Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Your Career Services Sucks

bl1y explains why your career services office probably hasn't found you a job and never will, using the recent news of Emory Law School's career services' FAIL as an example:

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.

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).

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.


  1. I hereby refudiate my J.D. In fact, I refudiate everything!

  2. I was once a delusional lemming, and I worshipped anyone with a JD as I was earning mine. I was under the impression that a JD career is a great one and that those who work in career services and law schools are sacrificing "big bucks" in law practice just to help law students realize their dreams.

    I filled out an interest questionnaire early in my 1L year with glee! My top choices were criminal law, government, and corporate counsel. To me, it appeared that a wealth of knowledge was ready at my disposal. The career services director talked to the 1L class, telling us, "you need to concentrate on your studies first. The ABA won't allow us to assist you until October." By the time Oct. came around, dozens of lemmings rolled into the office and fought over the spiral bound "black book" of leads. There was no shortage of unpaid internships, but most required journal experience or top 20 percent of the class. I told myself "well, it ought to get better after my JD."

    For an OCI prep session, the CSO brought in a personal shopper from Macy's who spent an hour telling us how to dress. But what good would personal grooming habits have done when my credentials weren't there? I felt so ashamed of my grades and lack of experience that I didn't even bother to go through with OCI. And the CSO assistant director was dumbfounded about it! I think it hurt her student participation rate.

    A year after graduation, I visited my CSO, only to be greeted by a new director! All she did was berate me for wanting a job and not a "career." "Volunteer and network" was the standard advice. I still get an email from my TTT dean every year announcing a new director of career services. There must have been 5-6 since I graduated five years ago.

  3. whew...I thought IE lost my post! Law school CSO's should rank on the level of respectability as used car salesmen, collection agents, process servers, and repo men.

  4. This BL1Y sounds like a real smart cookie.

    ...Handsome too.

  5. 2:31 - You'd have been better off joining the service and being a "corpse-man".

  6. I go to a small TTTT. Last fall I was looking for an internship and asked our career services department for help.

    Their response? Cold call attorneys and look on Craigslist.

    (Note: I do well in school, so it's not like I'm unhireable.)

  7. @2:55: No kidding. I feel like a corpse, man.

  8. CSO personnel are as useless as tits on a bull. That is all.

  9. JD Underdog - I know, I was like you - I completely thought that anyone who would *sacrifice* the awesome chance to make big bucks was just nuts. I wondered why some people with JDs didn't practice when by golly, the JD is just a license to print money! Now I know...$100K in debt later I know that most of them probably couldn't get decent jobs and the vast majority of the ones who did HATED their jobs. Lots of people tried to warn me against law school but I thought they were "playa hatin'" - stupid ME!

  10. I didn't get the joke in the first comment until I saw the msnbc story about Sarah Palin.

  11. Want to know when I realized a JD was a worthless degree?

    When I discovered that all the people working at OCI were young - and had JD's.

  12. It would be cool if career services were outsourced. Then you would just call some toll free number, get connected to a call center in Manila or Bombay, and have some dude with a heavy accent tell you to network.

  13. Emory sounds pretty good. The career office at Cornell only had two employees. When I went the first was the wife of the admissions officer with a JD but no job experience. Her assistant was no better. I was always envious of NYU's career office until we got one of their assistants as our new head officer - it never got any better. Oh, and the irony - take a look at the resume/CV of the CSOs - for folks who offer free 'resume critiques,' theirs are terrible

  14. As a Career Advisor, Retained Executive Search Consultant, and Practice Lead...... I was stunned early on to discover how hard JD's work on building a career.

    What I discovered was Law Schools and Career Placement Offices at Law Schools do not do is to augment the "Employability" of its graduates.

    One key survival or "Employability" skill is the ability for the graduate to declare their value proposition to a hiring authority -- to clearly define a path to revenue -- to make a true sale presentation of the key characteristics that differentiate one graduate from another.

    I lead a group called where we develop "Productizing Tools" for Job Seekers.

    One tool we use for attorney's weary from the fray of private or group practice is the use of social media as a method for self discovery and brand building.

    To the author's point - College Career Services should concentrate on connecting graduates with "Employability" building exercises while showing graduate how social media can connect them with millions of hiring authorities.

    Mark E. Renkert, Mcsl
    SMART Holdings USA -

  15. I've flatulated more substantive shit.

  16. Dear Mark E. Renkert,

    Why don't you take your tired cliches of "self discovery" and "brand building" and stick 'em where the sun don't shine.


    Recession 3L

  17. Concur with Recession 3L.

    Renkert just spits out more of the same meaningless buzzwords without identifying real solutions.

    The first thing he states is that JDs work hard to build their career. Basically, he wants to flatter you so that you'll be open to the rest of what he says. In reality, law students spend little time outside of OCI focused on their careers, they're too busy studying for class and discovering that a JD doesn't get you laid.

    In general differentiation isn't going to land you a big law job. Big law doesn't want unique individuals, it wants drones. People who stand out from the crowd want jobs where standing out means success. In law, if you stand out, it's because you're being sued for malpractice. Law doesn't want individuality, it wants consistency and machine-like billing. For the same reason, until you're closing in on partnership, "brand building" is useless. You may be able to establish yourself as an expert on certain matters, but that's going to be at least a decade into your career if it ever happens.

    Social media can be good for some businesses, like Zynga, but awful for law. At best, your facebook profile is going to get you dinged. At best, social media will simply be a non-factor. Lawyers aren't going to meet a GC of a major corporation through Myspace or Linkedin.

    And "millions" of hiring authorities? Really? Even if you counted solo shops, there aren't a million law firms or in-house legal departments out there.

    This guy is a fucking joke.

  18. I agree career services people are useless. They usually are the least professional and most clueless about what the labor market actually looks like. If you want to know what the market is actually like, talk to a third party recruiter. Like somebody who specializes in placing legal personnel. They are usually the people who know what companies are looking for. Unfortunately, most companies just aren't looking for entry level help, even entry level lawyers..

  19. Yep, 'Career Services' is a fraud, basically a PR sop by the universities to keep the victims of the scam in university, by providing the veneer that you will get a job and the university 'cares'.

    'Career Services' have never actually gotten a job, they are the equivalent of people who are paid to hold the hands of the terminally ill in hospital.

  20. Everybody knows that. The only aim of that agencies to grab all resumes and harass people.

  21. totally agree with this post when I first graduated from college I spent almost a year looking for full time employment. I called career services to ask for help, their main suggestion and I kid you not was "You use word fillers such as ummm a lot. Perhaps that's why your interviews have been weak."

    Now was this something I needed to work on, probably. Was this the ONLY thing holding me back from getting a good job, I doubt it.

  22. Seems like Emory hasn't gotten any better. A lot of stuff going down lately, I just saw on .

  23. While your on the topic of Emory, I'm a undergrad at Emory College, about to graduate this May 2012 and I can personally say this career center is not equipped to help students out in looking for a job. Aside from pointing out formatting mistakes in your resume or grammer mistakes in your cover letter, which I feel any monkey can do, they offer no substantial or specific advice in terms of career counseling. Point in case, I'm an economics major and I am assigned to the same career counselor that handels students in 6 other fields ranging from African American to Jewish studies. Plus, my counselor has no related experience in the field of economics or business. Her advice has basically been limited to "don't short sell yourself" and to "be positive". Seriously?!

  24. I had received help on my resume multiple times in the semester from my career office, I was told my resume was great. Suddenly when it's job application season and I've already applied to 40+ positions they're telling me that my resume has issues and sent me to their samples that I've seen many times before. I have not changed anything major since the last time they had seen my resume.

    I'm on a grind regarding jobs, it took me a while to learn how effectively search proper jobs as an undergraduate that pertains to my skill set and career objectives. After discovering this, I've become more critical of my school's career office for lacking specific tips after this struggle therefore I've given them specific feedback on the issues I've encountered with their services. In fact they're 'what not to say in an interview' guide was really out there in terms of things a person should not say.

  25. I do have to agree that career services is pretty useless. They don't know jobbing contacts and do very little to actually help the student. I graduated a year ago, and when I was in college they basically just said to look online for jobs. I can look online myself without them having to tell me that. And then once you graduate, they don't care. They have their money, and they get paid regardless of how useful they actually are.

  26. "Grammer"????? Is that any relation to my "papper"????? WTF..



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