What keeps an alumni relations and career services professional up at night? Alumni and career relations professionals have some scary challenges to face in today’s educational institution environment.
Like most jobs today, the role of an alumni relations professional is a balancing act involving many moving parts. A typical alumni relations and career services department hosts multiple social and career-related events throughout the year (both online and in person), runs a mentorship program and manages a business directory—all while trying to maintain a cohesive “happy family” in which alumni are actively engaging with their peers. It can turn into a nightmare!
Read on to learn about the six biggest nightmares facing alumni and career professionals in the education space and what can be done to make their lives easier (and less scary!)
Manually matching mentors and mentees one by one (Ahh!)
Students and prospective students are more focused on what happens after their formal education is over than ever before. Some students may even select a school based on the reputation of its alumni mentorship program. While mentorship programs are fairly standard in educational institutions these days, not all mentorship programs are created equal. The best ones provide alumni and students with an alumni mentoring platform—an easy and convenient way to review, select and get in touch with potential mentors.
In a traditional, low-tech alumni relations office, it’s not unusual for professionals to spend days or weeks pouring over lists of mentors and mentees to try and make suitable matches—and the horror doesn’t stop there!
Once they’ve made matches that appear suitable, they still have to reach out to each candidate in person and ask if they are willing to take the relationship further. When that’s over, there’s still the dreaded task of coordinating meetings and schedules.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Technology is making all aspects of running an alumni mentoring program easier, faster and automated. An alumni mentoring platform like Graduway from Gravyty can help busy alumni and career professionals:
- Save time and effort needed for manual administrative tasks like mentor matching
- Set predefined parameters for mentor matching and then automate the process
- Free up valuable time to strategize and develop better ideas for creating authentic relationships between students and mentors
- Easily manage and sustain mentoring programs through a designated alumni mentoring platform
Tips + tricks for using Graduway
- Use Graduway’s smart matching algorithm to match mentors and mentees via individual matching, auto-matching or bulk matching
- Guide users through a prescribed program with milestones and communications triggered at the exact time needed
- Allow other stakeholders to run programs by assigning them as administrator, providing an autonomous environment with full feature accessibility
Working with static PDF or spreadsheet-based business directories (Eeek!)
Alumni who have enjoyed a positive experience at your school are often willing to give back to the wider community by supporting the businesses of other alumni. In turn, alumni who are successful in their field often want to help the next generation by offering advice, mentorship and, where possible, employment.
A business directory is great for giving community members an overview of what other alumni have achieved in their professional, academic and even sporting lives. It can also serve as a springboard for forming new relationships based on common goals and interests. But business directories are only helpful if they are usable.
A downloadable PDF or a link to a custom-built form like Excel doesn’t help people find the information they need. Manual lists can make finding the person you want like searching for a needle in a haystack. Most people are accustomed to using the internet to find the information they need and will appreciate a business directory that is more in line with that experience—colorful, interactive and searchable.
An online AI-powered alumni mentoring platform, such as Graduway, allows users to search for granular-level business information while making it easier for administrators to update the directory as needed.
Tips + tricks for using Graduway
- Provide a platform where alumni, local businesses and corporate sponsors can showcase their businesses and receive support from the alumni community
- Allow community and alumni businesses to access a pool of alumni job seekers to find suitable candidates
- Promote corporate sponsors and donor-run companies within the school’s network and offer exclusive offers and benefits for students and alumni.
- Promote key business owners through the “promoted business” functionality: women-owned, minority-owned, regional, etc.
Managing events from beginning to end without a clear strategy (Yuck!)
Hosting successful events that will attract alumni throughout their careers involves much more than just having a good idea or booking a nice venue. Alumni and career professionals must create a viable strategy that leaves enough time to advertise, send out invitations, share registration forms and collect RSVPs. A department that is always looking to raise the bar must track metrics.
For example, understanding attendance patterns, the number of sign-ups, or analyzing feedback can help managers and leaders see where there is room for improvement or if there were missed opportunities that could be addressed at the next event.
It’s possible to track metrics and results manually: you can post on Facebook and other social media channels and monitor the responses, send emails to your list and have a designated person chase up those communications and collect RSVPs, or email registration forms and keep tabs on who signs up on a spreadsheet. You can also hold a meeting afterward and discuss what went well.
However, an alumni network platform like Graduway makes the whole process much easier.
Tips + tricks for using Graduway
- Advertise, invite and collect RSVPs from one central location
- Automate the sending of communications at set intervals
- Use tracking tools and metrics included in the system to analyze data including which age, demographic or location were most represented at a certain event
- Gather participant feedback after each event
- Ask members to post their event photographs on the community page to build a sense of fun and community
- Use metrics to demonstrably improve performance—and have the data to prove performance to your C-Suite and investors
Becoming a bottleneck for students looking for job opportunities (*Covers eyes*)
The responsibility of helping students find jobs is challenging and multi-faceted. Career services professionals have to meet students to understand their employment needs and wishes, and then provide employment-related training such as interview skill development and networking workshops. Next, they must help students access relevant alumni (or other local business people) and opportunities.
Stage two can only be carried out successfully if schools and universities have previously invested in building a strong, active, and engaged mentorship network. Networking for business is a two-way street. Schools must stay in regular touch with local businesses that are in a position to help their alumni while simultaneously providing them value in return such as by promoting their business and interest to the school’s network.
When schools fail to build a broad range of potentially useful connections they may not have the right alumni and employers to reach out to on behalf of their students. This can result in bottlenecks where many job-seekers are in the pipeline but the school doesn’t have enough connections to help them progress to suitable employment. Scary, right?
Even if your school has built a successful business network it can still be a struggle to stay on top of the different interest groups you want to engage with. For example, you may run events for those interested in the legal profession but will want to manage this separately from your engineering or teaching-related activities. Coordinating the various needs, groups and contacts can be very difficult and inefficient without the right technology.
Manually connecting with and building your network through channels like LinkedIn can work on a small scale but usually fails when hundreds of students are looking for networks and connections to kickstart their careers at the same time.
An alumni network platform like Graduway that has been specifically designed for scaling and sustaining a professional network for each student is critical.
Tips + tricks for using Graduway
- Set up career-related groups on your network dedicated to certain fields.
- Allow job seekers to access your interactive business directory and be proactive in contacting potential employers. Solicitations that happen via the alumni network are more likely to be accepted than those sent via social media or email, because those on the network are already primed to help.
- Allow employment-seekers to browse the mentor directory and self-select the professionals they want to speak to. They can reach out and schedule meetings directly via the platform, eliminating the need for staff members to get involved.
Alumni communities that look like Yellow Pages lists (Ugh!)
Some institutions inadvertently take advantage of alumni communities by only reaching out when it benefits them (i.e. when they want donations). If your alumni community isn’t being managed wisely, it can behave like a Yellow Pages list rather than as an active and engaged community where people care about each others’ success. To build an online community that truly grabs your constituents’ interest, you must not only provide relevant content, you also need an inviting interactive platform across which people can engage.
An alumni mentoring platform such as Graduway will help you offer a seamless and inviting alumni relations service. From one central platform with one login, your members can get all the information they need as well as interact dynamically with other community members for social, mentorship, business or career-related purposes.
Tips + tricks for using Graduway
- Manage all your community-building and alumni engagement activities from one central location.
- Move alumni engagement initiatives from the physical to the digital space with a virtual platform that can be used to engage alumni anytime and anywhere.
- Engage your alumni community with a personalized feed as well as messaging capabilities, in-platform surveys, automated email outreach, interactive directories, and mentorship programs.
- Set up mentorship, career and volunteer programs that community members can manage themselves by reviewing profiles and self-selecting mentors and connections.
- Customize Graduway to reflect your school’s brand better and to suit their community’s specific needs.
Relying on social media platforms to unite your community without any analytics or insights (Nooo!)
The social media platforms we use daily are not designed for alumni relations, and they’re certainly not designed to help you build a strong community. While social media does have its place in the alumni relations world—it is particularly useful for publicizing events and for asking those who have not yet signed up to your platform to do so—it also has many limitations.
As an open network, it doesn’t have the exclusiveness and family feel of a closed network. People may not want to publicize career opportunities or request help on social media whereas they would on a closed network.
It’s also much harder to track what’s happening and build personal connections over a generic social media network than it is on a tailored platform where you can broadcast messages to specific people, and create as many private spin-off groups as you want. Trust and security issues can also be better dealt with on a closed, school-managed network than on the open internet.
Graduway—Alumni relations + career services’ secret weapon
Graduway is your force for building and sustaining online communities by providing a central hub from which to unleash the power of a school community across its constituents’ lifecycle:
- Engage alumni with a state-of-the-art virtual networking experience.
- Find alumni who are willing to volunteer and provide college and career guidance.
- Scale your mentorship programs and automate the matching of mentors to mentees using smart matching algorithms.
- Cultivate deeper relationships and increase engagement with students and alumni (which often leads to more donors).
Ready to maximize the potential of your school’s community and build an alumni mentoring platform that your members will want to keep coming back to? Let’s talk.