July 9, 2013

Many colleges offering more help with career prep

Schools have revamped career centers, expanded internship programs and pushed alumni to serve as mentors to help graduates better transition to the working world.

The Associated Press

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click image to enlarge

Student Salma Akhter, right, takes part in a career advising session with Kathleen Babb, senior student development adviser in Franklin & Marshall College's Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development, in Lancaster, Pa. The school has launched life skills workshops for students, revamped career services and increased on-campus recruiting.

Photo provided by Franklin & Marshall College

click image to enlarge

Lindsey Pollak, an official ambassador for LinkedIn, consultant and author, speaks to students and alumni in a life skills workshop about leveraging social media for professional success at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Pa.

Photo provided by Franklin & Marshall

He also began a mentoring program, handpicking students to match with alumni in senior positions.

"I asked them to coach the students over the phone or by email, but many have taken it further," he said, offering job shadowing and sometimes jobs. The number of employers taking part in the program's career fair has more than doubled, and many seniors are getting multiple job offers.

Andrew Speno of Edmond, Okla., who's looking at colleges with his teenage son, says the expanded emphasis on jobs is "a practicality. I was a political science major in college, my wife has a piano performance degree. We had absolutely no practical workplace skills when we graduated. And we struggled."

He added: "Education for education's sake is a luxury that middle-class families like us don't have any more."

But Louise Duncan of Brunswick, Maine, would have preferred less talk about careers on the college tours she took with her daughter.

"At some schools it was so flagrant and persistent that a few times I had to hold myself back from giving the poor little tour guides a drubbing," she said. "I wanted to ask them to talk about the fascinating courses they took or the inspiring professors, or yell that I think the whole point of education is to learn interesting things."

She added: "I get why they're trying to sell it differently since liberal arts education has been attacked as poor value, but I don't think that college for most kids is supposed to be vocational training."

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