Need help with career plans? Don’t forget your alma mater
By Seth Archer / Special to NWjobs
College career centers — they aren’t just for students.
Whether alumni have settled down in the same town as their alma mater or moved across the country, tapping into their school’s career resources post-graduation is an option worth exploring.
Michelle Leung, an alumna of the University of Washington, was unsure of what she wanted to do after earning her marketing degree. “I was a little bit lost,” Leung says. “There was so much at my fingertips; it was a little intimidating.”
So Leung turned to the Career Center of the University of Washington in search of clarity.
“They helped me gain access to a student-exchange program, which allowed me to have an internship in New York, which helped me land a job,” says Leung, who is now a digital marketing producer for AT&T in Bothell.
Though Leung is still early in her career, schools can also help those in mid-career and beyond.
“We do have alums regularly come back and utilize our services,” says Susan Canfield, director of MBA career services at UW.
For example, she’s helping a UW alumnus working at a Fortune 500 company make a career change. “It’s looking at his cover letter and materials; it’s making connections; it’s just … being a sounding board,” Canfield says.
Most schools offer some form of career services to alumni. A few local programs (click on the name of the school to visit its career-services site):
Like many career centers, the one at UW has a job database, and holds career fairs and workshops where alumni are welcome. Recent offerings have included “Networking for Shy People” and a photo booth for social media profile pictures.
Mock interviews can be arranged for alumni to practice wowing interviewers. Many schools have specialized employer-relations positions focused on matching students to job openings.
Some schools’ offerings go beyond the basics. Looking to get back on his feet after his tour of duty ended, veteran Ezekiel Anthony, 26, found job help — and then some — at Bellevue College’s Center for Career Connections.
Through the center, Anthony says he found a grant from the Veterans of Foreign Wars for housing assistance, and also got a job at a nearby Home Depot.
“Before I knew it, I was getting help with my rent; they helped me in a huge way,” Anthony says of the center. “It was incredible.”
Bellevue College’s Teresa McClane Jaswal, assistant director of the Center for Career Connections, says the center is open to anyone in the community, not just alumni.
“We do career advising at any time, and job help,” McClane Jaswal says. “We can help people with funding if they need to continue their college education.”
Lindsey Marx, associate director of the Career and Leadership Development Center at Ohio University, says all schools are different in how they approach helping alumni.
At her school, “we regularly work with alumni to prepare for a job search — whether that is providing feedback on résumés and cover letters, accessing our job-search database or reviewing a LinkedIn profile,” Marx says.
Some schools offer career help for a limited time after graduation, Marx says, or charge for the service, so alumni should check the specifics of their school’s career center.
“All of us are here to help students, and that doesn’t end when the students walk out the door,” says Canfield.