Breaking open Experiential Learning: An opportunity?

On Monday, two people asked me what I *really* wanted to do, and both times what I can up with was to be the head of Career Services for Fordham.  (At Fordham just because that's my alma mater and the school I have the closest connection to... not because it needs the most help... seems that most schools are on par with each other in this area.)

That's not really realistic, though, for a number of reasons.  First, I don't want to run the current implementation of career services at any university... The whole thing needs to be completely reinvented and its unlikely any university would allow that without a serious change in its approach.  Too harsh?  Take a poll of current students and graduates...ask them how helpful career services has been to them.  Ask graduates how satisfied they are with their current job and whether or not career services even helped them get a job in the first place.  Find out how many graduates undergo a complete career change within the first three years of graduating.  It's just a broken model.  A career staff of 5 can't help 2000 graduates all find their dream jobs without seriously scalable educational structures.

I have no doubt that the numbers are sorrowful, but I also have no doubt that most schools don't even come close to keeping these statistics.  I teach.  I talk to students all the time and right now, especially right now, they're overwhelmed by the task of career fulfillment.  I'll write more later on this, but its not a quality issue in career services personnel.  They're dedicated, hardworking people.  Its a structural issue with the way these groups interact with students, employers, alumni, and information technology that creates serious inefficiencies. 

You've got alumni with a tremendous knowledge base that goes relatively untapped.  Counselors get tasked with the impossible task of helping a student get into book publishing one day and mortgage backed securities trading the next.  Plus, you've got all these fantastic information and networking resources online like blogs and social networks that the students aren't being taught how to use professionally because most schools don't actually have a career class.

What I realized, though, is that the problems with this kind of education are not limited to the college career office.  In general, structures for industry specific learning, particularly when it comes from learning from the accumulated wisdom of successful and experienced professionals, is horribly inefficient.  This occurs to me when I compare the success of grassroots efforts like nextNY and BarCamp to the conference industry at large.  As nonprofit, community driven organizations, they are often able to attract better, or at least more passionate, participants than their pricey, more capital intensive counterparts in a more open and intimate setting.  Many times, conferences amount to members of a community paying hundreds of dollars to talk to themselves--a tax on poor self organization.  Plus, you often wind up with industry newcomers having the material go over their heads and veterans finding the content relatively pedestrian.  And don't even get me started on how hard it is to find the three people you absolutely should meet.

One of the issues with these grassroots organizations is that the second you turn on the money part, it needs structure, oversight, and it sort of loses its authenticity.

What of this all?  I dunno...  but what we have now in terms of how I connect with likeminded folks, or how someone learns about a career and makes contacts... is just poor.   The amount of work I need to do to accomplish anything the least bit efficient on this front is ridiculous.