Education

Forging connections

Shot of a diverse group of business people joining their hands in a symbol of unity

Shot of a diverse group of business people joining their hands in a symbol of unity   | Photo Credit: PeopleImages

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Tapping into an institute’s alumni network smartly can help students gain meaningful contacts and skills that add to their employability

Michele Jennae, the award winning author of The Connectworker, made an interesting quip, “Networking is not about just connecting people. It is about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” Institutions generally have a vast untapped potential network of alumni, that, if harnessed to its potential can bring in unimaginable benefits to the institution and its students.

Several colleges and universities have their alumni networks and associations that offer a range of benefits, perks, and opportunities to the current students. However, these associations are a two-way street; students must also view their alumni networks as a potential pool of empathetic people and make persistent dogged efforts to improve their bonds so as to benefit from it. There are several ways existing students can leverage their alumni networks.

Potential benefits

Build a professional capital even before passing out: Networking is one of the most practical ways to build ones’ professional capital. It is also one of the ideal ways to strategically position oneself for future success. Alumni associations can provide an immense network of professional contacts who are bound by a common thread — the Alma mater. Several institutions organise events wherein existing students get to rub shoulders with the alumni and expand their networks or professional connections. Most former graduates are keen to help students who are studying in their Alma mater, and thereby raise the profile of the institute; hence, joining the association is a good way to get a foot in the door. It will offer students access to mentoring opportunities, introductions, exposure to informal interviews, and feedback about organisations.

Gain expert advice: Most alumni want students from their Alma matter to succeed, of course, with the expectation that once successful, they shall help fellow alumni, the current students, and the institution. Talented alumni will have a wealth of experience and skills, which, in most cases, they will be open to share with students. Several successful alumni sit on panel discussions in the institution to share their experience and advice, that can inspire current and prospective students. By being a part of the alumni network, students can have access to this knowledge.

Assistance in employability: These networks can be immensely helpful when one is thinking of launching one’s career, career change, or positioning oneself for the next promotion, or looking to hire a new bunch of team members for their own organisation. Apart from providing a platform to network, most alumni associations offer various career services such as job fairs, resume workshops, job postings, webinars, resume reviews and career coaching, and so on. These initiatives can be great tools to build one’s career and maximise their potential.

Mentorships and scholarships: Many students, even after graduation, continue to feel connected to their university and associate a part of their identity with the institution. They come forward to help current students through scholarship donations, activity support or awards.

Asset management

While it is imperative for students to be a part of the alumni network, receiving the desired outcome from these platforms will also depend on colleges and universities. Hence, institutions must also play an active role in fostering this relationship. They need to re-frame and re-energise the mission of the alumni in a way that makes them useful and valuable as opposed to treating them like piggy banks for donations and sponsorships.

University Grants Commission, of late, has constituted a task force to formulate a policy document on ‘student career progression and alumni network’, and intends to bring a guiding document for colleges and universities for creating and managing their alumni network.

The alumni network is a valuable asset; if used innovatively and intelligently, it can help the current tranche of despondents, who are often directionless, become more employable.

The writer is the Founder of Schoolguru Eduserve.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 2:10:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/forging-connections/article30305002.ece

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