5 Reasons Advancement Offices Should Care About Career Services

We just returned from the CASE Summit for Leaders in Advancement in New York, where we were struck most by one session—"Colgate Professional Networks: Alumni Affinity Groups Reimagined for Maximum ROI."

The gist: positive career outcomes aren't just good for students and alumni, it's also good for your institution's advancement office.

In their presentation, Michael Sciola (Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement) and Jennifer Stone (Director of Annual Giving and Director of Colgate Professional Networks) explained how Colgate's investment in professional networks help students and alumni achieve career success.

We thought we'd take a moment to revisit why investing more in constituent career outcomes is a good idea for advancement.

1. Good career outcomes lead to greater Satisfaction with education

According to the 2015 Gallup-Purdue report, "Great Jobs, Great Lives":

Half of U.S. alumni “strongly agree” their education was worth the cost. However, only half of graduates overall (50%) were unequivocally positive in their response, giving the statement a 5 rating on the scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). Another 27% rated their agreement at 4, while 23% gave it a 3 rating or less. This figure varies only slightly between alumni of public universities (52%) and alumni of private nonprofit universities (47%)
Recent graduates who received their degrees between 2006 and 2015 are significantly less likely than all graduates overall to think their education was worth the cost. 
The percentage of alumni who strongly agree that their education was worth the cost drops significantly from 50% among graduates overall to 38% among graduates between 2006 and 2015. 
Not surprisingly, however, recent graduates who are underemployed are somewhat less likely than alumni who are employed full time and those not in the workforce to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost, at 31%. In contrast, those alumni with higher personal incomes are most likely to strongly agree that their university education was worth the cost.

Income can be a shallow measure of how "good" one's job is, but it is definitively tied to satisfaction with one's alma mater, which is in turn tied to propensity to give. It isn't the best proxy for giving, but it is an indicative one.

Especially for young alumni who are increasingly dissatisfied with their educations, positive career outcomes are critical to filling the donor pipeline.

2. Students and alumni are dissatisfied with the career services they're getting now

According to the Alumni Attitude Study, a survey completed by over 500,000 alumni at 200 universities and colleges over the last 9 years, the importance of career services to alumni outweighs institutions' performance in providing those services (i.e. the "importance exceeds performance").

Despite this discrepancy, institutional investment in career services has remained stagnant or declined in the past decade, according to NACE. Career center budgets and salaries are as low as or less than what they were ten years ago.

3. career services increases propensity to give among both mentors and mentees

Gallup-Purdue again: Alumni are X times more likely to say that they are satisfied with their education if...

  • 1.2 times higher if I had a paid job or internship.
  • 1.5 times higher if I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom.
  • 1.9 times higher if I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.

Capiche? That criterion—"if I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams"—has the single largest impact on satisfaction than any other variable the Gallup-Purdue index measured.

4. good careers increase capacity for giving

Who knew?

According to GG+A's Chris Marshall, something like 95% of dollars raised by institutions of higher education come from 5% of the donors they raise from.

That withstanding, those 5% of donors have to come from somewhere. If colleges and universities don't fill that pipeline by investing in the career outcomes of their students and alumni, where will they find those donors? 

5. It's why they come to your school in the first place

Sheila Curran puts it plainly:

What students really expect from today’s college, as reported in the Higher Education Research Institute’s survey of incoming freshmen, is to get a leg up. Three of the top four reasons for coming to college (and the percentage of students who cited that reason) are related to careers:
  • To be able to get a better job (86%)
  • To get training for a specific career (77.1%)
  • To be able to make more money (72.8%)
College cycle of sustainability