In a climate where university leadership is continually pressed to “do more with less” and sustainability is on everyone’s mind, university leaders have a golden opportunity to capitalize on career services as a strategic partner in creating lifelong relationships with students and alumni. Mobilizing the inherent synergy between career services and other well-established university services—admissions, alumni affairs, development– can create a viable model for sustaining higher education through tough times. Collaboration between career services that promote student employability, admissions that recruit, alumni affairs helping graduates stay connected throughout their career lives, and development that further connects them through financial giving, has the power to ensure big dividends. While these synergies seem obvious, offices often function independently of one another, and this threatens to dilute the potential impact of collaboration.
Very simply, students who graduate into successful careers can attribute this fortune in part to strong career management assistance, robust prospective employer interface, and solid academic preparation, and will invariably want to give back to their alma mater.
Return on investment (ROI) and reinvestment equate: If universities continue to add value throughout their students career lives through ongoing career coaching, thought leadership, and leadership development, sustainable partnership is inevitable.
University leadership must help students and alumni win in the work-world if we want them to equate their success with their academic institution, and thus play an active part in sustaining our institutions. We need graduates to engage full-circle by sharing career-related intelligence with students who follow them and, eventually, to mentor them, hire them as interns and bring them on as employees. We, in turn, actively engage student successors and alumni colleagues to serve on committees/boards, participate in workplace exchanges, present their companies, and engage as mentors. These same participants will naturally want to donate financial resources back to the school. These are significant wins that maximize returns for students, alumni, and the whole university community.
Before we can influence our students and alumni to think of their relationships with the university as partnerships that benefit and sustain them throughout their work lives, we need to commit to the concept ourselves. From the moment we invest in recruiting students, we can invite them into a lifelong relationship with us (Admissions). We can tell them that along with their academic degree, they will also graduate with a career development plan and an understanding of career management as a lifelong process (Career Services), that we will be a resource to them as they move forward in their careers, even as alumni (Alumni Affairs), and that we will ask them to contribute their financial and in-kind resources back to the institution in order to ensure our ongoing viability (Development).
I would love to hear your thoughts on synergies and the successful, related experiences you have encountered.
Contributing Author: Susan Bennett