Monday, January 25th, 2010

Career Management: It Takes a Village

Last week I attended the first of many college planning meetings at my daughter’s school. Jammed into the school auditorium with 200+ other neurotic parents of high school juniors, I listened to details about student entrance exam test dates, transcripts, and application deadlines. Parents who are going through this process for the second time offered advice to the newbies and shared anecdotal stories about oscillating between having true bonding moments and enlightening conversations with their children during the process and other moments where they just wanted to strangle their kids and be done with it.

I returned home that evening with a stack of tips sheets and even a flow chart of what was due when. It looked like the school had really done their homework and was on top of the process and the kids. They even included a list of questions to keep in mind when researching and visiting colleges…Lots and lots of questions.

But nowhere on any of the handouts was there information concerning college career and placement offices…no recommended questions about college career counseling services, requesting information on job placement metrics, or even asking what percentage of students take advantage of the services or report a positive experience.

It seems like many parents get so caught up in where their kids will be accepted. They focus on the fit for their child based on school size, location, academic rigor, social life, and perhaps most of all but least talked about… “street cred” or how good or bad it will sound to tell others where your kid goes to school. And I think the reason why the “street cred” is important to parents is because they equate the school’s name and legacy with opportunities for their kids down the road. So sure, where someone goes to school can help influence their ability to get into a certain field or company, but that’s just part of it. Schools need to have proactive career planning and placement offices that know how to help students land plum internships and counselors that can help students market themselves effectively on their resume. They need strong relationships with employers and they need to be up to speed on the importance of social media in a job search. Some believe that many schools provide excellent career counseling services for undergraduates and others believe that few schools offer strong career planning resources.

So this spring, when I embark on the college tour circuit with my daughter, I will do all the regular stuff that all the parents of Gen Y kids do…sit in on a class, talk to students, eat the dorm food (yikes!), and check out the surrounding neighborhood. But I also plan on meeting with someone from career services and taking a look at their processes for preparing kids for their job search after college. I don’t expect career services to get students jobs but I do expect them to have a plan for showing students how to best market their newly minted four-year degree.

In some ways I think career management starts well before a person’s career starts. And choosing a college that is going to help with that process should be part of the plan. You know the saying; it takes a village to raise a child…I think every child needs that same village to start their career.