You don’t have to look hard to see that higher education leaders are more and more shining a spotlight on the work of career services. What, precisely, with regard to career services, should upper administrators and career leaders focus on? While they are important metrics, many administrators focus solely on a First Destination Survey results. Career services is having a much larger impact on student development and community development than just jobs and salaries. Career leaders are working hard to highlight other key impact such as career readiness, lifelong learning, corporate engagement, and many others.
I’d like to suggest another Key Performance Indicator for career leaders to use to establish more robust partnership, and increased credibility: The Connection between Alumni Giving and Career Services.
And at the risk of over-simplifying things: the process needed to do this isn’t difficult. Here are three reasons why this may be an easy way for career offices giving your administrators more proof of your importance with limited effort.
1. An Opportunity to Build/Strengthen Partnerships on Campus
Use this process to help your partners shine and take advantage of all the hard work they have done. Many career offices have good relationships with Alumni Services, Development, or Institutional Research Offices. Looking into how connected student engagement is to alumni giving is an opportunity to strengthen those connections. These offices are always looking for ways to increase connections with alumni; and therefore, they usually are willing to share data with other offices for this exact reason.
It is very likely that your office collects data on student engagement, but unlikely you have data on which alumni have donated in the past. Partnering with other offices on your campus is a great way to connect your data with theirs. Ask your partners for any data they collected from alumni on their engagement as students.
2. Use Data that Already Exists
The process of gathering existing data should not take too much effort or time, because most universities have collected the necessary data already. In many cases, colleges contract with outside vendors to collect and analyze their alumni data.
Several institutions, for example, use the Alumni Attitude Survey (AAS) from the Performance Enhancement Group, Ltd. This product collects engagement information from alumni along with whether they have ever donated to their alma mater. Using data from the AAS for my dissertation (WAY more work than you need to do), I was showed that alumni who had participated in professional development activities while they were students, were almost 20% more likely to be donors in the future (Binkley, 2012).
A simple analysis only needs a few sets of variables to be effective. First, the data should include demographic information like graduation year, degree, and major/area of study. If you want to explore deeper, including gender, ethnicity, and similar variables is helpful.
The data set also must include data on whether respondents participated in career-related programming while they were students. And it must contain data on whether the alumni have donated to your institution. Getting data on how much they have given is a bonus, but not necessary.
3. Share the Data
Showing administrators the percentage of alumni who engaged with career services donated is a powerful message. The simplest presentation is often the most effective. Simple, yet detailed. My analysis of the AAS data used complicated statistical tools to show total impact of several variables and to develop a predictive model of student engagement impact on alumni giving. The more detailed you get with your analysis; the more administrators and others will want to dive into the details of your data.
Therefore, keep your analysis simple and use simple graphics to tell the story. Breaking that information into degrees and majors will give you an idea where you might want to increase your outreach efforts. And if your data show that those who engage with career services give more on average than those who do not, you will, at the very least, have the attention of your institution’s leadership.
Paul Binkley, EdD, is the Director of Student Career Development at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Homewood Career Center. He has over 20 years of career services, international development, and higher education management experience. Prior to JHU, he worked in Monrovia, Liberia, for almost 4 years and spent 13 years working in career development at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Paul is a huge Kentucky Wildcat fan and is originally from Lake Wobegon, MN.