Improving Career Advising: Responding to Alumni Surveys

Article excerpt

In previous alumni surveys our department received lower comparative ratings on items related to career advising. Questionnaires for the most recent departmental survey were mailed in mid-July. 1997 to 138 of our most recent alumni; 41% responded. Alumni rated our department in several areas, including planning for the future, in overall career advising, and in the frequency of use and helpfulness often possible sources of career advising. Although averages were slightly higher than in previous years, the department was again rated below a four (on a five-point scale) on several items related to career advising. The departmental faculty, an office booklet, departmental chair, and departmental advisor were career advising sources used most often: these sources were also all rated above a two on a three-point scale on helpfulness. In response to these lower relative ratings on career advising, our department has begun several initiatives to enhance career advising.

The Department of Psychology at Southwest Texas State University has now conducted alumni surveys for five consecutive years. Ogletree (1998) reported results of the four previous surveys as well as the department's efforts to be responsive to the feedback from our alumni.

In previous surveys the area identified as most needing attention was career advising. On each of the previous four surveys we received lower relative ratings on the objective item "How helpful was the psychology department in planning your future?" compared to items assessing how accessible faculty were, how interested they were in the courses they taught, and how well they enhanced students' learning motivation. On the fourth survey we added an additional objective item, "How would you rate the career advising you received from the psychology department?" and received similar low ratings compared to other items.

Other psychology departments have also been concerned with career advising for undergraduate psychology majors. Ware (1986), examining career needs at Creighton University, asked undergraduates to rate 10 sources of career-related information as well as 14 types of career-related information. Lunneborg (1986), using a similar survey, explored career needs of undergraduates at the University of Washington. Using items similar to those of Ware (1986) and Lunneborg (1986), we asked our alumni to evaluate 10 sources of career advising as part of our most recent alumni survey.

Method

We mailed questionnaires in mid-July to 138 August/December 1996 and May 1997 psychology graduates. Mailed with the surveys were a stamped, self-addressed envelope and a letter from the department chair emphasizing the importance of the survey. Three envelopes were "returned to sender", and fifty-six replies were received for a 41% response level (56/135). However, one of these responses was received on December 11, 1997 after the data were analyzed so was not included in the results.

Participants were 39 women and 16 men. Thirty-two individuals indicated a Euro-American ethnicity, five an African-American ethnicity, five a Hispanic American ethnicity, one an American Indian ethnicity, one an Asian American ethnicity, nine indicated other, and two individuals did not respond to this item.

Twenty-five items were included in this questionnaire. Some of the items, though, contained multiple parts. For example, item # 11, a new item, asked respondents to check each source of career advising information that was used and for each item used to indicate how helpful that source was on a three-point scale. Ten possible sources (and "other") were listed.

For current purposes I am focusing on item 11 as well as items 1 and 5 which asked participants to rate on a five-point scale from poor to excellent the helpfulness of the psychology department in planning their future (item 1) and the career advising received from the department (item 5). In addition responses from several open-ended questions are included. …