What Colleges & Universities Need to Get Right in Order to Thrive Again

If a career is the objective of a college education, then why isn’t a course on How to Conduct Your Job Search required of all students in order to graduate?


Students attend school for one single reason more than any others: they believe that the education they receive will prepare them for their careers and result in greater employability and income opportunity. Survey after survey points out that career preparation is the Number One reason why students choose to invest in their education.

According to my company’s research, the average US college graduate receives a bit less than 15 hours of instruction in how to conduct an effective job search, in order to prepare for obtaining employment for his or her next 40-plus years. Compare this to perhaps 100-plus hours invested by high school students in making their choice of which college or university to attend.

So I ask the question: if a student invests several hundred hours to select their school where they will spend four or so years receiving the training associated with their career objective, how much time should they spend learning about how to obtain employment in a career that will span about 40 years?


The Current State of Career Preparation

Most colleges and universities answer the question above with a career services department that serves students and alumni, and that is a good start. There are some wonderfully dedicated and talented people there whose heartbeat is to connect students to careers. But the right level of ongoing investment in this resource needs to be made.

In its most recent report, NACE (the National Association of Colleges & Employers) reported that there are an average of 2,917 students per full-time equivalent career center professional (the median is 1,765:1), and career centers operate with a median budget of less than $35,000. The average academic year has 32 weeks. At 2,917 students supported by one career services staff member, each student gets less than 27 minutes a year one-on-one support from career services, assuming each career service staff member spends 8 hours per day each and every day advising and preparing students for their job search…and nothing else.

But wait…its gets worse. Most career services departments also support the school’s alumni base as well, and depending on how many decades of alumni are still in their employment years, the ratio of alumni to career services staff could top 5,000:1.

Moreover, career services is often the place colleges and universities look to trim staff when dealing with tight budgets. And career services has had its share of budget trimming over the past decade.


Some Common Sense Solutions

But there are some positive solutions! Here are three approaches that can make a huge difference for every student in America, and help revitalize higher education in the process.

1. Make Job Search/Career Preparation Education Mandatory for every student who plans on entering the workforce upon graduation. Some schools have recognized this. Wake Forest, for example, teaches multiple required career education courses throughout a student’s educational career. A number of colleges are requiring students in specific majors to complete at least one semester of job search/career readiness education, including William Peace University, Santa Barbara Business College, Missouri State, Boise State, Virginia College, University of Cincinnati, Genesee Community College, and many others. You might be able to squeeze only 40 to 60 classroom hours into a single quarter or semester-long course, but it is a start. Homework can include actual job search activities. Here is a sample curriculum that has been successfully utilized as part of an accredited course on multiple campuses in recent years. Here’s how a diagnostic-prescriptive approach to teaching job search might be implemented. Using an up-to-date textbook, such as Get a Better Job Faster, will provide students a DIY resource students can use to drive their own job search.

2. Properly Resource Career Services by adding staff and budget to better serve student and alumni populations. While not all students and alumni will utilize career services, staff should be able to dedicate enough time to serve the needs of students and alumni who desire assistance. There should be enough coaches / career counselors on staff to spend a portion of their time in the classroom educating students on the current and emerging best practices of conducting an effective career search. Assessments and job search textbooks could be provided at little or no cost to students.

3. Utilize Technology to improve job search and career preparation levels for students and alumni. Technology can increase efficiencies. For example, before someone meets with a staff counselor, what if he or she completed an online assessment like the Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment (GEPA) which will diagnose the specific areas in which he or she needs the most assistance. Such an assessment saves at least an hour of time per student/alum for the staff member to figure out where the individual needs help. Additional technology strategies could include E-learning modules focused on various aspects of career search, placing courses on the school’s LMS platform, and providing virtual career service seminars to students and alumni.


The Payoff for Students

When students are better prepared to conduct their post-graduate job search than the people with whom they will compete for jobs, they get hired faster and at more favorable compensation levels. Based on the research I’ve done during the past seven years, the average job seeker can cut seven weeks on his or her job search because of preparation, which translates to $10,000 or more in value.


The Payoff for Employers

When colleges and universities teach students important job and career skills, employers find those schools’ graduates to be more employable. Dozens of articles like this one point out the widening gulf between the job skills employers want and the skills grads possess. Making the current and emerging skills part of career preparation education can close the gap and give employers better grads to recruit.


The Payoff for Higher Ed

Why not leverage technology to offer alumni online job search classes? When students and alumni are provided an education in career and job search methods, they are more likely to support their school financially from the employment they obtain. And why not open up job search education to the community in which each school resides? That produces new revenue streams and improves the institution’s value to its students, alumni, employers, and community!


I love working with curious people! Here are several outstanding resources that can help satisfy your own curiosity in three key areas that can boost you career:

I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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