is career services dead?

Hello everyone!  For those interested in the career and personal development of students, you might find this piece interesting…

On May 15th, there was an article in InsideHigherEd.com titled “Career Services Must Die,” based on comments from Andy Chan, Vice President for Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University.  You can read the article at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/05/15/career-services-it-now-exists-must-die-new-report-argues.

Although I do agree that career development needs to be done differently, I also believe that all aspects of higher education needs to be changed/transformed!  All entities at an institution need to find a way to work together to create more meaningful experiences for the students and more “quality” students for employers.  With that in mind, here’s an interesting comment from an “employer” that I found MOST intriguing:

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An employer’s voice • 15 days ago −

WARNING – If you are in career services, the following comments “may seem harsh, but I think you should hear them regardless. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

It’s not career services that is dead…rather it’s ALL third parties that insert themselves between the employer and student, and do not contribute perceived value, that are facing extinction. Yes, ALL. Now hold on, I am not saying career services does not add value. I said if they do not, the future is bleak.

Think about it differently for a moment. As a consumer, you’ve got numerous choices to obtain your product of choice such as brick and mortar, catalog, online, word of mouth, etc., and you have more info about the product itself than ever before as well. Just like you, manufactures have choices as well as they can sell to the consumer directly, or they can use third parties. Now I happen to be an avid eBayer (this is not a promo for eBay) so I buy everything from eBay because I generally get the best price while seeing the true customer satisfaction ratings in play. In other words I have the most direct line to the producer/seller without having to deal with lines, wasted time and gas, etc. Now here is the message – I use a third-party (eBay), rather than go directly to manufacture, because I gain lower pricing, can see actual customer satisfaction ratings, and do it all from my PC. In other words, I derive a lot of value from this relationship.

Okay, so back to career services and higher education. Using the analogy above, here is what you have to understand if you want to survive – no exaggeration made or intended.

1. Higher Ed exists for only one reason – to be the producer of talent. That’s it. From an employer’s perspective, the only reason we recruit from a specific school is to hire competent, or more competent people than we currently have already. Simple, and it is not open for discussion. We employers are like that, very bottom line oriented.

2. Please hear this – Employers are the consumer/buyer of talent and by extension your collective customer (for the university). Let me say it another way more clearly – students have never been, should never be, and never will be the customer – so stop treating them that way. You can consider them stake holders, but I would say it is more accurate to think of them as …wait for it….the product, yes, product. There, I have said it. They are sellers of talent (product) and we are the buyer. With exceptions of course, it is almost always a buyer’s market, especially now.

3. Your turn – Career Services is the third-party that has to create a value proposition that makes me (employer) want to use you (think brick and mortar, catalog, online). What you say…I have no choices? Sure I do…RECPASS, LinkedIn, and collegefeed are just a few of the growing choices I now have to connect me to students more easily, quickly, efficiently then you can..and with no headaches (think customer satisfaction). What do you mean “headaches”? How about I don’t have to listen to reason’s why my exploding offer policy is unfair to you (even though that is how the real world operates),or why I have to wait 3 weeks to make an offer when I know I want the student yesterday and am prepared to employ them (again, how the real world works), or why you think it is okay to prevent me from collecting GMAT scores (even though your university requires students to provide their grades and scores for admittance….a little hypocritical don’t you think? My point is this, think customer satisfaction or the lack of here. I’ll go out on limb and I predict you’ll start seeing more and more career services publicly ranked and held accountable to these kinds of externally facing metrics.

Just as the Internet forever shifted the power from producer to buyer, it is radically reshaping ANY institution whose power rested in the monopoly of information (access to students and resumes in this example). By extension then, if employers continue to have more and better access to talent directly, they rightfully and justifiably are questioning why they should interact with any third-party such as career services….and even some diversity organizations, if it adds no value. I heard the expression the other day that I love and is applicable …the democratizing of talent access.

One final observation. If you take issue with what I have said, do you realize that almost without exception, the employer as customer has barely made it into this thread. This is fundamentally why CSO’s are failing their stake holders. If you focus your energy on your customer (remember, what I said about students) you can change your future into a very bright future. It happens all the time – Apple, and Toyota/Hyundai (yes, once upon a time they were a joke) did and you can too. Stop looking inward, ask your customers for input, and then delight them to no end. They will be a path to your door and that i can guarantee.

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I will share my thoughts in the comments section; if you have comments as well, please share in the comments section of this blog!

7 thoughts on “is career services dead?

  1. As I read the article and the comments, I was especially stuck by the comment of this employer, given that there’s a push to connect funding to employment rates. I’ve always found it interesting that Gallup data shows that 71% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their jobs AND up to 25% of college graduates are either not employed or underemployed – and we’re trying to get them out and into jobs they don’t enjoy as soon as possible. Does ANYONE see a problem with this? When do we, as a society, go back to helping people connect to their heart, their souls, to the things that matter to them and to others? I have an idea…but in another blog post. Look forward to hearing comments…

    • I love everything about this post and can’t agree more that we need to help students and young professionals “connect to their heart” and find a career they love and not settle.

      • Thanks Kevin for the comments! It has been a mission for me to get others to get connected to meaningful work…and it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning! Let’s continue to spread the message!

  2. I don’t have a problem with this at all, but there is another responsibility I know I have as career services: assist the student in developing the skill sets required in order to present themselves professionally. Soup to nuts. If the students are ineffective in presentation of themselves on LinkedIn, Mr. Employer you will ignore them (rightly so). Perhaps my “middle man” role is different than what you think I think it is.

    • Well said CQ! I always wonder…if students don’t get help on their “presentation” from career services, where is that help going to come from? Which is why we all have to work together!

  3. I have to echo what CQ said above. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone who works in career services. (Other university entities may be a different story.) The comment author presents his point, however, in a way that makes it sound like: 1. Career services functions as a gatekeeper, and 2. Our only purpose is to connect students and employers. While we certainly strive to provide opportunities for employers and students to connect, that is only one small part of what we do. We are the office working directly to prepare students to become the future employees that employers want. We do this not only by helping them present themselves effectively to employers, but by guiding them through the process of selecting a career path in which they are most likely to excel and possess the motivation level employers want, as well as guiding them through process of preparing effectively for their career. As an employer, you probably expect graduates to come out of school with relevant internship experience, and you expect them to be fully prepared to hit the ground running, correct? Maybe you like graduates to have been involved in their relevant professional associations. Maybe you want leadership experience. We are the ones who go out and tell as many students as we can possibly reach what employers expect of them, and how to make themselves employable. We bring employers to campus not just because we want them to say they filled their position through us, but to educate students about what real employers want and expect. We are here to try to make a connection between what you – the employer – wants, what the university wants, and what students want.

    No, employers certainly don’t need us in order to access candidates with a degree. And we never said you did. However, without us, how many candidates would you NOT find on LinkedIn because they never thought to establish a presence and engage there, or because their profile didn’t effectively communicate their value to you? How many would never find YOU, because we weren’t advising them on ways in which to identify, research, and reach out to companies of interest? (By the way, we spend WAY more time talking to students about ways to connect directly with employers on their own, outside of the university – and pushing them to do so – than we ever spend telling them to browse our online job board.) Additionally, how many would you hire, only to have them either fail or leave shortly because they did not select the career path that best aligned with their skills and interests?

    This is the value we bring to employers. We are not a staffing agency. We’re not trying to hold the talent hostage. Our purpose is not for you to “use us” for your hiring. What we do is work with our students to help them become the ideal “product” you want them to be.

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