I really think it is time that colleges took a long, hard look at their career placement centers. And I think it is time that college students (and their parents who are footing the bill) started holding universities accountable for the quality of these departments.
After all, the basic premise behind college is that you get an education in a certain field and then proceed (if you so desire) to get a job in that field, right? It only seems fitting, then, that when families are forking over hundreds of thousands in college tuition, leaving many students burdened with so much debt at such a young age, that the least colleges could do is offer thriving, top-quality career support services.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it is the responsibility of colleges to provide jobs for their graduates, but I do think they should do everything they can to offer the best support possible. And they should be held somewhat accountable for how effective they are at doing so. Otherwise, why have them at all?
And, overall, I really believe that many universities do feel that they are doing that and are happy to tell you all about their career centers, their workshops, their job boards, etc. They also will gladly post statistics on how many of their grads find jobs and at what salary level. But how much of that has to do with their career placement centers? Usually, very little.
In my experience, colleges generally don’t want to be in the business of helping people achieve their goals and take their education to the next level. They want to be in the business of educating people. And, hey, that is understandable. After all, that is what they were designed to do. But in today’s economy and with the amount of money these institutions command, we need to demand more than just a credential. They sell the farm; they need to deliver it. And right now, they aren’t.
As a resume writer and career coach, I have worked with several recent grads from several colleges all across the country, and I can tell you that these services, no matter how well meaning or pretty they look on the outside, just really don’t cut it.
First and foremost, they could start by offering up-to-date, market-bearing information from people actually in the trenches. On the resume side, I cannot tell you how many recent grads have come to me loaded down with a lot of old, poor information that they received from their college career placement services. They took some resume-writing workshop that must have been designed from some resume book written in the 90s and taught by someone with little to no actual resume-writing experience (or who haven’t written a resume professionally since the 90s).
They impart very vague, broad concepts, which ends up making all grads do the same things and all look the same. Not to mention the fact that all this advice is given without any accountability. How do they know this kind of resume works or that kind of approach is best?
Listen. Do I know every college career placement center out there? No, so of course, I am sure that some are better than others. But I have worked with several. Or at least I have tried to work with them.
When I first began in the career services industry, I wanted my niche to be recent college grads. I had witnessed firsthand just how fruitless they could be. So I approached universities, seeing how we could partner up to provide grads with more enhanced services, some free and some on a fee basis. What I discovered is that colleges wanted none of it. Instead they wanted centers run by perhaps one actual career services professional, who served in a director-type role, but were really supported by a few grad students, who were the ones that worked face to face with undergrads and who themselves lacked corporate/resume writing experience.
Let me just reiterate once again that I am speaking very generally here. But for all the money these colleges receive, at the very least, why can’t they invest in utilizing the resources of certified industry professionals who are the ones that actually work with the students? Especially now when the job search process has become so complex and so confusing to even experienced job seekers?
It’s time for all of us who have paid dearly, who have spent years paying off astronomical tuitions, to demand better and to get it.