on taking ownership of their careers from the time they arrive on campus.

Do yourself a favor!

Have someone on your team begin to inventory the number of groups and organizations your college is committed to and try to evaluate the amount of time and commitment students, staff, and faculty are required to invest in them.   Then use that information to bring light to the fact that it’s time the college begin to focus more on career planning and development on campus.

We’d love to hear your results!

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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

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