Building networks: Alumni provide career assistance to students

Building+networks%3A+Alumni+provide+career+assistance+to+students

Akasha Khalsa

NMU alumni and Career Services (CS) have recently begun piloting the Wildcat Resource Network, a program to allow students to make use of the alumni network to kickstart their careers.   

The project began when CS noted an interest from students in getting mock interviews and resume read-throughs from alumni in the job field. One student came to Assistant Director of Career Services Katie Korpi wanting to get a hospitality management internship and asked to practice interviewing with someone in the field, Executive Director of Alumni Relations Robyn Stille said. They were able to connect the student with an alumni to meet their needs.

“We developed this menu of opportunities, if you will, kind of based on what Katie was hearing over at career services where she was seeing needs for students, and then we put a couple other opportunities on there,” Stille said.

Data for the project was gathered late last summer and finalized last August. Now, the network is moving into a piloting stage through Korpi’s office. The program is not just for seniors but for students at any stage of academic career.

“That’s the idea. Alumni are out there; they can help students,” Stille said.

One of the additional services added by Stille is the Welcome Wagon, where graduating students can be introduced by resident alumni to a new city or locale when they move somewhere unfamiliar. Alumni could help with finding where to live and orienting new residents to the town, Stille explained.

“They want to help students. We’re working on building that network, but the challenge we’re at right now…we need to let the students know and get it out there so you guys know it’s there,” Stille said.

Students who wish to make use of the resources available through the Wildcat Alumni Network can get involved through the CS office in Hedgcock. Stille hopes the network will evolve into a broader volunteer program from this point. They are currently looking for student input into the types of alumni assistance that would be useful for students to receive.

“Right now the information lives in an excel sheet,” Stille said.

The program is being run manually off an excel sheet by Korpi, who personally takes responsibility for connecting alumni, analysis and reporting, said Chair of Career and Professional development committee Lindsay Demske of the Alumni Assistant Board of Directors.

“In the long run what we would like to see, if we grow consistently and organically, hopefully we get enough traction and enough success stories that we can present leadership with the project and then possibly get funding to put it on to a software platform, so it can all be done behind the scenes,” Demske said.

This software, in which students could search for a fitting alumni connection, would work similarly to the existing admissions site that connects prospective students with current NMU students. 

“We’re just a bunch of people trying to come up with ideas,” Demske said. “Whatever we envision and whatever we have a goal for is all dependent on university approval, university feedback, university commitment to it and of course funding.”

Presently, available alumni resources include current and former alumni board members and current and former foundation members. There are approximately 75 people signed up. They have indicated areas they are willing to help with, their majors during their education, their career, their contact information and whether they are working or retired.

Students can receive help with resumes, mock interviews, tips on various industries and how to break in, networking and finding places of employment.

The current pool of alumni resources include education, finance, social work, marketing, the paper industry, pharmaceuticals, international relations, construction management, higher education fundraising, public health, music education and personal training, Stille said.

Three or four students have already worked with the program through career services, and an alumnus has also used it to shift careers. Stille said she hopes that it will continue to grow organically as it is continually used.

“As we start to promote this more en masse to the greater alumni body of 70,000 graduates living around the country, a lot of these will fill in naturally, we’ll get expertise in all these different areas,” Stille said.

For alumni-related questions, students can stop by the alumni center in the Northern Center.