In the current economic environment, a degree no longer guarantees a successful future career. Universities are now required to produce employable graduates, which means the process of educating now encompasses a wider spectrum from imparting knowledge to developing skills and attributes to be employable. The work environment too has changed drastically in the past decade, employers are now looking for rounded candidates who can do the job, maintain a good relationship with colleagues, fit in their organisation culture and have the ability to multitask in different environment. And to boost graduate employability – a set of skills that makes an individual employable, both alumni associations and career department play an important role.
Alumni reunions, on the face of it, provide an opportunity to catch up with old friends, regale each other with colourful accounts of their time at the university and learn about what their alma mater is engaged with today. But behind all this there is something more significant, it is the celebration – the celebration of power that education has endowed upon us and the debt we owe to the university that empowered us to face the challenges and succeed in our careers. Today, the role of alumni is different in this ever-changing higher education sector. Donating funds is not the only way to service this debt, there is more to do and most of them are inexpensive ways. All one needs, is the willingness to provide some invaluable guidance to the new graduates starting out on their career.
On the other hand, career departments provide tools and resources to students to make informed choices about their futures. The department plays a vital role in developing skills and personal attributes of students and help them to confidently interact in the work environment. Now that the higher education sector is changing and technology has revolutionised the way we interact and receive information, career departments have the responsibility to make students ‘connection ready’ as well. The career departments can make the students ‘connection ready’ by helping them with their resumes and guide them to create a strong LinkedIn profile. Career departments can then introduce these students to alumni for an informational interview, not to provide a mentor but to provide a new connection who is willing to help.
Traditionally, alumni associations and career departments worked as separate units, however, the best results for new graduates can be achieved when both the units collaborate. The primary objective of this collaboration should be to increase communication and identify alumni willing to help graduates bridge the gap between the university and career. Alumni and career departments should now focus more on connections and referrals. We all know how intense the competition is in the job market. Therefore, now is the time to recognise the influence the alumni have and consider the alumni meets as a career-opening opportunity. Alumni are not just the ambassadors of their alma mater but are vital for placement opportunities and for generating revenues.