This past autumn, I dropped my daughter off at college (no, not here) and a few days later drove to Colgate for my first Alumni Council meeting. It has been an interesting few months as I’ve experienced college again, both through my daughter’s eyes and as a member of the Alumni group advising the University. Through both of these lenses, I’ve thought back to my days at Colgate, how the school has changed and how it has stayed the same.
In a cursory view, one of the most impressive changes is the support the University and alumni are providing in the areas of career planning and networking with alumni. The Real World, SophoMORE Connections, A Day in the Life, Thought Into Action and Professional Networks Programs are at the leading edge of career planning in the country. I believe Colgate alumni are and always have been inclined to help current students, but these programs provide the structure to allow relationships between students and alumni to happen much more often and in far more natural settings. I encourage you to take full advantage of these opportunities. You may not see the connection right away between what you want to do and what these programs offer but I urge you to think more deeply. No matter what you do in life, you will need to create relationships and sell your ideas. A Colgate degree and an impressive GPA will likely get you interviews but once you’re in the interview room, you’ll need to connect with the interviewer and impress him or her with your ideas, passion, drive and personality. Once on the job, these traits will be even more critical to your success. Developing these interpersonal skills is critical to a college student’s development and, increasingly, Colgate is offering a plethora of opportunities to do so.
In addition to the formal programs outlined above, I suggest you reach out to Colgate alums in other ways: utilize Linkedin; attend alumni events in your home town over the summer; employ alumni directories; search the internet and be creative in finding and meeting Colgate alumni all over the world. Remember, only a very small percentage of Colgate alumni participate in the formal programs listed above. To find everyone else will require some digging but it is likely to pay off in one form or another.
While I’m giving advice, I’ll offer a few other thoughts. Every semester, try to meet new people. Take a few classes outside your comfort zone. Work very hard to pursue a career you are passionate about and not one that’s in vogue or that your friends are following. It’s hard to chart your own course but you’re so much more likely to find happiness if you love what you do.
To this day, my wife (also Colgate ’84) and I talk about what we learned outside the classroom at Colgate: The relationships with professors; how to work a room and initiate/develop personal connections and especially meeting and learning from alumni. Outside of your parents, alumni are likely to be your biggest supporters and truly want to help and see you succeed. This relationship between alumni and current Colgate students hasn’t changed in decades. But, the opportunities to connect through institutionalized programs and technology makes it easier than ever. Good luck.