I recently blogged about how students should be more proactive about their careers and bypass their career centers if they can’t get support. Career centers have never received much attention from students, administrators or even companies. They have been perceived as an office that helps students create standard resumes. A few decades ago, their role was simple because the economy was booming and all employers would review a single resume in making hiring decisions. Today, their role is starting to change and take shape as the power players on campus and for good reason.
With over a trillion dollars of student loan debt, rising tuition costs and half of recent graduates being unemployed, underemployed or have given up completely, more attention is being paid to the return on investment of colleges. Students, and their parents, are starting to think harder about paying thousands of dollars in exchange for a degree that doesn’t guarantee a job.
Career centers were never built to scale and there are nearly 2,000 students for each career counselor at colleges nationwide. For this reason, it’s hard for them to give each individual student enough support to help them find a career and obtain a job. In order to truly help a student, you have to deeply invest in them. I know this from mentoring. If I were to mentor fifty people, I wouldn’t help anyone but if I focus two, I can make a huge difference in their lives.
Another issue is that job searching has changed with mobile technology and social networking, which current counselors aren’t experts in. It doesn’t say in their job descriptions that they require knowledge of these tools and since most are baby boomers, it’s hard for them to make the connection.
What can career centers do to become the center of campus and gain leverage? They need to start doing a better job of using their alumni database to host events, introduce students to alumni and play matchmaker. The future of career services is a concierge service, where students select exactly what they need from a list of services that they provide and build out a schedule to meet with them in order to check off everything on the list. Counselors should play a larger role in a students career, from making a decision on which profession they should choose to connecting them to alumni and suggesting courses or resources.
It’s the colleges responsibility to help scale and support career centers. With more pressure on schools to focus on placement for their students, they should take some of their millions of dollars and invest it back into the right counselors who can proactively help students succeed.
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