Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Engagement Wanted connects students with alumni

<rleton’s got an innovative new program, and other schools are beginning to notice.

Its name is Engagement Wanted, and no, it is not a plea for participation from frustrated professors or even a terse solicitation for marriage. It is a Career Center initiative designed to give seniors a head start on their post-graduate paths.  

Brent Nystrom, Associate Director of the Career Center, describes the program as “turning upside down the normal networking model.” Instead of students looking up individual alums in the directory to find jobs or advice, alumni and parents can now contact students based on student profiles they receive via email.

This winter, between 220 and 240 seniors wrote short paragraphs outlining their post-graduate plans and requesting advice about jobs, internships, graduate school and post-graduate life in general. The 2,066 alums and parents who signed up for the program receive five random profiles along with student photos every Friday. They are then at their leisure to decide whether they will contact individual students via email.

Career Center representatives shared this program at several conferences this summer and a number of colleges have expressed interest in starting, or have already started, their own initiatives. St. Olaf recently began its own version. Differences include targeting profiles towards specific alumni and choosing not to include student photos. Other schools that have expressed interest include Gustavus, Colorado College and the School of Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The program first began at Carleton in March of 2009 as a way of giving a boost to graduating Carls in a struggling economy.

 “It was purely a reaction to how bad the job market was and us thinking, ‘What are we going to do to help seniors?’” Nystrom said.

The Career Center launched Engagement Wanted 2.0 earlier this year, with added features based on feedback from parents, alumni, and students. Alumni can now search for specific sorts of profiles (all the economics majors, for example), and students can now post résumés along with their 500-character profile and photo.  

How many responses a student gets varies, as do the outcomes of these responses. Some of the communications result in jobs or other opportunities; others don’t.

But jobs are not the only focus of Engagement Wanted.

 “[A student profile] is a lot more than a jobs-piece,” said Assistant Director Jessica Mueller. She said the program is about “electronic networking” and “building around community.”

Nystrom agreed, saying that in an environment where people are increasingly hired by “internal referral,” the most important thing is forming relationships.

“There needs to be a relationship there,” he said. He has also witnessed how interactions with alums through Engagement Wanted can “[expand] students’ horizons” by bringing to light opportunities and careers they might never have thought of.

Because of the varying degrees of “success” in an interaction, Mueller and Nystrom said there’s really no way of knowing how successful the program has been. The benefits of the program are also hard to measure because the Career Center only gets feedback if students or alumni volunteer their experiences.

“We’re leaving it to the alums and the students,” Mueller said.

Some may see this lack of mediation as a drawback, and Mueller and Nystrom agree the program is not perfect.

“There are some negatives,” said Nystrom. Examples of these are alumni who have contacted students and did not get responses and alumni suggestions that students have found less than helpful. “There have been some weird [situations]. All the advice is not always relevant or interesting,” Nystrom added.

He and Mueller agreed, however, that these interactions can mimic the real world and offer preparation for dealing with future coworkers, advice or incidences that one might bluntly term “weird,” “irrelevant” or “uninteresting.”

Mueller and Nystrom did not have much information on what kinds of profiles get the most responses, but they did state that being specific is the way to go.

“The more specific you are, the better your chances are of getting something,” Mueller said. Nystrom said the same and added that “that little bit of Carleton flair” can also make a difference. He and Mueller urge seniors to come in and get help if they are unsatisfied with their responses.

“The smallest tweaks can make the biggest difference,” said Mueller.

The Career Center has plans to expand Engagement Wanted in the coming years. Mueller said she sees the program as becoming its own interactive website with blogging and instant messaging. The Career Center may also expand the initiative beyond just seniors and open it to juniors and recent alumni. Mueller and Nystrom also stated that making the program “better and easier for both sides” is a priority.

If you are a senior who has not yet written a profile and would like to, there is still time. Current profiles will continue to be sent out until August. You can find guidelines, examples and alumni and parent suggestions from 2009 online at the Career Center website.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *