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Job Search: The NAA Can Help

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Job Search: The NAA Can Help
Several online networks can aid those looking for career guidance.
James Finley is using the online service CareerNet for his job search.
With job hunters attempting to maneuver in a precarious economy, alumni are tapping into the Northwestern Alumni Association community and discovering a wealth of contacts and direct access to key players in their career fields.

Through the NAA’s online career programs — Northwestern CareerNet, ExecuPlanet and eProNet — alumni job seekers can find help from fellow alumni to get a jump on their competitors in the marketplace.

In March the NAA launched Northwestern CareerNet, a networking tool that lets alumni search for alumni career contacts according to industry and geographic location. Since then alumni have conducted more than 5,100 searches to contact many of the more than 10,000 alumni volunteers willing to share their career knowledge and experience.

ExecuPlanet, an online “how-to” career program, was launched in the fall, and eProNet, a job placement resource for those in scientific research, business and engineering, will be available in January.

James Finley (McC02) has been using Northwestern CareerNet to help him land his first job after graduation and establish himself as a consulting engineer. “All of the alumni I’ve contacted have been very helpful in taking the time to talk to me about their experiences and how they got their positions,” he says. “They’ve either passed my résumé to their superiors or have given me names of people I should contact.”

Diane Bowden (J02), a production assistant for a Philadelphia-based film production company, turned to Northwestern CareerNet to guide her as she began her job in a city where she had no professional connections. “About 50 of the 70 alumni I contacted replied to me,” she says. “They ran the spectrum of those with only two years of experience to executive managers.”

Though Bowden didn’t expect her alumni contacts to offer her a job, they did point her to industry-specific Web sites, gave her leads on open positions and shared her résumé with colleagues in her field. “I wanted to know how they rose to where they are, what were the lessons they learned and what advice they had for me. Their support and helpfulness have been amazing.”

Rachelle Smith (GJ01) turned to Northwestern CareerNet to find alumni with insight into the food and beverage industry after she was laid off from her consumer promotions manager position in the Pillsbury division of Minneapolis-based General Mills. “One of the contacts that I found was John Fitzgerald [KSM99], the CFO of Sara Lee Corp.’s Douwe Egberts Coffee Systems USA [based in Itasca, Ill.], which was great because I had just sent an online application to Sara Lee a few days earlier,” she says.

Fitzgerald told Smith about the company and referred her to a marketing vice president who had worked for Pillsbury. Smith immediately sent her résumé and spoke with the woman directly. “I was grateful to make that contact. It’s hard to reach someone at that level,” she says.

Since then, through Northwestern CareerNet, Smith has connected with other Kellogg alumni who have referred her to marketing professionals at several companies. Through these conversations Smith has gained important background information about individual companies and changes in the consumer package goods industry. And Northwestern CareerNet has also given her a sense of the University’s reputation. “In the business world, Northwestern opens doors,” she says. “When people won’t talk to anyone else, they’ll talk to us.”

If the job seeker does secure an interview, Daryl Newell (WCAS86) or other alumni career contacts can help interviewees handle the questions they may be asked. “These days employers are looking for a sense of a candidate’s character and integrity,” he says. “They may ask you how you dealt with adversity, and you need to know how to tell your story and relate that experience in the context of the job’s requirements.”

Another option to online networking is ExecuPlanet, which offers career management information, including step-by-step instructions for conducting a job search, building a personal career development plan and providing individualized assistance such as résumé tips.

In January a third resource, eProNet, will give alumni in engineering, science and business exclusive access to high-level job listings available only to participating members of alumni associations of top universities such as MIT and the University of California, Los Angeles. The service also will include company profiles, industry research information, and salary and relocation comparisons.

“We receive many alumni requests for career assistance,” says Aspasia Apostolakis (GC94), NAA deputy director. “We’re responding to their needs by offering alumni a range of services so they can use their Northwestern connections throughout their professional lives.”
— Michele Hogan



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