UCLA Career Center Director Kathy Sims noted that if her career counselors are spending their days helping alumni, "it's time of my professional counseling staff not being spent with my undergraduates."
Sims does rely on UCLA's alumni as a resource for current students looking for professional advice and job opportunities. But giving alumni extensive career services would require a much larger investment on the part of the university because the needs of students and older alumni are so different. For UCLA, Sims said, "Our focus is on our primary constituency: current students and newly minted grads."
One large public university system has found a way to meet the needs of both current students and alumni. The University of Illinois maintains career centers on each of its campuses to serve students, but the school's Alumni Association funds its own Alumni Career Center dedicated to serving UI graduates.
The center offers some free services and more extensive services, such as individual counseling for a third of the price charged by private outplacement firms. Counselors there say they now have nearly twice as many alums contacting them through e-mail, phone and office visits than they did a year ago.
"We are seeing an increase across the board," said the center's vice president, Julie Hays Bartimus, "from people that have significant experience to people who graduated last May."
UI's Alumni Career Center has offered its services since 1987. Bartimus maintains that an office dedicated to alumni careers gives real value to a degree from the university.
"When you're working with traditional students, a majority of them come to you with fairly similar skill sets," she said. "But with alumni with experience, you have to look at what they've been doing and fine-tune the process for them."
And with more and more alums now returning to campuses for help finding work, college career offices are certainly fine-tuning their own approaches to meeting alumni needs.