Only 16% of students who visit career services rate it as 'very helpful'

Going to career services can lead to better prospects after graduation

More than half of U.S. college graduates visited their school's career services office at least once throughout their undergraduate education, but those who did are largely underwhelmed by the experience, according to the Gallup-Purdue Index Report 2016.

Among college graduates who visited their school's career office:

  • 16% said the experience was very helpful;
  • 27% said it was helpful;
  • 36% said it was somewhat helpful;
  • 16% said it was not at all helpful; and
  • 6% said they didn't know or could not recall.

Recent graduates were more likely than those in other generations to report visiting their school's career center, but they also generally report less satisfaction with the experience. However, students in different graduation groups were about as likely to rate their interaction with the career office as not at all helpful as they were to rate it very helpful.

"I wish the numbers were higher," says Andy Chan, vice president for personal and career development at Wake Forest University. "One of the challenges is helping students understand that going to the career office is a multioccasion, multiyear experience, not just going 'at least once.' Sometimes students think they'll go one time for 30 minutes and get everything they need, but it's not that simple."

Revamp your campus career center

In a series of post-survey interviews, Gallup learned more about why college graduates found their school's career centers unhelpful. Some reasons included:

  • Students may not take advantage of all available resources;
  • Career centers may not offer services related to career success, such as salary negotiation; and
  • Career centers were geared toward students seeking their first job, not older students rejoining the workforce.

However, students who did visit their career office had better post-graduate outcomes than their peers who did not visit. Sixty-seven percent of graduates who visited their school's career center were employed full-time after college, compared with 59% of students who did not.

But the quality of the experience made a difference in students' attitudes. Graduates who said their career center was very helpful were:

  • 5.8 times more likely to strongly agree that their university prepared them for life after college;
  • Almost three times more likely to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost; and
  • 3.4 times more likely to recommend their alma mater.

"We were stunned to see the perceptions about career services," says Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and work force development at Gallup. "There were as many graduates saying career services were not at all helpful as graduates saying it was very helpful. There's obviously a lot of room for improvement. The good news, though, is that graduates who had very helpful experiences had entirely different experiences after college. It's encouraging news, and I think it shows if we put more emphasis on career services, it's going to be something very valuable"(Auter/Marken, Gallup, 12/13; New, Inside Higher Ed, 12/13). 

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