A recent Gallup survey of more than 5,000 college graduates reveals that more than 80% of respondents describe the alumni network of their alma maters to be a non-factor or very unhelpful in helping them to advance their careers.
Many forward-thinking universities are actively engaged in the hard work of mobilizing their alumni networks, but Gallup research suggests that making an alumni network useful takes work andAlumni Networks Less Helpful Than Advertised – Gallup
intentionality,and that most alumni networks are not actively engaged in supporting fellow alumni in the job market. Importantly, creating an engaged alumnus is nearly impossible if that graduate did not experience a fulfilling undergraduate experience. The most active and successful networks will be the result of programming that shows students support while they are students and that motivates them to contribute upon graduation.
A lot of factors may be involved in the responses of these graduates. Their post-graduation skill level, personal comfort level with engaging alumni chapters and faculty for jobs and internships, and the industrial landscape of where they live after earning a diploma all play a role in their career profiles and how much they are willing to blame others, namely alumni, for their perceived lack of success.
But the survey also runs countercultural to another Gallup college student survey from just over three years ago; one which revealed that black HBCU graduates were more likely to be personally and professionally fulfilled than black graduates from predominantly white institutions.
While that survey did not specifically speak to the role of alumni in the overwhelmingly positive experience of HBCU grads over PWI grads, it does suggest that there is a quantifiable educational benefit to black students learning among other black students, from black faculty (who tend to be HBCU alumni themselves) and interspersing job training with invaluable cultural lessons about how to make it in America while living as an African American.
The specific questions in that 2015 survey about internships and experiential learning could be broken down in future research to determine the role of HBCU alumni in shaping those positive perspectives of graduates, especially in the areas of direct mentoring, financial support and career coaching.
The alumni network seemed to work out well for several graduates from Florida A&M University going for high-profile jobs in recent years, and it is a safe bet that HBCUs nationwide wield the same kind of influence within their alumni ranks to help groom and place ambitious and skilled young people in competitive gigs.
The anecdotal evidence of HBCU connectivity and network are undeniable. But it’s time for the institutions to begin quantifying this impact so that it becomes a digestible element of the HBCU recruitment toolbox. For students of all class levels, races and geographic backgrounds, very few would look away from an institution which can tout with data how effective its graduates are at helping other alumni get jobs, which means paying off student debt and accomplishing other dreams.
HBCU alumni tend to help other HBCU alumni. Looks like that’s not the case everywhere else. Now how can our schools translate this advantage into making their alumni networks bigger and even more influential?