Career Services and Advancement offices have traditionally been separate, neither working together nor reporting to the same leaders. That makes sense, at first glance—what on earth do student services and fundraising have to do with one another?
Well, actually, a lot. That's why some institutions are taking a new tack. These schools recognize that their role in producing positive career outcomes has a major effect on alumni giving down the road. Prosperous alumni are grateful alumni.
Colleges and universities across the country are developing collaborative relationships between their advancement and career services offices—and, in some cases, even integrating them.
To better understand why it's so important for career services and advancement to work together, we've distilled our conversations with those schools into three major insights:
1. Career outcomes have a direct impact on alumni capability and willingness to give.
Recent survey data from the Gallup-Purdue Index show that satisfaction with one's alma mater correlates with personal income level. Every fundraiser, from student phonathon callers to major gifts officers, knows that dissatisfied alumni make for disappointing donors.
There are limits to this correlation—liberal arts grads, for instance, are more likely to take lower paying non-profit or government jobs than grads from more STEM-oriented schools. It's important to keep that in mind.
That being said, a majority of young alumni across all types of institution are dissatisfied with the career assistance they receive from their alma mater, according to data from the Alumni Attitude Study and the National Association of Colleges and Employers. On top of that, the Gallup-Purdue Index affirms that alumni who had mentors and relevant summer jobs and internships are more satisfied with their experience attending their alma maters.
86% of students attend college because they want a better job, and 72% because they want to be able to make more money. If your institution can deliver on those promises, you'll have more satisfied alumni.
Not to mention the simple fact that people who make more money have more money to give.
2. Cultivate capacity, not just relationships.
That's where capacity comes in.
Too many advancement offices invest in their relationships with alumni without investing in alumni themselves. To borrow an analogy from the private sector, Michael Schrage, Research Fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management, writes,
While delighting customers and meeting their needs remain important, they’re not enough for a lifetime. Innovation must be seen as an investment in the human capital and capabilities of customers.
The better your career services are, the more capacity your graduates will have to give back. Your alumni aren't just assets, but like businesses unto themselves who offer returns to their community.
It's in your advancement office's best interest to ensure that students and alumni are receiving adequate career assistance. Advancement officers can also play a role in this process by inviting donors and prospects to give back to their community by sharing advice, job opportunities, and connections instead of just making financial contributions.
Making alumni better makes for better alumni. The empowered alumna empowers her alma mater in return.
3. Networks are essential.
Even the best staffed career services offices don't have the time, resources, or connections to help every student, let alone every alumna and alumnus.
That's why institutions have relied for centuries on the power of their alumni networks to deliver positive career outcomes. Your career services office might not know an alumna who works in environmental law, but other alumni in the legal field do. Those alumni have dozens of untapped opportunities and connections that they can offer to students.
Colleges and universities are increasingly refining these networks by developing alumni career communities (also known as industry hubs, interest clusters, etc.). These communities offer career services offices the opportunity to tap into naturally occurring alumni networks in an organized way.
Advancement officers' relationships with alumni can contribute to growing these networks, and career services staff can contribute in turn by logging their interactions with these alumni in your donor database.
Alumni networks allow institutions to provide value to their constituents at scale. They're also your biggest asset. You and your alumni have a symbiotic relationship. When advancement and career services work together, you're upholding your end of the deal.