When seeking employment or career advancement in the midst of a down economy, it helps to have a few connections. And for Northwestern graduates, the University's alumni community is a good place to find them.
As the economy continued to struggle in 2009, many Northwestern Alumni Association clubs sought to help alumni tap into this resource. The NAA recently launched its "Northwestern Explores: Work Well, Live Smart: The Economy, Your Career and Your Life" initiative (see "What the Alumni Association Can Do for You"), which seeks to meet the personal and professional development needs of students and alumni. Last spring and summer club chapters from Detroit, Florida, Chicago and elsewhere also cast a spotlight on career development and networking.
"I think Northwestern's alumni community is incredible, but it can sometimes be difficult to identify other alumni and make connections," said Megan Felsburg Doud (WCAS02), a member of the steering committee for the NU Club of Metro Detroit and a regional director on the NAA board. "Following (our networking) event, I think everyone had a number of new people to add to their LinkedIn and other networks, which will hopefully help as job searches continue or advancement opportunities arise.
"In this economy, it is especially challenging to find people who are hiring," Doud continued. "I don't think the Northwestern network can work magic, but it certainly can't hurt."
With Detroit hit harder than most cities by the economic downturn, it was only natural that the newly reorganized Metro Detroit club would look to facilitate such opportunities. In July it joined the NAA in presenting "Tapping into the NU Network: Speed-Networking Night" at the Engineering Society of Detroit in Southfield, Mich. The event focused on effective networking techniques, personal pitches and the importance of first impressions.
Doud said the event was well received by those in attendance and expects the Metro Detroit club will offer at least one career-focused event per year in the future.
The NU Club of Southeast Florida also hosted a speed-networking event in June for alumni of Northwestern, as well as graduates of Big Ten and Ivy League universities. More than 50 participants mingled at Giorgios Grill in Hollywood, Fla., before moving from table to table in a series of five-minute "mini-meetings."
"Speed networking is as good as any networking-type event you will find," said club president Toni Kissel (C82), whose club plans to offer more career programming in the coming year. "You start with the commonality of being members of the same alumni family, and the focus is to offer an opportunity for alumni to connect with as many people as possible. ... This is a springboard for success that will reverberate well into the future, if nurtured properly."
For Earth Day in April, the NU Club of Chicago put an Earth-conscious twist on career development by hosting a green business networking event at Uncommon Ground café in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. About 40 attendees listened to panelists speak about embarking on environmentally friendly careers.
"Given the contraction of the economy, more and more alumni are realizing the importance of connecting with other alumni through local clubs like the NU Club of Chicago," said Chicago club president Nabil Foster (L00), who hopes to expand networking events to the city's suburban communities.
"Our purpose is to encourage intellectual enrichment and professional growth through events like the green business networking event," he added. "We hope alumni make some personal and professional connections as a result of the events."
To find out more about networking and professional development opportunities at a club near you, visit www.alumni.northwestern.edu/clubs.