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Do College Career Centers Need an Overhaul?

A group of students wearing graduation caps.

Some time ago, a recent college grad asked us for advice on how to find a job in their majorand we suggested reaching out to their career center to connect with alumni and potential opportunities. One of the comments in response was that college career offices aren’t always helpful, and that the graduate would be better off just asking their own network for support.

That wasn’t the first time we came across concern about the ability of college career centers to help graduates find jobs. In fact, many are wondering: Do college career centers need an overhaul to make them effective?

Mike Sciola, Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Director of Career Services at Colgate University, says yes. In an interview with the Atlantic, he argues that colleges and universities wait too long to help students find jobs and that after the recession of 2008, career centers need to be more involved.

"What the institution needs to understand is that unless [the school] has been thoughtful, and has invested resources, time, and strategy into helping students transition from their first profession to their next, [the students] are going to have a really rough time,” Sciola says. “It’s no longer good enough to have a career center that’s reactive or transactional. 2008 and 2009 fundamentally changed the experiences of seniors graduating into the workplace. And it's not going back."

Here is a glimpse of what he plans to do at Colgate:

"The career development model that Colgate University and Sciola are betting on is a recently revamped series called “Real World.” The 18-year-old program was once a three-day career immersion event each January, but last year it was expanded into a full-year suite of programs. Sciola says that starting the job hunt during the second semester of senior year is too late, especially when employers use the summer before to recruit.

'We start in September with a big networking event on-campus where we teach networking skills, have 100 alumni back on campus and set up alumni panels. We also throughout the fall and spring semesters run a series of workshops and events that are all designed to help students transition into life after Colgate.' That means students learn about everything from knowing their worth in a salary negotiation, to finding an apartment, dressing for success and buying a car. Over winter break, the school also holds networking events in the five major cities where Colgate students wind up, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco. 'We’re arming them with the information that they need to be good self-advocates…The ‘Real World’ branding is a full-year strategy to get our students prepared and launched,' said Sciola."

They’ve also raised $10 million to support student internships. Read the rest of their plans on the Atlantic.

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by Allison Jones

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