Require – Make – Demand Students Invest Time In Their Careers

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Did you realize that 81% of graduates wished they had done something differently while in college to prepare them for the job market?

Two studies, one by Addeco, and the other by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Developments, found that grads regret not spending more time looking for jobs, networking and developing career plans while in college.

In the Addeco 2011 “College Graduate Survey”:

  • 26 percent wished they started their job search earlier
  • 29 percent wished they had networked more
  • 26 percent wished they had applied for more jobs prior to graduation

And, in the Heldrich 2012 report entitled Chasing the American Dream:

  • 37 percent would have been more careful at selecting a major
  • 29 percent would have done more to work part time or get an internship
  • 20 percent would have taken classes to prepare for a career

Let me remind you again about the NACE survey that found that over 61 percent of seniors never went to the career center, or visited once, or maximum twice.

What plans do you have to help current students not become more statistics and also regret never visiting the career center?  By doing nothing, your college is positioning another graduation class for a stunted, disappointing career start.

In my mind, all you would have to do is show these two reports to management to prove that you need to implement some kind of program that requires, or at minimum STRONGLY recommends that students invest time in developing career plans.

The career center is just another club on campus!

We like to remind parents that the career center is simply a campus club.  It’s one of hundreds of organizations in which their students can participate.  Unfortunately, few students take advantage of their services.

The only way this can be changed is if management at colleges changes the culture on campus and raise the awareness of and the importance of the career center.   In a rather exhaustive report, Create a Career Centered College Culture and Curriculum, TalentMarks offers 12 ways your management can accomplish that.

The Career Advisory Board survey found that students have a poor understanding of how to properly conduct successful job searches and also lack some of the tools and skills necessary to locate and acquire jobs.  Over 77 percent of the 593 career directors that completed the survey felt that the greatest obstacle to be overcome in counseling students wishing to enter the job market was getting students to understand the effort required to conduct those job searches.

But how can you get students to take ownership of their careers?

The survey offered these suggestions from career directors:

  • 44.9% thought students should be required to take career course.
  • 18.3% thought a better working relationship with faculty would help.
  • 16.6% identified hiring more staff to be critical to increase student career preparedness.
  • 11.9% felt that moving the career center to a higher trafficked area could increase awareness.
  • 7.6% identified hiring student ambassadors to promote career management as beneficial.
  • 0.9% thought gaining 3rd party expertise could help.

The number one suggestion will be difficult to implement.   The staff will have to first write a proposal for management and present their idea.  Management will ask them to conduct a study that will include surveying students and faculty and analyzing competitors and industry best practices, identifying what should be included in the curriculum, who will teach it, and how it will fit into the students’ schedules.  At this point, a year will have gone by.  Then, it will take another 3 months to get on management’s schedule to do a presentation, at which time management will provide limited funds to begin to develop the curriculum.  Assuming this is going to be done by existing staff, who also have to fit it into their schedules, another year goes by!   You get the picture?  Just to bring a career course to market could take 2-3 years and an enormous amount of time and effort!

I’d like to see the President’s cabinet pick this up as a priority.

You may not be aware of this but over 1200 college presidents have signed the Campus Compact, which commits their institution to the tenets of the Campus Compact which requires students to fulfill a minimum number of hours in community service or volunteer opportunities in order to graduate.

In order to support this pledge, colleges have invested in full time staff that have developed a variety of events and activities and have built relationships with community organizations and programs to give their students the channels they need to fulfill their part of the charter.

In my research, I’ve been unable to find a similar organization that encourages colleges to require students to take ownership of their careers.

Yet an annual American Freshman poll conducted by UCLA  shows the primary reason students are going to college is to get a job – NOT to learn how to be a volunteer!   In fact 85.9% of first-year students across the country said that being able to land a good job is a very important reason for attending college. That is the strongest response to that question in the 40 years it has been asked and is sharply higher than the 70.4% reply in 2006, before the recession began.

This should be sending a strong signal to college campuses around the country to require students to commit a minimum number of hours prior to graduation, so that career exploration, developing career plans and picking up job search skills are touted.

Studies and research we are sharing in this report are suggesting that students and parents are expecting their college careers will result in jobs that result in ample money to pay back loans and enable them to settle into the American dream and buy things like cars, houses, and even take vacations.

NACE studies also clearly demonstrate that students who use the career center more frequently not only get internships, but they get jobs faster and at higher rates.   The challenge colleges have is to develop a formula that will require students to take ownership of their careers.  We don’t see colleges adopting required curriculum in the next 5 years.  However, within the decade it could become more prevalent.  In the meantime, it will be incumbent on the college to come up with a strategy that will encourage students to take ownership of their careers.

So what can you do to increase career ownership?

  1. Engage parents and educate them as to why they should require their sons or daughters to begin building a career plan from the beginning of their campus experiences.
  2. Ramp up marketing to students to make them aware of the research that shows the more they invest, the better chance that they will get jobs at higher pay.
  3. Read, “Create a Career Centered College Campus and Culture” and adopt any of the 12 strategies suggested to build a campus culture focused on career development and management.
  4. Adopt Social Media marketing strategies and design systems so anything a student does in developing his or her career plan can be shared through a social network.
  5. Adopt Badge technology to give electronic “pats on the back” and public recognition for working on and managing career strategy.
  6. Provide a “certification” program that provides students proof they completed a career development and management curriculum.
  7. Encourage business leaders to require students to share their “certifications”.

You are working at a great time to make significant contributions and bring powerful changes that will help prepare students for their first professional job searches and give them foundations to lead to successful careers.   Start discussions on campus to create a college that is focused on careers!


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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

3 thoughts on “Require – Make – Demand Students Invest Time In Their Careers

  1. Pingback: Do not graduate with regrets. « careerscarrollu

  2. Implementation: Students will work in groups of 2 or 3 and research a commodity that is traded in the futures market. Each group will be given $100,000 per week to invest. The group must track the price of the futures contract(s) on a daily basis. The group will be responsible to research the suppoly and demand forces that are driving the price of the futures contract. A summary report will explain what you learned during this project.

    -Take an opening position (i decided to go short–which means sell– and my commodity is sugar)
    -close your position (whatttt?! idk how…)

    Summary explainning:
    Why you opened your position? (idk…..)

    What actually happened to your futures contract?
    [discuss the supply and demand forces] (again… what?)

    How right or wrong you were?
    [figure and discuss your profit or loss here]

    What you would do different the next time?
    [reflect and discuss what you would do if you could start again.

    Complete an article review on your futures contract. (huh?)


  3. You hit the nail on the head. As long as our career centers are just another club, most students will ignore us. So, we decided to go for a culture change at our University.
    Career Services at Willamette University has embarked on exactly this project – to integrate career planning in the curriculum. The university is moving forward nicely. We are ramping up The Career Roadmap program and will soon be integrating it into academic advising done by faculty using the 4-year plan. Next year we will introduce The Passport to Professionalism which includes 10 online modules, 30 minutes each, that work-study employers can assign student workers to teach them about professional expectations in the working world.

    Here’s The Career Roadmap (won innovation awards from NACE and MPACE last year). Click around to see how it works.
    You can join The Career Roadmap LinkedIn group to read a lot more about the project. I posted several reports, Power Points, etc.

    Jerry Houser, Associate Dean, Career Services, Willamette University

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