6 Innovative Approaches to Career Services for Alumni

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In the Regional Alumni Engagement Assessment we conducted in fall 2016, one of the questions we asked alumni relations and advancement professionals was:

“What are some resources, programs, practices, or services you think your institution still needs to provide or offer to regional alumni?” 

Over 42% of responses to this question related to the desire to provide or expand career services and professional development opportunities for alumni.

The need and demand for high quality, relevant career services for alumni is at an all time high. Yet, why do ONLY one in six U.S. graduates report* that their institution’s career services office was very helpful?

In their article, “10 Future Trends in College Career Services,” Farouk Dey (Dean & Associate Vice President at Stanford) and Christine Y. Cruzvergara (Associate Provost & Executive Director for Career Education at Wellesley College) write that, in this day and age, an institution’s career center must become “an ecosystem that fully engages the entire university network of students, alumni, faculty, employers, families, and surrounding communities.”

This post highlights six innovative approaches to career services for alumni, including examples of institutions who currently offer compelling and cutting edge programs, services, or events in those areas.


#1: No One Can Ignore LinkedIn

In-person workshops: Northeastern University offers a pair of in-person LinkedIn workshops: “LinkedIn 1: Build Your Profile” and “LinkedIn 2: Advanced Networking.” Even in the summer, each workshop is offered 2-3 times per month.

Providing expert feedback: St. Cloud State University hosts LinkedIn Thursdays,” where recruiters conduct LinkedIn profile reviews with students and alumni. Sessions last 30 minutes and can be done in-person or remotely.

#2: Diversity and Affinity Drives Community

Programming for women: Barnard’s Alumnae Mastermind Pilot Program “partners professional women in small groups that create accountability, support and focus to help achieve professional goals with newfound power. Over the course of nine months, the Mastermind group acts as a ‘braintrust’ to help participants accomplish their professional goals through monthly in-person meetings, weekly phone or video check-ins, and one-on-one accountability partners.”

Webinars for diversity and inclusion: The University of Colorado-Boulder offers free professional development webinars for alumni, such as “Overcoming Biases to Advance the Underrepresented Workforce” by Dr. David Hekman, Associate Professor, Management & Entrepreneurship, Leeds School of Business.

The description of this presentation raises the question, “If we know that race and gender balance pays, why do our organizations still remain unbalanced?” The program advertisement continues, “In this webinar, Dr. Hekman will share his research around biases that currently exist and will provide ways to embrace diversity to effectively promote diversity in your organization.”

#3: Keep Young Alumni Especially Engaged

Offering relevant guides and electronic resources: Stanford University provides in-depth guides for young alumni who are moving to 8 major U.S. cities. Contents include: dining, nightlife, recreation, and housing.

Making space for feedback: The SUNY Cortland Alumni Association gives young alumni a platform through their ongoing Young Alumni Career Services Survey. They use utilize the information “to create career-based programming for our newest graduates.” As an incentive to motivate participation, all respondents are automatically entered into a prize raffle.

#4: Alumni Keep Growing Even After Graduation

Professional development for students through externships: The UC Berkeley Career Center conducts the Cal Externship Program, which “has served Cal students through the Externship Program since 1999. The Career Center and Cal Alumni Association partnership expands the job shadowing program to more alumni volunteers. Cal alumni worldwide are invited to register to be an extern sponsor and share their work experiences through job shadowing with a Cal student (or several students).”

#5: Having the Right Space and the Right Name

How does your institution structure career services for alumni? One collaborative approach taken by the University of Richmond in 2010 was to combine career development and alumni relations to form the Office Alumni and Career Services.

A welcoming, centrally located, state of the art facility: As Dey and Cruzvergara point out, the mission “of the career center of the future will be to build meaningful connections through partnerships and develop career communities of learners and networkers that engage students and alumni for a lifetime.” For a strong example, check out the Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami.

#6 Peer Groups

In-person job search group: Another fascinating idea we came across was the Fast Track Job Search Group at Bentley University. This group is “open to all Bentley alumni who are currently unemployed and actively searching for a new position, this group meets weekly to provide accountability and motivation in a team environment. All members will:

  • -Set and track activity goals using a customized spreadsheet

  • -Report progress and trouble-shoot issues with the group

  • -Proactively plan to overcome barriers

  • -Receive coaching with the group facilitator and career coach as well as group members

  • -Receive emails with notice of jobs that have been recently posted on Alumni Job Board by Bentley staff”

One Final Tip

Do you have the data you need? Have you had an external review of your career services recently? Kansas State University (K-State) did an internal self-study and external review of their career services recently and found useful results.

We want you to know that we’re listening.
This research is in direct response to your feedback in our new member questionnaire. If you haven’t already, be sure to complete the short form so you can have a say in what you see here and receive your complimentary copy of ALUMinate co-founder Esther Choy’s book, Let the Story Do the Work.

*2016 Gallup-Purdue Index

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