Alumni Trending Guest blogger:
Ryan P. Catherwood, @RyanCatherwood
What tools, digital or otherwise, will your university supply alumni to make them stronger professionals? Wouldn’t it bode well for our Annual Funds if our universities could be linked as the catalyst to professional success?
Ask your alumni how they achieved professional success, most will say something like, “by building my network, or course!” Many would reflect on a relationship developed through the university and/or alumni network as crucial to getting the right opportunity.
And we all know that networking is the key to career growth. As such, most universities offer plenty of networking events in the form of on-campus reunions or regional alumni chapter events. To complement these events, most of our institutions offer access to alumni-only databases made possible by companies like Blackbaud, who supply the fundraising/recordkeeping software at W&L. We call our database “Colonnade Connections,” and it’s searchable by major, class year, industry, city, state, etc. Most universities supply all the do-it-yourself tools for networking, but then we pat our alumni on the back and wish them good luck.
How can we continue to guide our alumni as they navigate the uncertain roadways towards career success? And how can we provide assistance on the web, now one of the first places professionals turn when searching for jobs. The answer, I believe, is by replicating the conversations that occur during an “informational interview” and placing these discussions up on the web for everyone to see.
An informational interview is a specific type of networking event. It’s more intimate in nature and typically includes a young professional and established professional. Often held at a local coffee shop, the young professional attempts to gain industry/career advice from the established professional who was in their position once before. An occasional byproduct of these meetings is that the young professional impresses the older professional and ends up getting a referral or considered for a job at a later date.
The conversations that occur during informational interviews are very powerful. At Washington and Lee we believe this form of alumni-supplied content is part of adding a next level to a digital engagement strategy. We’re able to showcase an “expertise in networking” while presenting a new approach to “continued education.”
Alumni content contributors (we call them Alumni Guides) help steer the web-based conversations that occur as a result of their post. They also might ultimately help steer the professional direction of a young alumnus’s career.
For their effort Alumni Guides receive professional notoriety as these posts are promoted throughout the university’s web channels and social media platforms. But the most common reason for spending the time to write an editorial? Authoring an Alumni Perspectives is a way to give back to the institution. It’s good to offer alumni many different types of giving options.
The new Alumni Perspectives editorials debuted on a completely redesigned W&L alumni website in early March 2012.
Follow Ryan P. Catherwood, Asst. Director of Digital Communications & Social Media, @RyanCatherwood,