The Insider’s Look at First Destination Surveys

Vanessa NewtonVanessa Newton, Program Analyst, University of Kansas



Katrina Zaremba

Katrina Zaremba, Communications Coordinator, University Career Center, University of Kansas
Twitter: @KatrinaZaremba


Katrina (Zaremba) and I (Vanessa Newton) recently sat down and live-blogged our conversation about all things First-Destination Survey related. If you missed any of the other installments on this series, here’s where you can catch up:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 – Branding Is Key
Part 3 -LinkedIn Limitations

Why is the first-destination survey important? 

Vanessa: It’s an important tool for students and parents to use when planning their academic journey. They can see how other graduates were able to leverage their experiences at the University of Kansas (KU) and be successful. Seeing how peers can be successful can be a really powerful tool. You are able to show people the results rather than just telling them.

Katrina: We are increasingly receiving more questions about students’ post-graduation plans from administration, prospective students, parents, and faculty. Having this data is helpful when communicating with outside constituents. From a marketing perspective, having this information gives us the ability to communicate key data points and illustrate the value of our institution to stakeholders.

What did you learn this year? 

Vanessa: The power of asking questions, whether for getting data or learning new things, asking questions was the biggest thing I learned this year.

Katrina: We are constantly learning new ways we can collect and share data. I’ve learned that it is important to remain open-minded to new ideas.

What is one key takeaway you’d share with others?

Vanessa: There are no bad ideas. We are constantly evolving and trying out new processes to get a higher response rate. Others have different processes that they have been sharing with us, so we are getting an idea of how other people are doing it. Spoiler alert:  It takes more than just an e-mail [to the graduate].

Katrina: Branding is key.

What is a goal you have regarding first-destination surveys?

Overall, our goal is to increase our knowledge rate. We also want to maintain the openness to ideas and make sure that we are keeping the conversation going with first-destination surveys. The process never really stops.

Vanessa: Organization is important: making more comprehensive timelines to aid in planning.

Katrina: To capitalize on campus partnerships. Many offices/departments on our campus have an interest in the data as well, and by working together, we can help each other achieve our goals. One way I’d like to do this is via social media, by asking campus partners to share our content and encourage their graduates to participate in the survey.

What’s your advice to someone new to collecting destination survey information?

Vanessa: Keep it simple. You don’t need fancy software. You don’t need flashy surveys. Those are great to have, but bare bones, you just need the data. You can do a lot with frequencies and percentages that are easy to calculate in Excel. Those types of numbers are easily interpreted and understood by everyone.

Katrina: Teamwork. Collecting, analyzing, and sharing this data is (and should be) a group effort. You have to rely on other people’s strengths to contribute to the whole.

LinkedIn Limitations

Vanessa NewtonVanessa Newton, program analyst, University of Kansas

I cannot tell you how many times I hear people chirping on about how great LinkedIn is and how useful it is to “up that knowledge rate” on your first-destination survey. And while I agree with that, I think it’s time we acknowledge some of the limitations of relying on LinkedIn for information. Blame it on my scientific research background, but I think discussing and acknowledging limitations is a good thing.

A lot of companies are selling their services to look up your graduates on LinkedIn. For just 50 cents per student or $5 per student, they do all the work and find information for you. That sounds great (sans all the money you could be spending if you have a large graduating class), until you think about it. Yes, these companies can find that information for you, but what if 60 percent of your graduating class doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile? What if everyone in the graduating class has a LinkedIn profile, but half of them made their profiles because they were required by a class two years ago—and they haven’t updated their information since? The data that you paid for could say (wrongly) this person is currently a Student IT Help Desk Worker!

And what about other data on the LinkedIn profile…how do you know that it is correct? How can you reasonably assume that the graduate is still a bartender? I have graduates who fill out the destination survey and indicate in the comments that the job that they are currently working is just to pay the bills and they are actively seeking a more professional position.

And then you get into the really fuzzy section—nontraditional graduates who appear to be working in the same position they held before they started working on their degree. Did they get the degree to move higher up in the company or did they just want to get the degree?

Then there are the graduates (I find this often with arts majors) who are working on building their businesses, but are also working multiple jobs to pay bills and make ends meet. How do you classify that information? Because I think the fashion designer who is working as a receptionist and a hostess might indicate on a destination survey that they are employed full time—and not mention the other two jobs.

LinkedIn is a hub for information, but it isn’t the end-all be-all source of information. Yes, we can educate students on how to use LinkedIn, and encourage them to use it, but when it comes to pulling destination survey data from LinkedIn, it should be used with caution and in conjunction with other methods of finding information.

Data Collection Toward a 100 Percent Knowledge Rate

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Director, Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, and Founder, Career Transitions Guide

Is a 100 percent knowledge rate possible with a first-destination survey? That’s to be determined each year and with each effort. Due-diligence requires universities to extend maximum effort to try to achieve a 100 percent knowledge rate for all our students. The task of collecting and reporting data is a huge undertaking trusted to many career offices. Whether you are trying to meet the NACE deadline for data collection or your own office deadline, creating a systematic approach and incorporating “best practices” into your labor makes capturing career outcomes more manageable.

Lay the Foundation

Its essential to be able to analyze data with ease, as well as know ahead of time what questions to include in your outreach attempts to students. Follow the suggestions outlined by NACE in your database fields and match it to your first destination surveys. Bring in your school’s technology department to help create the database, as well as the electronic surveys that capture the responses fed into it. Once that’s done, a time line for when, where, and how you will collect data can be drawn out. Cap and Gown surveys, employer surveys, surveys to the campus community, classroom visits, social media searches, follow-up student surveys, calls and e-mails have to be systematically laid out on a timeline. Learn assessment best practices by attending conferences and events to know how others are capturing information. Make sure you use the NACE links on the topic and talk to Ed Koc, NACE’s Director of Research, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs or his great team if you have questions. Koc is offering a webinar on the first-destination initiative in early January for NACE members. A solid foundation and plan of action will serve you well in the long run.

Designate a Point Person

If the college community knows that career outcome information has to be sent to a designated individual within their school, then more outcomes can be captured. Often university staff members possess career outcome information and never pass it onto career services. The human resources and admissions departments within your school may have first-destination information on numerous students who were hired or went onto graduate school at your institution. The designated point person should monitor the first destination survey numbers, solicit information from university sources consistently, and create a strategy for follow-up with graduates. It takes many people, numerous efforts, and even call-centers to capture data for bigger schools. But designate an expert to manage the whole process, set the timeline, and be the “face” of the initiative in order to drive the results.

It’s Not a Career Services Issue, It’s a University Issue

Helping students find opportunities and creating a path for successful outcomes is not just a career services goal. Higher education is a partnership of many units working collaboratively to ensure retention and capture every student’s career outcome. Long before first-destination surveys go out, building relationships with the campus community is where data collection really starts for career services. Meetings with the university community to build bridges, foster relationships, and outline the process is crucial. Students share career outcome information with professors, academic advisers, financial aid representatives, leaders of student organizations, and college staff. These sources become vital in the collection process and have to be included in the journey.

Keep the Community Vested

It is essential to make survey efforts and progress visible to the campus community. Every dean, faculty member, and university staff  member should know what the career office does. Career outcome and knowledge rate information should be displayed in infographics, charts, and reports on a regular basis with college partners. If others understand what goes on behind the scenes and where the numbers are, then they will be more apt to assist with first-destination information. It also keeps departments interested and looking forward to the next update.

Mandate Attendance 

Universities that promote, encourage, or even mandate attendance at career service events and one-to-one meetings with a career counselor can create more successful outcomes. Students that have worked with career offices feel more comfortable sharing career outcomes, and should be told that post-graduate follow-up will take place after graduation. Career services also helps students find pre-professional experience through internships that build resumes and lead to full-time offers. They offer networking opportunities with employers and alumni that have job leads every semester. Increased student engagement with career centers increases the “knowledge rate,” and also increases “outcomes.” Its a simple formula.

Multiple out-reach efforts to capture information throughout the year are made to graduating seniors, college partners, and employers to track career outcomes. I would love to hear your school’s best practices and ideas to reach that “100 percent knowledge rate.” Wishing each of you success in reaching your university’s goal and capturing outcomes. 

Branding Is Key: An Insider’s Look at First-Destination Surveys

Katrina Zaremba

Katrina Zaremba, Communications Coordinator, University Career Center, University of Kansas
Twitter: @KatrinaZaremba
(Part 2 of 4 on early adoption of the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards.)

With the new NACE First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols being released this year, I knew that a marketing campaign was in order for our survey. I wanted an image we could use to create a brand around our first-destination survey so people would associate it with the survey itself.

When it comes to branding, consistency is key.

The result was a single, vector-based image with a fun saying that we hoped would relate to students, “What in the world are you doing after graduation?” We used university-approved colors in a vibrant way that would hopefully catch the attention of the graduating senior class. We mixed bold and hand-drawn typefaces to add dimension as well.

What in the world are you doing after graduation? Let us know with this short survey!The campaign launched mid-May, and we used our website, social media platforms, and faculty as main modes of advertising our survey to graduating seniors. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Our website has a great space for a rotating banner image at the top of our home page. This space is sure to grab the attention of anyone who visits our site. This image has had thousands of impressions and clicks leading directly to the survey.

For social media, Twitter and Facebook were the platforms we used for promotion. We were strategic in choosing certain hashtags that were relevant to our target audience (i.e., #KUGrads, #KUAlumni). We also tagged appropriate accounts to spread the word and inspire engagement such as shares and retweets (i.e., @KUCollege, @KUAlumni, @KUGrads).

Overall, we had over 5,000 impressions with an engagement rate of 2 percent for our social media outreach alone.

Insider Tip: You can pin posts to the top of your Twitter profile to make sure those who are visiting your Twitter profile see your most important message first.This will hopefully help with the number of impressions your tweet receives.

Pin this banner to your profile page.Our associate director met with faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Science to let them know we were conducting the first-destination survey, and also to ask them to promote it to their students. In return, we created individualized reports for each major in the college and shared those results with the departments. We will talk more about reports in part 3 of this series. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

I am constantly learning from this experience, so naturally there are some things we would like to do differently next year. Each spring, The University of Kansas has a Graduate Fair where students can purchase regalia, personalized graduation announcements, cap and gown portraits, and class rings. And each year, the University Career Center has a booth at this fair. Next spring we will capitalize on this and bring iPads for students to fill out the survey on the spot, and handouts with our branded image so they can access the survey later if they are short on time at that event.

We would also like to meet with faculty earlier in the semester, perhaps in March, to help us get the word out to students before graduation rolls around.

I’d love to hear how you are marketing your destination survey to students as well. Feel free to share your comments below!

Stay tuned in the coming months for the third installment of the first-destination standards and protocols series. My colleague, Vanessa Newton, and I have more to share!

(On Thursday, Bless Vaidian, director of Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, will offer more tips on first-destination surveys.)

How Do You Help Students Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis?


Pamela Weinberg
Twitter: @pamelaweinberg
Blogs from Pamela Weinberg.

I have had the pleasure and disappointment of meeting with a slew of young professionals in my career coaching practice of late. It is a pleasure, because I enjoy connecting with these bright, interesting and thoughtful Millennials. It is disappointing, however, that so many of them are unhappy with their post-college career choices. A few years out of college, they are experiencing some of the symptoms of a so-called “quarter-life crisis.” There has been much written about the quarter-life crisis affecting recent the college graduate starting out a career and living on his or her own for the first time. These young adults may be faced with their first crisis of confidence and feel adrift. Many feel dissatisfied with their job choices and/or chosen career path and don’t know where to turn for help.

How we can help prevent young alumni from falling into a quarter-life crisis? One way to mitigate these issues for the next slew of college grads is for colleges and universities to take a more active role in preparing students for the workplace. Those students majoring in one of STEM fields or who are pre-med most likely have a more direct and focused career path than an English major with a degree that opens him or her up to dozens of potential job or career possibilities. But just what are those possibilities and how is a student to know about them? Without exposure to a myriad of careers and a sense of which skills/aptitudes are needed to succeed at which jobs, it is a challenge for students to find their perfect fit post-graduation. Ben Carpenter’s recent op-ed in The New York Times has received a lot of attention as he brings this issue to the fore and calls on colleges and universities to offer courses in “career training” which would begin freshman year and end senior year.

Others seem to agree. In a new book entitled Aspiring Adults Adrift sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa speak about colleges and universities “focusing too much on students’ social lives at the expense of strong academic and career road map.” The authors go on to recommend programs that “facilitate school-to-work transitions, in terms of internships, apprenticeships and job-placement programs.”

Career services offices at colleges and universities have always been the student nexus for career- and job-search advice—but as we know, not all students take advantage of the resources there. In championing the idea of four years of career training for college students, Ben Carpenter cites Connecticut College which offers a career training program that has proven quite successful. According to Carpenter, one year after graduation, 96 percent of Connecticut College alumni are employed or in graduate school. That is in stark contrast to the numbers from a recent job poll conducted by AfterCollege, the online entry-level job site. According to the poll, 83 percent of college seniors graduated this year without a job.

The letters to the editor of The New York Times, which followed the Carpenter piece, were squarely split. Most educators were against schools offering career training programs, while most parents were for it. It seems however, that there is more that can be done to prevent recent alums from floundering a few years post-graduation. However, whether these are offerings from career services or through other academic departments is a topic up for debate.

I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and suggestions on the topic!

An Insider’s Look at First-Destination Surveys

Vanessa Newton

Vanessa Newton, Program Analyst, University of Kansas


(Part 1 of 4 on early adoption of the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards.)

When the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols were released early this year, I went through the continuum of emotions. Happiness? Check. Worry? Yup. Frustration? You betcha! I had all the feelings. But, when I settled in to figure out how to implement these new standards and protocols, I learned a few things along the way. So, today is the first post in a four-post series written by me and my colleague, Katrina Zaremba, communications coordinator, giving you an inside look as to how the University Career Center at the University of Kansas (KU) is implementing these new standards.

First things first—no, this isn’t a reference to a slightly annoying song—if you have not read the standards and protocols, I would highly recommend you do that first. I’ll wait. Go on…oh you already read them? Well then… Ok, let’s get into the top three things that we changed/implemented at KU based off the standards and protocols, shall we?

One of the first things I did was change our survey. Previously, we just asked if graduates were employed full-time or part-time, attending graduate school, seeking employment, or not seeking employment. The additions that were made to this question excited me greatly. I loved the phrasing of “continuing education” versus “attending graduate school” since some of our graduates were not going on to graduate school, rather just getting additional schooling or a certificate. It was an easy change to add the additional categories and I think it will be interesting to see the data we get back and how it differs from previous years.

The second thing I needed to do was change how we defined our graduating class. We previously defined them as December, May, and August graduates, and now we define them as August, December, and May graduates. I’ll admit, it is a small change and a relatively easy one to make, but I really appreciated that the standards defined the graduating class. Small change, big impact, in my opinion.

Finally, we implemented “knowledge rate” last year, but we now have a very intense goal to reach to get to a 65 percent knowledge rate. We had a ~19 percent response rate from the surveys we sent to students and then bumped up our knowledge rate to ~40 percent with gaining information from LinkedIn and other reputable sources (a.k.a. some of our staff knew the graduates or the university paper wrote a story on where graduates go after they leave KU—two out of the three hadn’t responded to the survey and we couldn’t find them on LinkedIn…success!). We have been active and alert for any information regarding graduates and where they are going after they leave.

So there it is. Changing the survey, defining our graduating class, and implementing knowledge rate plus keying into ways that you can achieve that 65 percent. These are small changes/steps that you can take to ease into implementing the standards and protocols at your school.

Stay tuned for more posts from Katrina and me—we have a great series planned, giving you an inside look at our marketing, data analysis, and reporting, and providing some after thoughts once the first destination season has finished.

Feel free to use the comment section to leave your feedback and tips as well. Let’s open the conversation and share our stories! If there is interest, we may even do a bonus Q & A post in regard to first-destination surveys!

For more information on first-destination surveys, see the Advocacy section of NACEWeb.