Whitman Tracks Alumni Trajectory 5 Years Out

Ben Kunz, News Reporter

Each May for the past three years, The Institutional Research Office has produced five-year reports using Linkedin data that asks, “Where are our alumni?” Kristen Handley works in the Institutional Research Office and leads the project. She appreciates the Linkedin survey because of ease of access to the information, and because alumni profiles tell a story of the trajectory after Whitman rather than just destination information about current positions.

The results of the 2017 survey of the class of 2011 were consistent with previous reports and classes. The biggest change between the 2009, 2010 and 2011 reports was the number of students found on Linkedin. The survey found 71 percent, or 266 out of 376, of graduates on Linkedin, a big improvement from the 2009 and 2010 reports, which only reviewed 53 percent and 59 percent of graduates, respectively.

The data covers location, type of employment, further education and other trends helpful to anyone interested in seeing what the future may hold. 59 percent of the 2011 class lives on the west coast (35 percent in Washington), 83 percent are currently employed and have spent an average of two years with their current company, and 55 percent have or are in the process of completing further education. The percentage of people finishing or holding more advanced degrees has slowly dropped from 61 percent, to 57 percent, to 55 percent over the three compared years. The class of 2009 (the first class with a Linkedin survey) graduated Whitman in the heart of the depression and has the lowest numbers for time spent at their current company, and only 2 percent of members have stayed with the same company since graduation.

The class of 2011 has spent the most time, on average, at their current company; 12 percent have been at the same company since graduation. On the flip side, members of the classes of 2009 and 2010 were much more likely to be promoted in their current company than that of 2011 and slightly more likely to be in a job related to their Whitman degree.

In terms of holistic representation of the graduating classes through looking at Linkedin profiles, Kristen Hadley noted that the 71 percent of students found on Linkedin is much higher than the average survey response rate. One specific area Hadley suspects Linkedin data under-reports is volunteering rates because most people do not put that sort of activity on Linkedin, and people in programs like PeaceCorps and other volunteer organizations abroad are less likely to have Linkedin profiles.

Top industries Whitman alumni enters into include education (26 percent), health care and medical (11 percent), finance (six percent), consulting (six percent) and non-profit/foundation (four percent). Comparatively, data for Reed alumni as a whole (this data is not from a specific class) show that 25 percent work in education, five percent in health care and one percent in community service.

Noah Leavitt, director of the Student Engagement Center, says he uses the data to show students what the new normal is for college graduates – more project based, short-term jobs and network-based hiring. Instead of stressing about a first job that will last five or more years and the pressure of big career choices right after college, students will most likely go into a job for a year or two, and then move, and move again after another year or two. The message the SEC likes to send to students is to go and find something exciting to you, bring your different perspective, willingness to learn and excitement and you will do great, and then you will be excited by another opportunity and move and throw yourself into that. There is no need to worry about making a decision about the next five to seven years because that is very abnormal in this new, more project-based economy.

Anyone with a Whitman login can access full alumni reports as well as current “Lifestyle Choices Survey Reports” under “Survey Reports” on the Institutional Research tab of Whitman’s website.