From alumni speaker series to alumni networking communities, programs that bridge the gap between career centers and alumni relations offices are proliferating. At Yeshiva University's Career Center, Executive Director Marc Goldman and his team have focused on that synergy for years.
We asked Marc why it's important for career centers and alumni relations teams to work together, how he accomplishes that at Yeshiva, and what his team's metrics for success are. An edited and condensed version of our conversation is below.
Why do you think it’s important that Alumni Relations offices and Career Centers collaborate?
I think it depends on the institution, but many institutions, particularly smaller institutions, rely greatly on their alumni population as a resource. For their alumni that offers a way to give back that is not funding-related, to offer opportunities for students and other alumni, or to offer mentorship and advice.
For students to be able to achieve success, having these resources, mentors, and advocates out there is essential. Communication and collaboration between the two departments is extremely helpful for the student body and the institution.
What kind of work do you do to make that synergy happen at Yeshiva?
A good deal of it is partnering with Alumni Affairs on various programs. For example, partnering on student-centered programs where alumni are involved in an educational, mentoring, or informational way. The Alumni Affairs team helps us by identifying individuals or providing information about how to contact certain individuals to get them involved in our various programs and events for the Career Center. In addition, we come up with employers and alumni that we’re working with who might also be good for alumni-specific events. It’s a sharing of information, a sharing of resources, to help both students and alumni as populations.
I think that sometimes the Career Center is the conduit for an alum reconnecting with the university, and many times the Alumni Affairs office is the way that they would reconnect with the university. And through both of those entry points alumni are exposed to other areas of the university, too, and to one another. So it definitely is a synergistic approach in that regard as well.
Does Yeshiva have a formal mentorship program, or is there just a series of informal connections you set up between students and alumni?
We do both.
We have an informational interview resource database composed of volunteers, successful professionals and employers, many of whom are alumni, to provide information and advice to students. We refer students to them through our office. A student who is curious about a career field does some homework first, and then we offer networking preparation and set up the student with a mentor to talk about his or her career path and current role.
In addition, we have a Women in Business Initiative, which is a program that encourages and supports women in exploring career fields in business. It connects them with role models who are successful women business professionals. We try to match them as closely to their career field of interest as possible. And there is a one-to-one mentoring piece as well. We have twenty or more students in that program every year whom we connect to fantastic professionals. We also have speakers come in and engage students on leadership, professionalism and work-life balance topics.
More broadly, what are the metrics for success that you use to measure the performance of your office and the level of service that you provide to the community?
Success is a very challenging thing to define.
Career centers probably have more stakeholders than the majority of higher education offices, and the stakes are different for each stakeholder, so the definition of success for each one is unique.
Outcomes, destinations of our graduates, are one measure of success that many external parties look to. With jobs in particular, I find that it’s always good to see how closely a job is related to a student's career field of interest and major field of study. When the economy was more troubling, people would say, “Well they have jobs, but what is it that they’re actually doing? And are they happy about it?” So to really get a sense of how closely their job aligns with their goals is important. The closer it does, the better your success—and their success, because it really is their success, not ours.
Looking at things like salaries is another measure—are our graduates' salaries going up over the years? The number of internships they have over time in college, is that something we’re considering? Those are different statistics we look at with our graduating students.
We also do an annual report, which internal constituents would want to see as a measure of the services we provide. Counseling, direct-service programming, workshops, fairs, job postings, collaborations and partnerships on campus, special programs—all those types of things are a measure of success if there is participation in them. You can offer all the programs in the world, but if people aren’t participating, I don’t know how successful you’re being as an office.
Measuring success also entails getting feedback and evaluating qualitative information. We collect monthly counseling feedback to assess our students’ opinions, to see whether the counseling appointments are benefiting them, and to see if there are any concerns or questions that they might have as well. We get very high marks on that. I think that if people really wanted to say something of a complaining nature, they would respond. I don’t see it happening a lot. That’s certainly positive.
We also communicate a lot with student leaders and employers for feedback. When we have job fairs, we always want to hear back from employers. When they come and recruit, we always ask them how the students are doing and how we’re doing. For the students themselves, we have liaisons from the student body on the men’s campus and the women’s campus to ask us questions on behalf of students and make recommendations to our office. We take them seriously, and if we can address student needs either by following up on what they request or by discussing them with them and coming to other conclusions, then I think that’s also a measure of our success. But I think it’s also a measure of success and involvement on the part of students in their own career development, which is great.
Do you see the work that you do with alumni and in collaboration with the alumni relations office contributing to that success?
This is clearly true on so many levels, including having alumni getting directly involved by offering opportunities and advocating for students. Networking is a huge part of students' finding employment, and a large segment of our networking population is alumni. So from just a job search perspective, alumni are immensely helpful to our student body.
And again, alumni are crucial partners in educating students because they are subject matter experts. They are the ones who are in their field day in and day out, who can really inform our students and mentor them in the way in that only someone who’s in an actual industry or sector can. That’s huge for our students too.
Our students are very, very busy. We have a dual curriculum at Yeshiva where they’re doing both Jewish learning and academic studies. They also do your typical activities, sports and socializing that students across the board do, so they’re very highly scheduled and highly programmed. The fact that they have these resources and exposure to these alumni is a critical piece of their success.
Is there anything else you want to make sure we cover?
I think that the alumni-to-alumni aspect of our work also should be thought about. Alumni gain goodwill and good feelings from helping students, but we want to be able to help alumni in return too. When there are alumni-to-alumni programs, and we play a part in those, sometimes they benefit even more. And that certainly instills in them a greater school spirit, a greater dedication to the institution and a greater desire to give back in general. So helping alumni affairs with their events that are strictly alumni focused is also part of what we do because it will benefit the university more broadly as well.
Want to read more? Find out how Colgate, Pomona, and Franklin & Marshall are making the synergy between alumni relations and career services work for them.