For my friend Khalid Hammami, a finance and management information systems junior, the Undergraduate Business Career Center at Carlson has been an important tool in his preparation for a career in consulting. The UBCC offered services like mock interviews and workshops to help him prepare and apply for his first real job. He’s a success story; he just earned a spot at the highly competitive Carlson Consulting Enterprise, where he will work with MBA students to create solutions for Minnesotan companies.
The overall trend in higher education is not as rosy as Khalid's story. A survey of 32,000 college students at 32 randomly selected institutions by the Gallup Organization and Strada Education Network found that 39 percent of students have never visited their college’s career services office or used online career resources. Even more shocking was that less than 20 percent of students used their school’s career services to obtain a job after graduation or guidance for graduate school.
The University of Minnesota has the support to help students live a successful life after graduation. The University has 14 career offices and a legion of counselors equipped with years of life and career experience ready to help. However, Gallup and Strada’s startling numbers indicate that students are not visiting the career center and using the services that their tuition dollars pay for. If the numbers are correct, the University’s career centers must improve their outreach to students.
Outreach is important because many students don’t even know there is a career center. Carol D’Amico, the executive vice president at Strada Education Network, told The Atlantic that one of the reasons why so many students aren’t using the career center’s most useful services may be that they simply don’t know about them.
In our current economy, students need the University’s career services more than ever, which makes the low levels of engagement even more unfortunate. Our tuition has ballooned, as the state has systematically shifted the burden of funding to students. Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace. There could be a major breakthrough with artificial intelligence, which dramatically changes the nature of work, like smartphones did.
It is essential that students stay ahead of these economic forces. Our major’s career center can play a pivotal role in matching us with jobs, careers and graduate schools that will pay our bills and give us meaning. In addition to the obvious benefit of helping students find jobs, career centers can help prevent underemployment — students working jobs they are overqualified for. Students sometimes end the job search too early, believing that they’ve struck out. Career counselors can give a seasoned, third person point-of-view that we can’t always get from our friends or family.
We don’t have enough stories like Khalid’s. Not enough students are using our University’s career centers. The University has to start reaching out to students, to get them in the door, so they can use valuable services like career mentoring or mock interviews. Khalid told me that he regrets not using the UBCC’s career mentorship program.
This outreach can begin with things like more classroom visits or simple advertising. It needs to happen. All students should be as the Gallup-Strada report says, “poised to succeed after graduation.”