Whitman students discuss employment opportunities, job market with alumni at networking event

Rose Woodbury

To schmooze or not to schmooze: that is the question. Last Friday, Sept. 30, many current Whitties decided to meet with past Whitman grads to schmooze and network at the Alumni Networking Reception.

With Fall Reunion Weekend this past weekend, campus was swarming with Whitman alumni from all years. The college held the networking reception in an effort to help current students make the most of this influx  of alums.

Over 50 students and just over 30 alumni gathered in Reid Campus Center where the reception took place.

Senior Spanish major MaryBeth Murray talked about why she decided to attend.

“I think that any opportunity to gather information about what the job market is like right now is really smart,” she said.

Director of Career Development Susan Buchanan stressed the importance of networking regardless of the job economy because of the kind of “insider information” alumni can provide about their fields.

“I think networking is probably the brightest tool in the box because in any job market, good or poor, it’s who you know, not what you know,” she said.

At the reception, alumni clustered in groups based on their field and students were invited to mingle with alumni working in different fields. Students were given the chance to gain valuable advice from Whitman alumni who have gone on to pursue occupations as writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, former Peace Corps volunteers and business entrepreneurs. Other career fields represented included international development, political communications and renewable energy.

Upon entering the reception, students were given sheets with “Quick Networking Tips” provided by the Student Engagement Center. These sheets gave suggestions on how to gracefully enter and exit a conversation, as well as examples of questions to ask.

The sheets suggested saying “May I join you?” or “I have a question on that topic” in order to enter a conversation. In addition to asking alumni about their professions and the job market, the tip sheets also suggested asking them how they got into their field and whether they could provide any contacts.

Many students attended the reception to explore what fields might interest them.

“[I want to gather] ideas about where to go next,” Murray said.

In addition to gathering ideas, students at the reception had the opportunity to enter into the networks of the alumni.

“You’re tapping into their network even if they’re not doing what you want to do,” said Buchanan. “Even if they’re not going to give you a job, they’re the key to being noticed by an industry or field.”

Alumnus Eric Scott ’06, who now teaches biology at a community college, explained why he decided to attend the reception.

“I just thought it would be fun to talk to current students,” he said.

Similarly, Lyndsay Troyer ’06, currently a graduate student in chemistry at Colorado State University, agreed.

“I think networking has a lot of importance,” she said.

Many of the students who attended left feeling like they gained some insight into post-graduate life.

“The student as a job seeker will be far more knowledgeable as far as the jobs they’re seeking,” Buchanan said.