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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Colleges add career coaches: Students say 'career success' is a priority

Colleges are adding career counselors and urging students to start career planning early, reports Hechinger's Jon Marcus. Some are placing advisors in academic departments or "career communities," expanding mentoring and strengthening alumni networks.

Will I be able to repay my student loans?

The motivation is clear: Colleges are competing for a smaller number of young people amid growing concerns that college provides an uncertain return on investment.

"Career success" is "the top reason people give for getting a degree," according to a Lightcast survey. While 82 percent of college graduates were satisfied with their educational experience, only 44 percent said the degree "was worth the student loan debt."

"Fewer than one in five of the graduates in that Lightcast survey strongly agreed with the statements that their universities and colleges had invested in their careers and helped them understand career opportunities, create career plans and network with employers or alumni," Marcus writes.

“There are some faculty who say that learning is for the sake of learning — that they’re not here to talk about careers,” said Elizabeth Soady, associate director of professional development for arts and sciences at the University of Richmond, which has also expanded its career services. But others “are keyed into that bigger national conversation about return on investment.”

Some employers are dropping degree requirements for jobs in favor of hiring for job skills, also known as “competencies.”

Career counselors are trying to help students explain to employers what job skills -- known as "competencies" -- they're learning in class. For example, humanities majors might argue they've learned critical thinking and public speaking, said Renée Cramer, provost at Dickinson College.

Employers recruiting for skills rather than degrees are "five times more likely to find a high-performance employee," according to a McKinsey report, writes Alcino Donadel in

University Business. But many students don't know how to identify what they've learned that might be valued in the workforce.

One in five graduates said their college didn’t provide them with needed job skills, in a Cengage survey.

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