I firmly believe that in the realm of risk and reward, there’s no better investment than a college education, even if it means taking out student loans. This is especially true if families do their homework and research the schools that will deliver the best bang for the buck. (For some background, see my recent post on Money Magazine’s college rankings.)
But there’s another step I think students and their families should research when choosing a school: Which institutions provide career training. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece, Ben Carpenter, the vice chairman of CRT Capital Group and author of The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals, makes a convincing case for mandatory programs that stretch from freshman to senior year.
While there are Career Services departments at colleges, the article points out that, according to a survey conducted by Millennial Branding, 61% of students said Career Services “rarely” or “never” helped them find a job.
What Mr. Carpenter is suggesting by career training isn’t a vocational school, but a series of courses that help students first identify their skills and interests and then to which fields their talents would be best suited, how to research specific jobs in those areas, find and secure internships and, ultimately, find a full-time position after graduation. Along the way, the school would assist with multiple one-on-one informational interviews. An added plus for this type of approach: cultivating the types of skills that career training would teach levels the playing field for students who aren’t in a position to receive career advice and introductions to professional contacts at home.
It’s a great idea for a lot of reasons. From a risk-reward perspective, taking positive steps to identify what career options a student might be interested in pursuing while still in college can become a motivating factor in completing his or her degree. And getting a head start through this type of planning can also translate into finding a job after graduation sooner. Preparation such as this is both a needed life skill—creating a professional network—and a confidence builder. And skill and confidence are two traits that are engaging and attractive to prospective employers. Even if the student’s eventual career path takes him or her in a different direction, these skills will still be extremely useful.
Take Away: Maybe the best strategy for success after graduation is seeking a college that provides career training.