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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2017
 

Increase Your Educational ROI With Career Services, Internships, and Mentorships

Paul Hettich, PhD, DePaul University (IL)
https://doi.org/10.24839/2164-9812.Eye22.1.6
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ROI is an acronym for return on investment. You are investing considerable time, money, and effort to prepare for life and career, but are you using all the resources that your tuition and fees can purchase? Have you explored the services that your career center offers, or opportunities for an internship, or the possibility of establishing a mentoring relationship? There is far more to your college education than accumulating credits toward graduation. Furthermore, creating these experiences during college may contribute significantly to your subsequent workplace engagement and well-being.
In the report, Great Jobs. Great Lives. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index (Gallup, 2014), which I summarized (Hettich, 2017), Gallup identified several college experiences that were associated with graduates’ positive levels of workplace engagement (the great job) and well-being (the great life).
  • Having a mentor who encouraged you  to pursue your goals and dreams.
  • Having at least one professor who made  you excited about learning.
  • Having professors who cared about you  as a person.
  • Completing an internship that allowed you  to apply what you were learning in the classroom.
  • Becoming extremely active in extracurricular  activities and organizations.
  • Working on a project that took a semester  or more to complete.
In its current project, Gallup (2016) focused on the roles that career services, internships, and mentoring play in graduates’ perceptions of their college experiences. Below is a summary of some key findings, but I encourage you to read the full report.
Career Services
Out of the 61% of the 2010 to 2016 graduates who visited their school’s career services during college, 17% rated those services as very helpful, 26% as helpful, 37% somewhat helpful, 17% not helpful, and 3% as don’t know or can’t remember. The fact that 80% of the graduates in this sample regarded their visits as helpful at some level suggests that they obtained a favorable ROI for using that service. Whether they graduated from large or small, public or private institutions, graduates were equally likely to rate their experiences with their college career center as helpful or very helpful. The number of graduates who had visited their career services differed according to their academic field. Engineering and business graduates (62% and 58% respectively) were most likely to participate, followed by social sciences (53%), arts and humanities (48%), and sciences (45%) graduates (Gallup, 2016).
The report also cited numerous comparisons between graduates who did and did not visit their school’s career services as students.
  1. Graduates who visited the career center during college were as likely to find a good job as those who did not visit, but those who visited found their job more quickly.
  2. Graduates who visited their career center during college were more likely to be employed full time (67%) than those who did not visit (59%), especially Black graduates who visited (66%) compared to Black graduates who did not visit (54%).
  3. Forty-nine percent of graduates who rated their career services as very helpful found a good job compared to 15% of graduates who said career services were not helpful.
  4. About half of those who found the services very helpful were more likely to strongly agree that they are deeply interested in their work compared to 34% who reported that career services were not at all helpful.
  5. Graduates who reported a high quality (very helpful) experience with their career center, were “dramatically more likely to believe that their university prepared them well for life outside of college, to say their education was worth the cost,  to recommend their university to others, and to report making donations to their alma mater” (Gallup, 2016, p. 8).
In short, graduates who used their institution’s career services when they were students generally benefited more than those who did not; graduates who found the services very helpful benefited the most. Obtaining a high-quality career services experience depends on the interactions of the student with the career services staff. The report did not discuss specific components of the services that graduates found helpful, but chances are the high-quality experiences that many reported were in most instances due to their level of motivation and positive interactions with skilled professionals working in a supportive environment. In such instances, these graduates likely obtained a relatively high return on their investment. So, when do you plan on visiting your career center?
Internships
Experiential learning and supportive relationships are important components of a successful college experience. They are linked later in life to higher levels of employee engagement, well-being, and the belief that college was worth its cost (Gallup, 2016).
Gallup reported that 55% of their respondents held a job or an internship during college that allowed them to apply what they were learning. The sources of their internships or jobs included professor, college/university faculty or staff member, friend, extracurricular activity advisor, sports coach, or other. However, the data suggested that the particular source of the internship was not as important to graduates as the benefits they received from this applied learning experience. Internships were associated with more job offers after graduation and higher starting salaries compared to graduates without internships (Gallup, 2016).
Completing an internship could be a critical component of your undergraduate education and career preparation, and another opportunity to increase your educational ROI. An internship allows you an opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills while gaining work experience in a career field that interests you; it also allows the employer to evaluate your potential fit in its organization. However, the process of acquiring an internship involves considerable planning, consultation with your advisor and other on-campus resources, interviews, and in-depth research on organizations that sponsors them (Hettich, 2012).
Mentoring
Mentoring is a process in which an experienced and respected individual with expertise in a particular domain (mentor) serves as a coach or role model to another person (mentee) who seeks the mentor’s guidance. Gallup (2016) reports that approximately one fourth of the college graduates in their sample strongly agreed they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals during college. Most mentors were course professors, but friends, faculty/staff, family members, extracurricular advisors, sports coaches, and others also served in that role. Because the social support gained from family and friends has been linked to student persistence in college, Gallup believes that “friend and family-based mentorship is a critical component of a successful college experience” (Gallup, 2016, p. 13). Similar to internships, having a mentoring experience seemed more important to graduates than who the mentor was.
Teachers serve students in different ways, and some are willing to become a mentor. The mentoring may occur through formal meetings or informally through research projects, teaching assistantships, or in other situations. To learn more about mentoring, consult Introduction to Mentoring: A Guide for Mentors and Mentees (APA, 2006). Although this guide was written for graduate students and early career psychologists, undergraduate students can gain a wealth of knowledge about the stages, forms, types of mentors, etiquette, and ethics of mentoring.
Finally, Gallup reports that mentoring and internships are linked to subsequent “increased employee engagement, higher well-being later in life, and graduates’ feeling that their degree was worth the cost” (Gallup, 2016, p. 12). How can you top that for a great return on your investment?
References
American Psychological Association. (2006). Introduction to mentoring: A guide for mentors and mentees. Washington, DC. Retrieved from www.apa.org/education/grad/mentoring.aspx
Gallup, Inc. (2014). Great jobs. Great lives. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report. Washington, DC: Gallup, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/galluppurdueindex-report-2014.pdf
Gallup, Inc. (2016). Great jobs. Great lives. The value of career services, inclusive experiences and mentorship for college students. Washington, DC: Gallup Inc. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/reports/199172/gallup-purdue-index-report-2016.aspx
Hettich, P. (2012, Summer). Internships! Eye on Psi Chi, 16(4), 6–7. Retrieved from  http://www.psichi.org/?164EyeSum12eHettich
Hettich, P. (2017, Spring). Is the student parent to the employee? College experiences that lead to a good job and a better life. Eye on Psi Chi, 21(3), 4–5. Retrieved from https://www.psichi.org/page/213EyeSpr17iHettich

Paul Hettich, PhD, Professor Emeritus at DePaul University (IL), was an Army personnel psychologist, program evaluator in an education R&D lab, and a corporate applied scientist—positions that created a “real world” foundation for his career in college teaching and administration. He was inspired  to write about college-to-workplace readiness issues by graduates and employers who revealed a major disconnect between university and workplace expectations, cultures, and practices. You can contact Paul at phettich@depaul.edu

 

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