Most traditional four-year colleges are great at teaching students theoretical knowledge, critical thinking, history, literature and even computer science, but where these institutions fall short in a key area: teaching graduates the skills they need to land jobs after school and manage their careers.
"There's a major disconnect between what colleges believe their students need to get a job and what those students actually need. The job market and the economy have changed so drastically in the last 20 or 30 years, but at many traditional colleges, it may as well be 1985 - or 1955," says career management coach, consultant, resume expert, author and speaker Rick Gillis.
A Degree Is No Longer Enough
Based on his experience coaching and assisting clients in their job searches, Gillis finds major disconnect between what many career services departments promise and what they can actually deliver.
"The myth that simply having a degree is enough to land a job hasn't been true for decades; it's an oversell that is really harmful to graduates. What college career services should be are liaisons between the student body and the job market, helping students learn the practical skills and processes of going through a job hunt, networking, interviewing," Gillis says.
There's certainly a need for teaching those basics, but in today's economy graduates need job search tactics, tricks, hacks and strategies to help them succeed in landing a role, Gillis says. "What happens all too often is that these departments fall short; they'll show you how to make a cookie-cutter resume, shake hands properly and tell you to dress appropriately before patting you on the back and ushering you out the door," says Gillis.
"My younger clients tell me that what they really could have used were courses on networking; on how to write a strategic resume that can beat applicant tracking systems; how to use keywords; social media do's and don'ts; strategic internships," Gillis says.
"Instead, they've paid their tuition — a cut of which went to the career services department — got their degree, and they still had to hire me after graduation because they didn't have the skills they need," says Gillis.
A Winning Partnership
To bring those practical job search and career management strategies to students, Missouri's Webster University is forging a partnership with Right Management, the workforce consulting arm of ManpowerGroup, to offer career management and coaching services to students and alumni of the university's Walker School of Business & Technology, says Mary Haskins, regional vice president and practice leader at Right Management.
"With the rising cost of degrees, parents and students should have the expectation that graduates will land a job after graduation. Schools are starting to understand that they have to shift their paradigms, and better prepare their students for these opportunities," says Haskins.
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