Our young alumni climb the ladder to a successful career and prosperous life all through college only to graduate and find the next rungs missing. Young alumni don’t need cocktail mixers and reunions. They need help…We need to stop equating cultivating donors with buttering them up and start cultivating them by actually helping them grow as human beings. – The Missing Middle: Advancement and Alumni Relations’s Ongoing Generational Deficit, Switchboard
Hot damn, Switchboard gets it. When it seems alumni relations still spends so much time courting older, richer donors at the expense of the rest, it’s refreshing to hear from alumni professionals who recognize the potential. Switchboard, an online platform for connecting students and alumni, tells it like it is: young alumni need help.
With young alumni facing a professional future filled multiple career changes and upskilling, alumni departments have an opportunity to step in and guide recent alumni.
I led multiple career engagement activities with international MBA alumni in my last role at Yale SOM. I wasn’t part of an alumni department so I was limited in the scope of what I could actually do. So I’ve been storing up ideas for alumni career training for ages.
Here’s my idea drop on how to help young alumni navigate careers:
- Educate alumni about the changing nature of careers and how to prepare for multiple career changes, automation, and new job types
- Build partnerships with bootcamps and offer discounts to help alumni upskill
- Offer affordable (see student loan debt above) technical event training sessions (data analytics, SQL, data-based decision making, etc) with faculty
- Create an alumni only access list of employers who offer student loan repayment as an employee benefit
- Host a “How to Manage Your Student Loans/There’s hope for a debt-free future” event (online or in person)
- Build interactive online career courses for alumni, taught by alumni
- Share casual video interviews with younger alumni focused on the work they do and what they enjoy about their job and workplace
- Plan a take-an-alum to work day twist on traditional mentor/mentee programs; livestream the results and interactions on Instagram as the day goes on.
- Build a career changer workshop day with tours of your local startups and hot companies followed by interactive job search activities
- Offer virtual career advising hours so alumni can ask career-related questions and get advice (I do this with international students in my courses)
Also, I would love to see more creative and interactive events to attract the Insta generation. Imagine the buzz an alumni event like this would create:
Play, intentional interaction, unique spaces, and new experience create perspectives. They also facilitate interaction and conversation which makes networking so much easier (also: more fun, more tolerable, more desirable). Even better these experiences translate into buzz which engages your community.
Most alumni departments don’t have the budget for these large scale pop up events. But I’m willing to bet plenty of alumni relations staff have the creative mindset to experiment. I bet those ideas are plentiful among the lower level staff who aren’t chasing high donor relationships or wrangling logistics for printed alumni books.
I’m so on board with Switchboard’s thinking. Now I’m going to watch my own alma mater to see if they get on board with this mentality too.
I’ll end with one last piece of creative event inspiration: A cliffside popup shop for climbers.
Thanks for reinforcing the awareness of these issues, Nicolle! Your ideas are great, and represent the kind of evolutionary steps that are both possible and needed to ensure recent grads are engaged and helped in meaningful ways.