Help Wanted: Alumni Career Contacts
The Northwestern Alumni Association offers many opportunities for alumni to help each other in their job searches.
“The traditional methods of job searching have changed drastically in the new economy, and personal contacts are critical to making sure you’re in the right place at the right time,” says Lonnie Dunlap, director of University Career Services (UCS), whose staff assists some 600 alumni a year.
As of fall about 11,000 alumni have registered to be contacts on Northwestern CareerNet, the NAA’s free online searchable database of career contacts. More than 3,700 searches have been conducted, and more than 500 students have registered to use the service.
Volunteer career contacts can serve in a variety of ways, according to their own time preferences. They choose the parameters of their contact with job seekers — e-mail, phone calls or in-person visits. Career contacts also serve as speakers at alumni career events or at the student-run Northwestern Class Alliance’s Career Chats. It is understood that the contacts are only resources, not people who hire.
“Alumni contacts give those needing job search information a chance to speak comfortably and candidly to someone in a particular industry or company and explore things they may not be able to in an interview,” says Cindy Graham, senior assistant director of UCS.
Individual alumni clubs are also working to help job seekers from their
membership. For instance, in the Silicon Valley area, where one in 10
jobs have been lost since 2001, the NU Club of the San Francisco Bay
area held a networking event with UCS and NAA last spring. A similar
event sponsored by the NU Club of Boston in September attracted 75 participants.
“Also, because many of these [nonprofit] organizations operate on very small budgets, there are plenty of opportunities for those willing to volunteer as interns to gain experience while they’re looking,” Half says. “Often these situations can lead to full-time employment.”
Some alumni, especially members of the Council of One Hundred, have
formed long-term mentoring relationships with students and young alumni
over the years. Through other programs, such as NAA Externship, alumni
career contacts have the chance to help students on a short-term basis.
Externship matches students with alumni professionals for brief job-shadowing
“I was able to try a bit of everything, like researching cases, giving feedback on the company’s Web site and developing a work plan for a part of the business,” Petric says. “Russ also was good about dropping my name to other professionals and recommending others to talk to.”
Some alumni have found it helpful to work both sides of the alumni career network. In addition to registering on Northwestern CareerNet as a contact to share his background in African studies and his 14 years of experience in the U.S. consumer products industry, Rich Miller (G78, 84) of Evanston is using his alumni connections to help him transition to a new position in e-business management in the Chicago area.
“I’ve been very impressed by the quality and number of Northwestern alumni who serve as networking contacts,” he says. “Through them, I’ve been able to find new contacts and opportunities that traditionally have not been advertised.”
To register as an alumni career contact or find out more about
NAA career resources, visit www.alumni.northwestern.edu/career.
It links to the Northwestern CareerNet contact database; Northwestern
eProNet, a site that lists mid- to senior-level opportunities in business
and technical fields; and CareerTools, an online resource for career