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Northwestern University
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(From left): Krish Suresh, Noah Rawitz, Elizabeth Brannon, Chirag Gupta, Lakshman Mody, Daniel Dozark, Bill Wu, Pete Huang, Lynette Chen

Engaging Alumni, Opening Doors to Careers

With the January 2012 launch of Weinberg’s Alumni-Student Career Mentoring Program, students now have another resource as they seek to land a job after graduation. I am working to engage alumni in helping students explore career opportunities and navigate the challenging postgraduation landscape. I come to Weinberg with prior experience in corporate recruiting for a major bank, as well as career management and admissions at Kellogg. My alumni partners have been sharing their experiences, coaching job searches, and assisting with networking. The program is also designed to encourage alumni to offer insight into ways that their liberal arts degrees prepared them for civic life and rewarding careers in a wide range of fields.

Technology, globalization, improvements in productivity, and many other factors have dramatically altered the number and types of jobs available to new college graduates. At the same time, the weak economy has caused above-average unemployment for new college graduates and increased competition for available jobs. Furthermore, the media and politicians frequently call into question the value of Weinberg’s hallmark—a liberal arts education.

In the face of the troubled U.S. economy and criticism of the value of the liberal arts, Dean Sarah Mangelsdorf and concerned alumni on Weinberg’s Board of Visitors wondered what more they could do to help our current students face these challenges. Research indicated that many of our peer schools were ramping up efforts to involve their alumni to work directly with students and to provide internship and permanent employment opportunities.

A generous gift from Austin Waldron ’78 allowed Dean Mangelsdorf to establish a program to increase opportunities for students and alumni to connect, which is proven to be a powerful tool in the job seeker’s kit. Waldron’s motivation arose from his own undergraduate experiences at Weinberg. While he majored in psychology, he says he lacked career focus and an understanding of how to apply his skills and interests. He feels very fortunate that he discovered an engaging career path that has kept him at Blue Cross Blue Shield for more than 30 years, but wishes there had been more opportunities to explore different careers, industries, and companies during his time as a student. He hopes that students seize this opportunity to explore career options earlier in their time at Northwestern so that they enter the workforce with clearer goals.

I believe we can accomplish a number of goals by connecting our talented students and alumni:

  1. Successful alumni can give students confidence that the “real world” does value the skills—such as critical thinking, communication, and writing—that they learn as Weinberg undergraduates.
  2. We will develop workshops to supplement existing career development offerings to enhance industry-specific skills. For example, we’d love to find alumni to come on campus to offer a seminar on, say, “How to Read the Wall Street Journal Like an Investment Banker,” or to conduct a remote chat session on “How to Prepare for Your First Case Interview.”
  3. We want to create additional opportunities for Weinberg students in the form of internships and postgraduation jobs.

To date the Alumni-Student Career Mentoring Program has arranged a set of practice interviews with alumni for students preparing for Chicago Field Studies placement interviews. A panel discussing “Top Ten Tips to Impress the Finance Recruiter” featured three alumni who hold senior finance positions in New York City. More than 40 students attended this event to learn how to prepare for the increasingly competitive job interview process. Plans are under way to host Alumni-Student “Hometown” Career Tours in several cities this September to give students an opportunity for informal networking with alumni while they gear up for the new academic year. Last but not least, the Career Mentoring program will partner with the Alumni Association and University Career Services to offer receptions for students interning in New York City during the summer.

Weinberg’s new program complements other University efforts. The Alumni Association’s website also aids students in deciding which careers suit them best and finding opportunities within that career. Offerings include Northwestern CareerNet, which provides students with alumni contacts, advice, and support in their search, and CareerSearch, a database of more than 5 million businesses through which students can search by location, company name, industry, or keyword.

In addition, in 2011 a group of Northwestern undergrads led by Bill Wu ’13, Chirag Gupta ’12, and Daniel Dozark ’13 created an initiative called AlumTalks. The group records and distributes alumni interviews through its website,; all the alumni who appear on the site are available to talk to students. To date the site comprises more than 70 interviews of alumni working in a wide range of fields.

To learn more, visit the Alumni-Student Career Mentoring Program site.

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