Summer 2015

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A Virtual Career Boost

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Check out a schedule of the NAA’s upcoming career development webinars.

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Webinars help thousands of alumni reach their professional goals.

Jordan Olivero graduated from the Kellogg School of Management three years ago, but once a week, he feels like he’s back in a Northwestern classroom.

Olivero, a sales leader for marketing technology at IBM, is one of thousands of Northwestern alumni who have enhanced their professional skills through weekly webinars offered by the Northwestern Alumni Association.

“Participating in a webinar is like talking to a Kellogg alum over coffee,” says Olivero ’12 MBA, who lives near Denver. “Afterward, I feel renewed and motivated to introduce bold ideas into my workweek.”

The NAA first offered the online seminars several years ago, but not on a regular schedule. Last year the NAA scheduled one webinar or series of webinars per month, and the sessions became so popular that the NAA had to upgrade its webinar software to accommodate the surge in participants.

Demand kept increasing, so in January the NAA began offering weekly webinars. Participation has continued to soar. “We knew it would be popular, but we didn’t think it would be this popular,” says Rachel Pridgen, who has led the program’s expansion as the NAA’s associate director of alumni career services. “That’s just a testament to Northwestern alumni and their desire for lifelong learning.”

Nearly 5,300 people registered for last year’s 15 webinars. More than 64 percent of that total — 3,397 people — signed up for the NAA’s first eight webinars in 2015, putting the NAA on pace to shatter its registration projections for this year.

The program enables registrants to listen live or at a later time to online presentations on topics that apply to people across a wide range of fields and at different stages in their careers. Past webinars featuring experts and career coaches have covered topics such as excelling in job interviews and making workdays more productive.

Some of the sessions require a small fee, but most are free, and all are open to both alumni and nonalumni. Participants can submit questions in real time to the presenters, many of whom are Northwestern graduates.

David J.P. Fisher ’98, an author and business coach who has presented webinars on networking and how to get the most out of the online tool LinkedIn, says the program provides him with a unique way to give back to Northwestern and help fellow graduates.

“We all learned so much during our time at Northwestern, but then you get into the real world, and you realize there are a lot of skills that are needed for success that you might not necessarily have learned in Economics 201,” says Fisher, the founder of RockStar Consulting, an Evanston-based professional development company. “I think the NAA is doing a great job of enabling people to learn those skills.”

Janice Woo ’84 MBA was so impressed by Fisher’s sessions about LinkedIn that she’s since listened to about a dozen other NAA webinars on everything from corporate culture to inspiring career stories from various experts.

Woo, a former graphic designer who then spent nearly 28 years in consumer marketing and product management in the global financial industry, says the webinars have been critical as she explores a possible third career.

“I love to learn, and I value the practical nature of the webinars, the applicability of the content,” says Woo, who lives in New York City. “They give me new perspectives about what’s going on in the marketplace, and they help me think about career development options and challenges a little differently.”

In January, Liz Guthridge ’79 presented a webinar about establishing small, productive habits in the workplace. She soon received positive feedback from several people who had put her teachings into practice.

“A lot of people said, ‘This is such a simple concept, but it makes so much sense, and it’s easy to do,’ ” says Guthridge, who lives in Charleston, S.C., and is managing director of Connect Consulting Group, a boutique leadership coaching firm. “It’s really fun to help people have these ‘Aha!’ moments and to see them have such success so quickly.”