It was only a year ago that we launched our highly successful CareerWebinars for Alumni series.The number one area in which alumni requested help was networking.
In a previous post, I outlined how your college could use LinkedIn and Facebook to help alumni expand their professional networks. Coming in a close second and third were requests for career coaching and job placement. Both topics were, by a large margin, more requested than resume help. This floored us!
I spent over a decade building alumni online communities and interacting with alumni professionals. I’ve attended nearly 100 CASE conferences around the US, Europe and Asia, and to the best of my ability, I can’t recall engaging in a conversation or witnessing a presentation that suggested that the alumni association or career center provide career coaching and job placement services to alumni!
But, as Bob Dylan said over 4 decades ago, “The times they are a changing.”
- Since the economy crashed in 2008, the unemployment rate for workers with college degrees has doubled.
- The average grad today will take nearly 8 months to find a job.
- According to a survey the Associated Press, 53.6 percent of grads 25 and younger are either unemployed or under employed.
With these and a multitude of other changes happening in the employment market, doesn’t it make sense to add in or modify some events and activities to focus on career and professional development programming?
The rise of organizations like the Alumni Career Services Network as well as the increased discussions on the topic by alumni boards and alumni staffs are likely to result in more alumni associations and career centers adding goal statements designed to implement strategies that will help alumni build successful careers.
Who should provide career coaching?
Is this the responsibility of the alumni association or the career center? With the average career center still reeling from a 15% budget cut last year, it would be unrealistic to expect career center staffs to have the time to design marketing programs and then make time for the rush of alumni who are expected to take advantage of the programs.
On the other hand, while alumni professionals are brilliant at building relationships and engaging alumni, most would admit they do not have the academic or professional backgrounds to offer career coaching to alumni –Not to mention the lack of time!
So how can your college deliver on the second most requested career service of alumni? It’s Simple:
By using the talents and passion of alumni who are career coaches.
It doesn’t matter if you have 10,000 or 600,000 alumni, within your alumni base there are hundreds, if not thousands, of alumni who are independent coaches with the skills sets and passions to help people develop successful career strategies. All you need to do is develop a program that brings their talents to the attention of your alumni.
In an effort to provide a comprehensive career strategy for clients of our CareerWebinars for Alumni, we are introducing in January 2014 a directory tool that will enable your alumni to get career coaching from fellow alumni who are career coaches. We are also introducing a CareerChat tool that will provide your alumni access to the kind of information they need, when they need it.
This is a bit trickier.
In the traditional sense, job placement involves someone actively marketing a client and working on his/her behalf to find a job for that individual.
However, there are a couple of ways your alumni association can still help alumni in this area.
First, consider adding a job board to your alumni career site.
Again, it doesn’t matter if you have 10,000 or 600,000 alumni, you have alumni that work for thousands of companies — all of which will hire from time to time. I’d suggest you encourage alumni to share your job board with the hiring authorities in their firms. It’s a known fact that 80 percent of the jobs that are offered come from within one’s network. Implementing a program like this could not only give your alumni an inside track on jobs, but alert them to jobs before they are even posted! We are introducing to our CareerWebinars for Alumni clients a free job board that works like eHarmony. It will match alumni to jobs already posted at thousands of job boards around the country as well as alert them when new jobs are posted that matchtheir skills and experience. The program will also generate revenue for the alumni association from job postings.
Second, hold a Talent-a-thon in the spring!
Another way to help alumni get jobs is to marshal your alumni support for those that don’t have jobs through a Spring Talent-a-thon.
In a previous post, I shared how you could use the talents of your annual giving phone crew to call alumni and ask them to mentor incoming freshmen in the fall, as well as support the hiring of fellow alumni. The fundraising industry likes to remind us that alumni have Time, Treasures and Talents to give. In this case, the Talent-a-thon would be asking alumni for their “Time” to mentor students, and help other alumni get jobs. This is a perfect way to engage young alumni during the 10 years after graduation when their “Treasures” are being used to pay back their loans. Research is showing young alumni want to be engaged in helping their alma maters, but are turned off by the frequent requests for money during this period of their lives. This is an ideal way to give them a chance to participate.
I ran across a quote the other day that caught my attention and later saw it used on an ad on TV: You can’t prepare for the future while holding on to the past!
The times, they are definitely changing.
The needs of your alumni are caught in the vortex of an uncertain employment market caused by political, social and worldwide competition. By focusing on your customers’ needs, and delivering for them today, you set the stage for helping them build successful careers so they can support your college as it enters one of the most uncertain and competitive times of its history.