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New career networking program brings together UMSI students and alumni mentors

Wednesday, 07/28/2021

The Career Development Office (CDO) at the University of Michigan School of Information has been celebrating the successful launch of the Alumni Career Connections program, an initiative connecting current students to alumni mentors.

The program was launched during the spring of 2020 in response to the impact of COVID-19 on the hiring market. As internships and jobs were being canceled, rescinded and delayed due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the CDO turned to the school’s alumni network for support. Alumni Career Connections has quickly become the CDO’s largest networking program.

“CDO recognized the need for students to engage with industry professionals and alumni for career inspiration, confidence and job search support,” said UMSI’s Director of Career Development Joanna Kroll who oversaw the program. “Our alumni have proven to be one of the greatest career resources for our students.”

The program virtually connected 120 information students with 70 alumni. In post-participation surveys, students indicated that their main goals for participating were job search preparedness, career exploration, gaining industry insight and expanding their professional network. Of all students who completed the survey, 100% reported that the program had helped them meet their goals for participating 

The program was designed to provide alumni with control and flexibility to meet their busy schedules. The CDO asked for a one-hour commitment but alumni would often sign up for more. 

“The pandemic proved to motivate alumni to give back and help students during the dire time,” shared Lauren Shackleford, career services coordinator and Alumni Career Connections program manager. 

One such alum was Deepak Krishnan, a senior product designer for SAP Software Solutions who graduated with his Master of Information Science degree from UMSI in 2018. Krishnan said, “In these difficult times - with COVID, income inequality, fewer jobs for international graduates and a testing political climate, I felt I needed to make life easier for those who are graduating.”

Alumni chose their preferred method of student engagement, including one-on-one informational career chats, mock interviews, portfolio and resume reviews or career panel sessions. 

Lizbeth Guerrero, a second-year MSI student interested in user experience design (UX) participated in the portfolio review sessions. “I loved the sessions because the time slots were short enough not to feel intimidating and long enough to get a quick and natural response from alumni,” she said. “ I think these were perfect for someone new to UX. I found the feedback to be constructive and to the point. I was given recommendations that I could immediately apply and others which will require more work, but will ultimately improve my competitiveness.”

The CDO is continuing to offer the program in order to represent diversity in students’ career interests and academic paths. They found that the virtual format attracted a more global alumni network and provided greater equity and access to opportunities for students and alumni to fit in networking around work schedules and time zones. 

After the first cohort of Master of Applied Data Science (MADS) students graduate this August, the CDO plans to invite MADS alumni to participate as volunteers this upcoming year, as well. 

The CDO is seeking alumni volunteers for the upcoming academic year. If interested in donating a little time to make a big impact on students’ career success, sign up here

For more information on the Alumni Career Connections program email the CDO at umsi.careers@umich.edu

 

- Kate Cammell, Writer UMSI