I Nearly Changed Careers Today

So my career nearly took a wild turn this week... I got a call from Liz in Fordham's Career Planning office. We worked together on the mentoring program and she was calling to tell me that she was leaving to go work for Seton Hall.

Now I had said before that I would love to do Liz's job... she's the Assistant Director of Special Programs or something like that, she she has a lot of relative flexibility in terms of new things she can come up with and run. Admittedly, what I'd really love to do is to run a career group, but if I were to jump early and make a switch, hers is the kind of job I would switch into, rather than to an employer relations position or something where I don't get as much student interaction.

When she called, I got very anxious. I wasn't really prepared for such an opportunity to arrive this early--although I knew she would probably leave Fordham within a short period of time. I just didn't expect it to be a year after she started. Without hesitation, though, I asked her to transfer me to Angela, who runs the office. I made up some excuse like I need to get back to her about something. I didn't know whether or not it would be rude to get right up in there and start circling around her job like a vulture, and when Liz is concerned, I can never figure out when I'm being obnoxious or not, so I figured I'd play it safe. As soon as Angela got on the phone, it just poured out of me:

"I just spoke to Liz. She told me she was leaving. I'd like to be considered for that position."Angela seemed pretty surprised, and her first response was, "Do you know how much it pays?" Now, I'm well aware that I'm not going to make private equity money working for a university. I've already mentally waged that battle and talked myself down to a certain level. Pace had a similar position open earlier in the summer, and their guidence on the website was 44-56k. That's a big stepdown, but its doable. Having no reason to believe that schools would be different on their payscale, I said that I had some idea of where it was. Well, turns out there is a difference--a pretty significant one. This job was going to pay 32k.

"Hmm... wow... 32. Jeez.. I wasn't really expecting that."

So 32k pretty much takes the job off the radar screen. I would have taken in the low 40's, but for someone with three years experience in finance and a whole bunch of student experience, that's just not a reasonable salary. Now, Deirg, who will probably wind up applying for this job, would argue its reasonabilty compared to the scale that she gets paid now, but her salary's not reasonable either. Just because that's what people are getting paid doesn't make their salaries reasonable. No one with a college degree two years out of college in NYC should be making less than 40... ideal maybe, but that just seems fair.

Anyway, this leads into my longer discussion of the day--the fact that Fordham shortchanges for the same position relative to Pace. This has been one of my biggest pet peeves with this school as an alumni for years. Like the Mets, Fordham is willing, time after time, to shortchange themselves to satisfy the short term, without thinking about the long term. Take the Yankees, for example, who went out and got Jon Lieber, even though he was going to be on the shelf for year, so they could have him for the year after. Geniuses.

Fordham, on the other hand, constantly shoots itself in the foot worrying about the short term. Take this job, for example. Career planning, whether a liberal arts school likes it or not, is probably the most important department within the university. No matter what kind of education you are given, moral values you are endoctrinated with, social lessons you are taught, if you can't develop a platform on which you can take those lesses to the outside world--be it with via a career, a calling, graduate studies, etc.--that's all going to go to waste. What someone is able to turn their education into more directly impacts a student's impression of what they got from school more than anything else. Show me a student in a really crappy job that they hate who really feels like their school really prepared them well for life.

Not only that, someone's career success, especially in the near term, strongly dictates whether or not they are going to give back to their school. If you are living paycheck to paycheck and just scraping by, or you don't really like where you've wound up, how likely are you going to want to contribute back to the unviversity, versus someone who feels like they hit the ground running in an area that they like.

That being said, that fifteen grand a year that Fordham will save each year definately doesn't help them in the long term. They couldn't afford to keep Liz on, and that's just going to happen again and again. Regardless of whether you can get someone quality in that role for that pay, you have to admit that the turnover it creates is disruptive to the group. I mean, GM went through this thought process with the private equity group. We're not being spun off just so we can make more money--its about retaining the best people and a group that works well together. In the end, being cheap on salary hear affects student impressions of the group as a whole. Since no one ever polls the alumni base, they don't realize it, but I would love to see what the numbers look like on the Career Planning group... and its not just Fordham. University's on the whole are much more apt to put money into their basketball coach than they are into the departments that touch the everyday lives of students.

This happens in other departments in universities around the country, as well at Fordham... with the financial folks that students seem to have issues with every year regarding their financial aid, bills, etc. to the residential life group--whose farewell to the students comes in a room damage bill. Think about it. When you leave the school, the last thing you get from them, after four years of paying 35k a year, is a bill for 50 bucks for some piece of damage you have no way to defend yourself against, and no way to see if it ever got fixed. You just feel taken by it... in a way that definately irks you enough not to make you want to give back to the school. If I were in charge of a school, for any damage bill $50 or less for seniors, I would send a note to the student saying, "There was a small amount of damage repaired in your room (note here that we should only be billing students for repaired damage not assessed damage). It has been our privilage to be a part of your education, and so we are waving this charge so that we can maintain a positive connection to you going forward as a member of the alumni community. However, we are still incurring this cost to do repairs and, would instead, appreciate your continued support of the University by means of a donation as an alumni for this amount."

First off, I think people would be blown away by that move... in a positive way and I think a lot of people would respond with a donation. Secondly, what you lose in fines, you gain by not losing future donations because people are pissed off about small amounts of room damage that just never get fixed. In addition, in the case of someone who does donate, wouldn't you rather have that money coming into the University as an alumni donation than a room fine? Room fines dont' count for anything, whereas getting that number up of how many alumni give back is critical to the ratings of the university.

One move Fordham has made along these lines is not charging for transcripts anymore, which follows the same logic. There's no need to keep nickel and diming people over their lifetime, which only goes to hurting the steam of potential donations.

Finally, and I've been harping about this for years... the biggest misstep I can see currently is the alumni directory. A few weeks ago, I got an online notice saying that they are publishing a physical directory and they wanted me to update my contact information. ???? What year is this??? An actual book. Who the hell is going to use this? Oh, it comes in a CD, too? This is utterly ridiculous. My HIGH SCHOOL has a searchable online directory that allows me to find people in my industry, people that went to the same college as me, etc. Its such an incredibly useful tool to stay connected to the university and for career connections. So many schools are moving in this direction and it blows my mind that we're still printing out a book that will be obsolete fast. They can say its a cost factor, but if you just made an online directory where you can look up all the same information, and only gave those Fordham alumni that financially support the school access to it, I think a lot more people would give back.

But you know what...  I still love Fordham, and that's why I complain.  You don't complain about things unless you have high expectations.  I still got a wonderful education, met great people there, and had access to lots of fantastic resources.  If I didn't love the school and think it was a great place to go, I wouldn't be complaining about it.  I mean, where else can you get a real campus in New York City?  Perhaps Columbia...  but I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to throw baseballs around their stuffy greenery.

Alright. That's all I have for now. I think they should do an alumni forum--the same way they have a student speakout, or at least, had one. People could come and ask questions about the direction of the school, give feedback, etc. I think a lot of people whould show, and if nothing else, it makes people feel like they care about the direction of the university.

Oh, and by the way.. its starting to get kinda cold out. I've been waking up to like 60 degree temps... and my apartment keeps pretty cool, so I think its even less than that. We're starting to talk about when the last day at the boathouse is... 10/15. brr.... That's got to be cold when you get out of the water.