After largely operating as sole entities, in the past five years career services and alumni relations are merging offices and creating alumni volunteering opportunities tied to the career narrative to increase placement, career readiness, alumni engagement and donations.
CampusTap explored this early-stage development in the recently-released ebook, “Merging Alumni Relations & Career Services Playbook.” In collaboration with staff from Longwood University, Colby College, University of Rochester and Ashford University, CampusTap evaluates the benefits of laying alumni volunteer opportunities over the career services narrative.
Time + Talent = Treasure
Providing alumni volunteer opportunities rooted in the career services initiative engages young alumni who otherwise feel there aren’t opportunities to give back to their alma mater besides monetary donations.
Including alumni in networking events, career panel discussions, executive-in-residence programs and mentoring plays to their time and talent, ultimately nurturing the third “T”: Treasure.
Joe Testani, University of Rochester assistant dean and executive director of the Gwen M. Greene Career & Internship Center, and his colleague, Assistant Director for Student/Alumni Engagement Programs Michelle Marks-Hook, state that young alumni who participate in career-related initiatives give back financially once they’re in a position to do so.
Digital Volunteering & Microvolunteering
Developing career development-centric volunteering opportunities is further optimized by technology improving accessibility.
In the past, alumni relations offices have depended on activating large populations of alumni in broader programming such as reunions and on-campus networking events. Digital opportunities allow institutions to engage alumni in sessions and events that are more convenient for them (i.e. webinars, virtual coffee chats and online forums). They cut out the hassle of coordinating travel and housing for alumni, and present year-round programming abilities.
The prospect of digital volunteering enables institutions to initiate yet another form of alumni participation: microvolunteering.
Ryan Catherwood, assistant vice president of Alumni and Career Services at Longwood University, has thoroughly explored the concept of microvolunteering, and he’s found it allows alumni relations and career services staff to cater volunteer opportunities to the career interest of each individual student. Digital and microvolunteering options ensure individualized career development by matching students with alumni working in specialized industries.
“The goal is — from the very beginning of college — to teach students that alums are accessible and willing to help,” Catherwood said. “We’re striving to teach students how to connect with those alumni who have specifically raised their hands.”
Elevating Career Development
In addition to other documented benefits, connecting alumni volunteering opportunities to the career services mission also maximizes an institution’s ability to provide relevant career practice and guidance, as well as experiential learning opportunities such as internships and co-ops.
Testani notes that Rochester alumni are an extension of the Gwen M. Greene Career & Internship Center, representing new and emerging industries, and tailoring advice to students’ unique career interests. This allows the university to educate students on available opportunities in any field of interest they’d like to pursue.
In addition, Colby College Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo recognizes merging alumni relations and career services under one umbrella has facilitated an increase in student-to-alumni mentoring opportunities as well as a university professional community where alumni magnify the efforts of career services.
After one year of merging offices, one quarter of the internships made available to Colby students in the 2015-2016 academic year have come from alumni and parent referrals.
As noted in “Merging Alumni Relations & Career Services Playbook,” it’s still early to see all the benefits of integrating volunteer opportunities to career missions. But we do know one thing for certain: This integration increases engagement by providing a broader range of volunteer opportunities in addition to fostering internship and job opportunities.
To learn more about how institutions such as Colby College, Longwood University, Ashford University, and University of Rochester are structurally aligning alumni relations and career services staff and marketing initiatives to create buy-in among students and alumni, download CampusTap’s ebook, “Merging Alumni Relations & Career Services Playbook.”