As the place on campus where students can parlay their pricey educations into a career, you might expect college career centers to be buzzing with activity. But if you walk into most career centers, you’ll find them eerily quiet. And in fact, nearly 50 percent of college students say they don’t use their career centers.
Findings from the College Career Center Study suggest that career centers are simply ineffective: 61 percent of the students surveyed say that their career center did not help them find a job; another 57 percent say their career center didn’t help them decide on a career path. A mere 8 percent of college students think their career center is consistently helpful.
Why Career Centers Fall Short
One reason for these findings could be understaffing. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average ratio of students to career services professionals is 1,889 to 1; and about a third of the students surveyed in the College Career Center Study agree that their career center is understaffed.
But another reason could be that career centers are out of touch with students’ needs and preferences. Students say they want more help landing jobs and internships; and they want their career centers to send out career-related social media updates, host classes and workshops that teach modern career skills like online branding, and provide more networking opportunities.
The Benefits of Mentoring
But there’s another factor that plays a significant role in students’ future career success, which college career centers often don’t offer, and that’s one-to-one mentoring. Research by Gallup and Purdue University found that mentoring more than doubled students’ odds of career success. Their study asked college graduates if they had felt “supported” during college — meaning, if they had a professor or mentor who made them excited about learning, who cared about them as a person, and who encouraged them to pursue their goals.
College graduates who answered yes to these questions were more than twice as likely to feel happy with their current jobs, and to be thriving in all aspects of their well-being. Unfortunately, these respondents took up only 14 percent of the survey pool. The vast majority of college graduates say that they didn’t have someone who gave them this level of support during their college years. Many higher education professionals have been advocating for traditional colleges and universities to invest in mentoring programs; but so far, most have not.
One-to-one mentoring has been shown by other studies to significantly improve learning and career success — and a powerful form of one-to-one mentoring is career coaching. A career coach can help students:
- Discover a career path that aligns with their talents, values and interests
- Create a road map for pursuing and achieving career-related goals while in college (including finding the right major, landing relevant internships and jobs, and learning how to network while still in college)
- Strengthen modern job-seeking skills, such as interviewing, using social media to find job opportunities, and creating a professional online presence
- Develop strong resumes and cover letters that help them stand out from a crowd of applicants
- Decide if graduate school is right for them (and if so, which degree or certificate program, and which school)
The importance of mentoring to your college student should not be underestimated; and you should be aware that the career center at your student’s college or university may not be able to provide this level of support. Together, you and your student can make a plan for finding the right mentor to guide your student through his or her college years.
What career goals can a mentor help your college student achieve?