Career services is just another example of your tuition dollars going to waste. The most career services do at the majority of law schools or graduate schools is to plan OCI or a similar form of job fair. One BIDER reader emailed me earlier in the year that her school's job fair was simply another publicity stunt to post on the school's website despite them knowing that most of the employers who came weren't interested in hiring entry-level candidates right out of school. A rough estimate of fewer than 10% of her class received any response from the employers who showed up at the career fair, and a lot of the responses came in the form of summer internship offers, not full-time job offers (the job fair was mainly for graduating students).
Emory has seven people working as career services advisors, with one of them an assistant dean, and another a senior director. If we assume an average salary for the non-managers of $50,000, $65,000 for the senior director, and $80,000 for the assistant dean, we get a total of $395,000. There is also one administrative assistant, and let’s assume she works for $35,000, taking us up to $430,000, and I think I’m being pretty conservative here.
That’s just the salaries. You also have any sort of retirement plan the school has and health insurance. The office also takes up space and requires furniture, office equipment, software and office supplies (I bet they use a ton of paper; my own career services office sent me a 189 page book that was little more than a list of websites, which of course is least useful on paper, where I can’t just click on a link). And then there’s the added costs they bring to other departments, such as human resources, pay roll, IT, and maintenance.
The true cost for this 7 man operation is likely about one million dollars. Emory has about 700 students, so we’re talking roughly $1400 per student per year, or $4200 total per student. And what do they get for this fee? Advice such as “network” or “go on informational interviews.” It’s basically an admission that they can’t help you. The most they can do is suggest someone else who might be able to help you.
They’ll talk about how law degrees open all sorts of doors because they’ve heard a handful of anecdotal evidence. But, when they suggest working as a contracts specialist, do you think they’ve done the job before? Do you think they have any idea what the day to day work is like? Nope. All they can do is name the job title and assure you that someone with a JD has done it before.
I recently talked to my own career services office, and told them one of the things I was interested in is journalism, but it’s an extremely hard field to get in to if you don’t have prior journalism experience. She assured me I was qualified and there were lots of entry level positions in journalism. I guess she hasn’t heard that print media has taken a beating lately. Also, while there are entry level positions, they still require experience and a stack of clips (writing samples). Journalism majors get all this through summer internships and working on the school paper. A lawyer with an English degree could be qualified, but most places won’t look at you unless you have the specific credentials they’re looking for. And why should they? This is a buyer’s market? Why settle for something that’s not quite what you want when there are hundreds of highly qualified perfect matches?
Enough of that tangent though, my point is that the people working in career services know extremely little about the industries they’re placing people in and what it takes to get a job there. They don’t take your resume and peruse want ads looking for possible fits. They simply don’t know what a job search entails. They’ll tell you to network with alumni, but are extremely unhelpful at actually finding alumni for you to talk to.
Once the yearly dog and pony show ends, career services pats themselves on the back and most of us are on our own when it comes to the real job search. As bl1y points out, career services does very little in helping students truly network by acting as an intermediary between the student and working alumni, introducing students with its connections, etc. Finding a job in today's economy takes much more effort on the part of both the students and career services. Unfortunately, I don't think most career services are up to the challenge or even want to go the extra mile for their students.
Tell us your experience with career services in the comments section. If anyone from Emory or another law school has followup news on career services they'd like us to share in a future post, please email me or Angel, and we will post what you have to say.