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Survey Reveals 3 Under-supported Ways Colleges Can Help Graduates Achieve their Career Goals

Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse survey highlights deficiencies and areas students are seeking improvement.   This piece was authored […]

Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse survey highlights deficiencies and areas students are seeking improvement.


This piece was authored by PeopleGrove’s Eric Leftwich.

Are colleges doing all they can to adequately help graduates achieve their career goals? 

According to students, the answer seems to be no. A recent survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse has highlighted perceived deficiencies and areas that students feel need of improvement. This survey gathered responses from 1,250 students attending two- and four-year institutions across 58 campuses. Released in late December, the survey supplements insights from a broader Student Voice survey focusing on life after college. These surveys reveal students feel significant gaps exist when helping them with career identification, mapping educational pathways to achieve their goals, and providing the necessary resources and mechanisms to connect them to their desired outcomes (a career). I believe this is one of the reasons why so many students are questioning the value of a college education.

What are students looking for

Simply put, they desire practical modern career guidance tools, peer motivation, mentorship, and meaningful connections that will help launch into a fruitful life after learning. The survey indicates that nearly 4 in 10 students attribute parental encouragement as their primary influence in choosing a field of study. However, students also express a strong desire for involvement from faculty, academic advisers, and alumni all as well as their career center all working in unison, when helping them with career planning and preparation. They want resources that put the career discussion front and center at every stage in their education journey. 

The concepts of career guidance must evolve

Modern career guidance encompasses more than just the traditional advice passed down from parents or relying solely on outdated career assessments. In today's dynamic world, learners are seeking careers that align with their passions and offer fulfillment beyond just financial rewards. An article from Inside Higher Ed underscores the importance of finding a career and job that individuals truly love, often prioritizing this over high pay. As a co-creator of the PathwayU product, I firmly believe in guiding students towards discovering a profound sense of purpose and meaning in their educational and career journeys. This isn't just about individual success; it's about nurturing a society where everyone can thrive, contributing to a robust economy, and fostering a culture of lifelong learning and giving back. To achieve this, modern career guidance tools must evolve beyond traditional assessments. They should include modules for self-discovery, incorporate predictive or AI-driven career matching, and facilitate connections through communication tools to help students build networks and communities that support their aspirations.

Beyond guidance and onto connections 

At the national level, there remains a huge disconnect between open positions and what graduates are looking for in a job. Thus, many well-paying jobs requiring a college degree remain unfilled and employers continue looking to local colleges and universities to fill the gap.

What is sometimes under-appreciated by schools is that many employers want to connect to students earlier in their educational paths. A senior might become an employee, a junior might become an intern, but a sophomore might become both of those as well a new customer and brand ambassador for the company and its products and services. Thus, employers are always on the lookout for meaningful ways to get in front of students in their first few years of school. I’m convinced that another reason is that many executives appreciate the opportunity to tell their story and have an impact on a young person’s life.

Here are 4 suggestions for programs that will fill the gaps

  1. Help the student find a compass early. Applying modern guidance platforms that offer the student self discovery, career exploration and connection tools ensures that they will feel well-supported in their choices and confident in the resources you will connect them with. Having career discussion with prospects, within new student orientation programs, and freshman and sophomore classroom settings provides the student with validation of their education choices. Using the same tools, juniors and seniors are better positioned  to make meaningful connections with alumni and prospective employers within a career field of choice.  
  2. Use the classroom to foster a dialog. Use presentations instead of standalone events where employers present to a limited audience. If faculty understand that class presentations are vital to not only student development but employer relations, they are happy to surrender 15 minutes at the beginning of class. Assign a specific format for speakers to talk on the meaning of the 4 C’s in the business world. (The 4 C’s are Communication, Creativity, Critical thinking, and emotional Control.) This allows speakers to “tell their story” while staying on point and maintaining consistency with other messaging through their professional development center.
  3. Lunch & Learns – Lunch and learns have some of the same benefits as classroom presentations, but the food becomes part of the draw for students. Employers can still present the 4 C’s, but since the event lasts an hour, presenters have more time to answer questions and address topics of interest to them.
  4. Major-specific Academies – There has been great success putting together major-specific learning opportunities in disciplines like accounting, human resources, and supply chain. The event is billed as an opportunity for students to learn about careers and majors. Learning activities that are built into classes to give students a feel for the type of work within a profession. Employers are there to answer questions and share information about current and future hiring needs. Employers love these opportunities because they feel much like they are recruiting and students love these because they help them make informed choices about their majors.

In Summary 

It’s clear that meeting the career goals of today's students requires broad and collaborative effort. By providing purpose-driven educational pathways and facilitating connections with advisors, mentors, and employers, colleges can enhance student outcomes and foster a culture of lifelong learning and giving back.