Alumni relations + career services = match made in heaven
“What are your plans after college?”
Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a recent graduate quite like this question. While it’s understandable to feel uncertain immediately after graduation, most schools have always assumed that five-plus years out, their alumni will be employed and ready to give back to their alma mater.
However, this is no longer the case. In fact, alumni giving has gone down almost 6% in the last decade, especially among younger alumni. Why the lack of love?
Young Alumni Are More Unemployed/Underemployed Than Ever Before
Due to the 2008 recession, unemployment and underemployment (those not fully employed) rates in graduates have skyrocketed. Since 2007, unemployment for college graduates is up 3% and underemployment is up almost 9%. The “lost” graduate classes of 2008 through 2012 have experienced especially high spikes in unemployment and underemployment, all while using most of their money earned to pay off thousands of dollars in student loans.
Some writers are referring to this group of millennials as “generation screwed” for how much debt they are in from expensive higher education, massive student loans, and rising unemployment/underemployment rates.
Rethink Alumni Relations — It’s About Alumni Success!
Alumni are a resource to the school just as much as the school is a resource to them. In order to reap the benefits of an apple tree and start baking that pie, you have to first plant and water the tree itself.
Guardian writer Alastair Creamer says that colleges must rethink alumni as a network of coaches first. Alumni’s financial help should be the fruit from cultivating a successfully engaged and employed graduate class. According to a New America Education Policy Program poll in 2015, 91% of students polled claimed the number one reason for college was “to improve [their] employment opportunities.” This is the what alumni want from their school: career help.
Don’t let the only reason your alumni hear from you be a donation request. According to Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), “If you support your alumni in their professional and personal lives … they are likely to be your life-long supporters.”
Remember, you are still their resource after graduation — only when you help them will they help you.
The Rise of Alumni Career Services
Once exclusively a resource for students, the career services department has a lot to offer alumni, especially those who might be struggling immediately post-graduation. Schools like Penn State, UVA, Lehigh University and more have responded to their alumni’s un- and underemployment by pairing the traditional alumni relations department with their school’s career services center.
Why are the alumni relations and career services departments better together?
1. College is a means to an end.
Of course many go to college for the experience and environment, but that is not all students hope to achieve after throwing up their caps. Your alumni went to school to better their chance at finding and keeping a successful career. As mentioned earlier, 91% of students polled claimed the number one reason for college was “to improve [their] employment opportunities.” That’s huge!
Show students that they did not get that diploma in vain. Not only can you continue to engage them through homecomings and alumni reunions, but give them the tools they need for the job world.
2. Alumni need career services more than ever.
Many graduates log onto LinkedIn and realize they have no idea how to play this how employment game. Skills such as resume writing, interview eloquence, and networking are foreign to them. The McGraw Hill Education 2015 Workforce Readiness Survey revealed how lost alumni truly are post graduation:
- 51% of graduates don’t know how to write a resume
- 56% are clueless when it comes to being interviewed
- 58% have no idea how to network or even search for a job
These were skills that not many (if any) graduates’ classes provided as part of the curriculum.
Alums need that extra boost up the career ladder that they thought college would give them. Link graduates up with your campus’ career center reps to help alumni understand how to move forward from academic to job life.
3. Your alumni’s best career resource is the alumni association.
The alumni association is a graduate’s base camp for years while seeking employment. Let them know that their alma mater wants to help them every step of the way.
Because your grads are all around the world, use digital resources like social media, online chat, and webinars to keep in touch with them. Help them network with each other and organizations and companies. Lead social media campaigns and alert them whenever job openings in their fields arise.
Brazen client Penn State hosted an online career fair which gave students that boost they needed. Students reported unbelieveable feedback and made hundreds of connections through one online event. They would not have been able to connect to all these recruiters without the help of their school’s career services.
Connect alums to the best career services and get them the skills they so desperately need. You could be the bridge between an unemployed graduate and his or her dream career.
Successful Alumni, Successful School
“As the costs of going to college increases, providing great career services is becoming increasingly central to strong alumni relations,” say experts from Inside Track. Keeping graduates engaged and connected to your school through tangible career services help will have your alumni feeling as warm toward their alma mater as they did after throwing up their graduation cap.