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They've Got Everything They Need. So Why Don't Students Prepare for Career?

Tyler Baker

Everybody loves a good time capsule —
am I right? 🤷‍♂️

Prior to December 2020, the company now known as Grafted was called Fabriq. This post was published during that time. Yes, our name has changed. But as you read, you'll see that one thing hasn't changed: our passion for creating impactful career communities. Enjoy this blast from the past... and then let's schedule a demo to discuss the future of career services.

Let's start by mentioning three fundamental facts about college students and career:

1. College students today go to college to find fulfilling careers. 

In fact, one survey of prospective college students revealed that 91% of responders were going to school to “improve their employment opportunities.”

Strada-Gallup’s survey of 86,000 people found that work-related outcomes were the #1 motivation for going to college— and twice as popular as the #2 motivation.

Career also guides students in their choice of major, with over 61% saying that their major is aligned with them getting a job after school.

2. Nevertheless, students aren’t taking advantage of Career Services in college. 

While most students are aware of Career Services, as a whole, it is woefully under-utilized and under-appreciated. According to Gallup, only 1 in 6 graduates found Career Services “very helpful,” a number which has been in decline over the last 30 years despite more and more students using Career Services.

NACE data shows that only 5.7% of students visit the Career Services department in-person (pre-COVID) more than 4 times a semester.

Yes, students say career is the motivation for coming to college… but once they get there, career prep seems to take a back seat.

3. Not surprisingly, students don’t feel prepared for career when they leave college.

A nationwide McGraw-Hill study found that just 4 in 10 college students feel prepared for career. This is further shown by the fact that 41% of recent college graduates are underemployed (that is, working jobs that don’t require a college degree).

In other words, the under-preparation comes full circle in that college students aren’t ready to take jobs in the fields they’d planned to pursue.

Why don't students prepare for career in college?

Given these three fundamental facts, we have to ask the question:

If college is for career and major college decisions are guided by the pursuit of career… why don’t college students prepare for career?

At Fabriq, we think it’s because current students don’t have a reason to think about the future. They are far removed from the pain and anxiety that a lack of meaningful career opportunities may one day produce. 

Because the pain is so far removed, their desire to solve a problem doesn’t yet exist. This leads to the lack of motivation to explore career, build a network, and create leverage for future opportunities. 

As students get closer to graduation (and, to some extent, only then), they start to sense the problem. But early on, they can’t see it. They can’t feel it. They know there’ll be job searching and app-sending and eventually a career. But it’s not close enough to prepare for or even to understand well. 

Want a fulfilling career after graduation? Do ______________ now.

Fortunately, there is a clear and well-worn path for students to follow to career fulfillment.

Recent research clearly shows that four behaviors in particular signal alumni career mobility. In other words, alumni with fulfilling careers began as students who were rockstars at these four things:

  • Engaging in Career-Related Internships or Related Experiences
  • Receiving Helpful Career Advice
  • Designing a Career Plan
  • Interacting with Employers

Seriously, these numbers are incredible... 

The Top 25th percentile on alumni career mobility are:

  • Advice junkies— 93% of them say they received helpful career advice
  • Former interns— 3.1x as likely to have had an internship related to their current career
  • Career planners— 1.8x as likely to have created a career plan with the help of their alma mater
  • Networkers— 1.7x as likely to say their school helped them connect with employers

And Career Services teams are perfectly positioned to set up students for success in these 4 areas.

How? By providing direction for students. Not necessarily by delivering the opportunities to the students themselves—but by being a vector between the student and the people who can provide the opportunities.

And the earlier that we help students explore—the earlier we provide the direction—the more students are able to develop within the safe, low-risk sandbox of the university. And the more likely they are to find career fulfillment afterward. 

👉How to fast-track the career discovery process (If you only read one section, read this one)

Yet, like I said, the onus is in the student to begin this process. So how can we fast-track the discovery process to get them thinking seriously about career, earlier in college?

By bringing them closer to the future through honest alumni stories. 

Every college student has to learn who they are—this identity formation is a fundamental part of finding a satisfying career path. In this way, every student is gazing into a mirror, looking for their reflection. 

Mulan FTW

But here’s the problem: To the college student, that mirror might as well be 100 yards away. 

As they race toward graduation, the mirror gets closer and closer, their career aspirations becoming clearer and clearer. But by the time they have a clear picture, it’s too late to change course. 

The only solution is to help the college student see the mirror clearly before they’re right on top of it.

The best way we have found to do that is through the stories of alumni who have gone before them. People who have walked the same halls, worn the same colors, taken the same classes, pondered the same questions. 

Alumni stories are the key to helping students find their career path

In this way, alumni stories are the key to helping students find their career path.

Here’s why we like stories:

  • Humans are largely mimetic in nature, meaning we draw inspiration from each other’s inspirations. In a way, our own stories depend on each others’ stories. 
  • Stories provide the context for learning— wrapping knowledge in personal experience solidifies that knowledge in the mind of the recipient. Every lesson you’ve learned is attached to something that’s happened to you.
  • Stories provide the context for connection— each story is a reference point for conversation.

But not just any stories… ALUMNI stories. 

Who gives the advice will dramatically impact how the advice is received. Viewing impromptu video stories created by someone who shares part of your story FUNDAMENTALLY changes the value of that content. 

Sad but true

The source of the story determines which bucket the student places it in. On one hand: world-class advice from the most engaging speakers on YouTube, iTunes, etc. On the other: advice from people who get me and who are accessible because we’re a part of the same community. 

Alumni stories allow the student to see the mirror through the lens of others’ experiences. 

Alumni stories stoke the fire of career exploration within students. Through the stories of people who have shared their experiences, students are able to visualize their own goals and desired career outcomes. 

But there's a catch... You've gotta present the stories in a compelling way

Even though it’s 100% true that connecting students with honest and impactful alumni stories provides the means for students to think about the future, stories alone don’t provide the incentive to prepare. 

To achieve that end, we had to build a platform that would actually turn a university’s alumni stories into a fruitful community. 

Fabriq is designed to be used, engaged with, and enjoyed by students. It’s a native mobile app designed in the spirit of modern content consumption. This is not your typical career center app (no offense, typical career center apps). It relies on first-person prompted video stories—in other words, you don’t have to come up with the content; you just answer the prompts. It’s fast, modern, and built for the purpose of career exploration. 

Bottom line: Your Fabriq app will get used. But we can understand the skepticism.

So here’s a glimpse inside one of Fabriq’s career community apps: The Liberty University Business Community (LUBC).

LUBC is a very young community—it was launched last month. But it illustrates how quickly a Career Services team can create a lively community when they have the right platform. 

LUBC at a glance:

  • 616 monthly active users (327 of which are students)
  • 229 Alumni joined over the last week
  • 2,039 broadcast story clip views (785 by students) - this is how many times career info video stories have been watched on the app
  • 3,808 Profile story views by non-admins (1448 by students) - this is how many times introductory video stories have been watched on the app-
  • 27 DMs from student to alumni (18 unique students) - connections are happening already!

Yes, students are actually using the app to explore career and to connect with alumni who can help. And the community is growing fast.

Let's bring it full circle...

As a Career Services pro, you work around the clock to help prepare students for life after college. You take every Zoom meeting, office meeting, phone call, and email from your students seriously. If it was possible to will your students to career success, you'd have done it by now.

So how can you make it more likely that students will actually take your advice and begin to think seriously about career? Bring them closer to the future through the lens of alumni stories. But not just any alumni stories... stories from successful alumni in their field who look, think, and live like them. Deliver those stories through a platform that students actually want to engage with, and build a thriving career community around those stories.

Get started today and see your custom-built career community come to life.

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