Career Services Success Metrics – Reality or Illusion?
I recently interviewed the head of career services from a prestigious, highly selective university, including discussing a recap of the statistics they gather from graduates on employment within six months of graduation. The statistics and results were impressive – two thirds of their graduates respond to their annual employment survey, and over 90% of the respondents were either enrolled in a graduate program or gainfully employed within six months of graduation. The initial implication was that this school was getting it right from a career services standpoint.
A month later, I was discussing career prospects for college graduates with the director of talent for a large, multinational professional services firm. He mentioned that one of his children had recently graduated from the university I just mentioned. When asked what she was doing, he told me she was employed but that her employment had required him to intervene on her behalf to introduce her to his network, an experience she had in common with many of her fellow graduates. He was less than complimentary of her experience with career services.
The point? Students from highly selective universities are finding jobs in spite of and not necessarily because of the assistance they are getting from their schools. More importantly, does the fact that they have a job mean they have the right job? Only time will tell, but if they have the right job, was it because they knew what they wanted, or was it just serendipity? And if this is the experience at highly selective schools, what is happening to graduates from less selective schools that may not have the networks, talents and inherent advantages that a diploma from a highly selective university confers?
The process of matching an individual to the right job has always been an inexact art. Rapid job turnover is the result, as either the employee or the employer frequently realizes that there’s a mismatch. Improving the process has huge financial and societal implications – reducing the friction in hiring processes would bring down the cost of hiring substantially. And improving the fit between employers and their employees brings significant intangible value in terms of job satisfaction, productivity and standard of living.
We believe all schools, even those with admirable initial job success metrics, have the opportunity and the responsibility to improve how they help their students through the career development process. Further, we believe that initial job success metrics are important but not necessarily indicative of the effectiveness of a school’s career services efforts. The proof of the pudding is in the long-term success of students in identifying and obtaining the career that gives them a purpose for going to work every day.