December 20, 2009
Get a boost: Alumni offices beef up career services for college grads
Special to NWjobs
When Nicolle Myers moved back to the Seattle area in September 2008 after living in California for two months, she turned to her alma mater for help in finding a job.
Myers applied for numerous jobs she found through the University of Washington Alumni Association before striking gold by following up on an e-mail from the UWAA publicizing a “Working at the UW” event geared toward the medical profession. Myers went, hoping to capitalize on her background in health care, and met someone from the UW Health Sciences Center.
The two exchanged e-mails, and subsequently Myers was hired there as a temporary animal tech. “It wasn’t directed at my degree [in biology],” she says, “but it was a foot in the door.”
Myers’ experience in a high-security environment at the animal tech job helped persuade research scientists at the university’s Harborview Medical Center to invite her to join them in the division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine in April, where she now works as a research scientist.
The UW and other schools are expanding alumni career services to counter the recession. Don Gallagher, associate director for career services at the UWAA, reports that third-quarter traffic on the Husky Career Network, its online service, doubled for UWAA members over the same period in 2008.
Meanwhile, Seattle University alumni have been setting one-third of all advising appointments at the school’s Career Services center, says executive director Daniel Pascoe Aguilar.
Pascoe Aguilar directs a multifocal program that emphasizes networking. “We provide other services, but we’re brokers of information and resources for [alumni] to get out and network, getting closer to [jobs] that won’t be posted,” he says.
Back to school
Don Gallagher of the University of Washington and Daniel Pascoe Aguilar of Seattle University offer steps that job seekers can take to maximize college alumni services:
Read the alumni career services page of the school’s Web site
Visit the careers office, where experts can help you develop a job-search plan
Develop a networking mentality and lifestyle
Join online alumni networking groups and attend career fairs
SU’s online Redhawk Network lists wide-ranging services for alumni, and a new mentor program involving 61,000 alumni allows them to form relationships with others in the job market overall.
The UWAA is expanding technologically with the online UW Career Center, which recently added job postings appealing to experienced alumni, Gallagher says. UW alumni who own businesses or serve as hiring managers also are encouraged to post on the site.
The UWAA also encourages greater networking among all alumni with its own LinkedIn group, which has more than 10,400 members.
During the economic downturn, the UWAA allied with the North 40 Network, which provides e-mail and telephone services to seasoned alumni, typically those over 40 from schools with which they contract. Similarly, the nonprofit Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal provides one-on-one advising to UW alumni and others throughout the community.
SU hosts six annual career fairs and partners with numerous affiliates, including Costco and Boeing, to increase networking opportunities. Career Services offers drop-ins, appointments and group advising. Weekly group advising occurs in the evening to accommodate working alumni, covering numerous job-hunting topics including promotional strategies.
Gallagher says that when the economy improves, the UWAA hopes to have more job postings and more frequent career events. Pascoe Aguilar says that SU plans to increase networking and professional opportunities while strengthening its relationships with employers.
Vinh Do, an experienced human resources professional, used two forms of advising at SU when he moved back to the area: one-on-one with the executive director and as part of a group. Do now works in sales at REI’s Seattle headquarters, and says he’s clearer now about where he’s headed professionally.
“It was an astute interpretation,” Do says of his advisers. “The experience helped me be certain [of] who I am, what my interests are and what my dreams are. The two groups brought experience, wisdom and connection.”
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