The Career Center recently surveyed juniors and seniors about their outlook for the coming summer and asked if they needed additional help. Students responded by overwhelmingly asking for information related to networking and making connections. Navigating relationships in a professional context is difficult enough in “normal” times, but in our current mostly-virtual state, the rules of engagement seem less clear. In response, the Career Center will be reaching out to students in the coming weeks with resources to guide, clarify, and inspire relationship building. Our goal is to continue to demystify and provide actionable advice and tools that will help them to take the next step towards a meaningful life after Carleton.
One of the ways that we build the networking skills of our students is through our 30 Minutes events. The 30 Minutes program brings students interested in a specific job or industry face-to-face with alumni experienced in that field. Alumni come from a variety of industries, including arts/museums, business/finance, communications/media, engineering, environment/agriculture, government/public service, healthcare, info systems/tech/library, legal professions, science/research, and social service/advocacy. During the pandemic, sessions are held virtually, in groups. Students reserve a spot in Handshake and join the informal conversations on zoom. The conversations are unstructured, with an alumnus sharing their career journey and answering any questions that come up.
The 30 Minutes program provides an accessible way for students to practice connecting with alumni and begin to build their networks. Students are guided through the preparation process, including doing research on the alumni guests, such as reviewing their LinkedIn profile. Questions that students would like answered include what typical work days look like, how to make friends in new communities, and preparing for a job in certain industries. Students are encouraged to dress appropriately and conduct the conversations in a professional manner. After the event, students are prompted to write a thank you note to express gratitude for the conversation.
Over the years, the program has evolved to ensure that alumni participants reflect the diversity of the student body. We ask alumni to share how their identities and affinities have shaped their career journeys. We also have recruited more recent alumni to help students learn more about the journey immediately following graduation. Our hope is that by providing students with the opportunity to connect with alumni in a low-stakes environment, they will practice their skills and build their confidence, which they can use to establish their professional networks in the years ahead.