Why Careers Services Fail To Attract Students

career management
Written by Faizan Patankar

In the UK, every university has a dedicated Careers Service. I am sure there is something similar in US universities too. Careers Services not only provide job advice, but they also support in learning, training and other career-related issues and activities. The trouble is, and this is from a graduate’s point of view, Careers Services seem to do nothing. When graduates speak to me, or send me their CVs for review, the feedback always is – “thanks for that, it’s a lot better than what my Careers Service would do”. Now, I was a Careers Service rebel for my first two years at University, but then I started working for them and I could see the amount of work they actually do! The support and advice facilities they provide are quite good. So what’s the problem? The image? The culture?

Why Careers Services Fail To Attract?

Simply put, graduates think that Careers Services do nothing to help them. Offering a 15-minute slot for CV review, or getting Barclay’s to do an employer presentation is not enough if these are not marketed to students the right way. Careers Services are decades behind in marketing – their marketing is still a piece of paper with fancy colours and some words on it. Another reason why a majority of students shun their Careers Service is because of the image of the service. There actually are students who need help with job advice, learning, etc., but are too shy to walk up to a careers adviser and ask for help. You know, Careers Services have historically been out of touch with graduates. Image – too posh. The last reason for me is the culture in Careers Services – that not every student is going to use the service. This baffles me. Simply because, if I said at my workplace that my potential customer won’t use the service I provide, I would be sacked! If a university has 22,000 students enrolled, and only a maximum of 2000 use the Careers Service, then that’s a disgrace. Careers Service advisers know the problem, but the same reasons of budget, time, resources and “not every student will use the Careers Service” always raise their head. Get a grip, students and even some graduates, need help. Strive to help every one of us and see the change in your reputation.

Radical Proposals to Improve Careers Services

1. Improve Marketing to Attract Students in T-shirts and Jeans, Not Suits. Careers Services should stop taking marketing advice from people in suits based on University policies and past templates. Get a fresh new look on marketing, keep it simple, but attract students with it. Survey your students – do you know what clicks for international students? And what for home students?

2. Employ Your Own Graduates – Get Some Fresh Ideas & Approach. You know, technological companies and other brands offer jobs to people who give them real feedback and ideas of how they will help the organisation improve. If Microsoft wants to enter the youth market, or market an XboX, they don’t put the face of Bill Gates on it, with all the experience he has – he is not fit to enter the youth market. Not because of age – but because of the difference in culture and ethics of young people today. Careers Services need to recruit a lot more young people, recruit your own graduates, they will tell you what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t recruit your own graduates, how do you expect some other company to? Somebody has to take a chance and give the first break to graduates. You can’t just keep employing people with more experience, just because you can tick that box on the HR form. Careers Services need to get more young graduates on-board. I think they have enough people who have roast turkey and red wine for dinner. It’s time to put the pasty eaters on-board. Time to get back in touch with graduates.

Please Improve Careers Services For Students

If the two points mentioned in the proposals are taken on-board, Careers Services will definitely be used by more students, but there are so many other points that can be taken on-board, and I am sure every Careers Service is striving to do that. But please, do it soon. And please, don’t tell me everything is rosy. I have used a Careers Service, worked in a Careers Service, and speak to a lot of graduates, entrepreneurs and even industry personnel who have good and bad things to say about Careers people at universities. I’ve just made an effort to write it down.

Are you a student who has some experience to share about your Careers Service? Or are you Careers Advisor and have something to point out to me? Drop your comments below – I look forward to what you have to say!

About the author

Faizan Patankar

I started Career Geek Blog in 2011 to share my experience in job-hunting. I now focus on careers industry and blogging is just a tool to share that info. Love hacking careers. During the day I focus on my hobby - Engineering.


  • I am both a careers adviser and someone who didn’t use the careers services at uni! I don’t know if it is an image thing or whether it’s just really poor marketing. In my 3 years at uni I don’t think the service was even mentioned. It needs to become an integral part of university life! Maybe social media campaigns, adviser blogs, online Q&A sessions etc. would make it seem more accessible and make people more likely to approach them face to face!

    • Thanks for your comment Leo. You present valid points and something we are sure a lot of careers services are now beginning to try out.

  • This is interesting. Rather than employing our graduates (although some of our team are alumni) , we have a team of 40 students at that help develop and deliver our marketing and services. We use social media and student-led blogging to engage with our students as well as traditional methods. We also believe in a tailored service, and have specific teams for different colleges which are delivered in the college hubs rather than a central location. Our teams go to induction, we get out on campus… we even have a gazebo that we put up outside the library so we have a ‘pop-up’ careers service. We have had a 300% increase in attendance and a huge increase in traffic to our website. We’ve also undergone a rebrand, using some excellent local designers and did extensive market research listening to our students, our staff and our employers. I wouldn’t say that we’ve got it cracked, but we’re working on it!

    • Just one of the things there, ‘pop-up’ careers service. From one of the other university careers service officer I have been told, that since the time they moved to the ground and being more visible they now get 350 odd visits from students up from around 100 before that. So visibility is definitely one that cranks up the numbers!

      That in itself supports my argument, think if those 40 students were to get a job with careers service! Or more careers officers left the glass buildings and walked out to greet student’s, there will definitely be a response from students! I am not like Tanya from Graduate Fog, I still think Uni Careers can deliver – we all just need to come together and push in the same direction.

  • Outstanding article. We’re seeing a transformation happen at top universities over here in the US. You’re dead right. It’s not just marketing the office – it is the actually product/service that they provide. One challenging reality is that we’re seeing career services offices being held accountable for improved results, but we’re not seeing the investment from universities to staff/fund the offices. It’s an interesting field and one that we believe will radically change in the next 5-10 years as more students/parents become outcome oriented.

    • Thanks for your comment! We do think the traditional careers services will evolve and overcome challenges that are provided at the moment. Whether they will still have the makeup and structure remains to be seen.