Last May, we wrote about the importance and value of creating a connection with your school’s newly-minted alumni before they step foot off campus. Beyond the obvious advancement-related reasons, alumni can be your school’s most powerful evangelists and a rich source of mentorship, internship and career opportunities for current students and future graduates. And believe it or not, demonstrating a strong career services program can pay dividends in recruiting prospective students to your school.
With ever-increasing concern over the widening gap between the cost of college education in the U.S. and students’ post-graduation earning potential in their chosen fields, schools are taking more innovative steps to create meaningful two-way relationships between students and people who can help them begin the journey along their career paths.
In a recent article on the Huffington Post College blog, Denison University president Adam Weinberg challenges colleges and universities to “help students get a life, not just a job.” Dr. Weinberg asserts that higher education must embrace six principles to achieve this goal.
- Reimagine the college experience as 12 months (rather than eight)
- Use the “gap” time for career-oriented activities and learning opportunities
- Encourage early career exploration and offering opportunities for students to connect with people from a range of fields
- Ask parents and alumni to provide mentorship, expertise and internships
- Support graduates as they build career “on-ramps”
- Embrace technology
Reading through Dr. Weinberg’s list, it’s plain to see that helping students get a life – and build a career – requires solid two-way relationships between schools, parents, alumni, businesses and other important audiences. The good news for schools is that these relationships go both ways – schools that invest in career services programs to engage students early and often create alumni who are passionate and eager to engage with their alma maters and help current and prospective students.
Beyond the Career Services Bulletin Board
Schools are turning to social innovations to leverage: engaged alumni, graduate employment rates and alumni success stories to turn their efforts in career services into touchpoints for admissions.
In August 2013, LinkedIn announced “LinkedIn University Pages” to help prospective students search and connect with colleges based on their career interests. The previously adult- and professional-centric networking platform opened its doors to high school students to help them get a head start on making connections that may help them choose a college, identify internships, mentors and career opportunities. LinkedIn University Pages have proven to be a great marketing tool for schools (not to mention a potential source of ad revenue for LinkedIn), which can now engage directly with potential students and parents. Since the launch, hundreds of colleges and universities worldwide have created pages and built communities around their schools.
The schools that are making the most of this platform are taking it one step further by aggregating and showcasing alumni career information, notable alumni and using other tactics to highlight campus life and market themselves to prospective students and their parents. The University of Texas Austin is one school that makes the most of LinkedIn by featuring video on their public page, while others share information about programs, campus life, and even open their Page wall to allow Q&A-type engagement – all geared toward attracting prospective students.
In the quest to woo prospective students, colleges must take a holistic view and both embrace and exploit the overlap between the roles (and goals!) of college admissions, alumni and career services departments. Highlighting alumni career success and promoting your school’s career services programs through websites, LinkedIn pages, career dashboards, and marketing materials is a great place to begin.