Seniors and Alumni Network at Annual Real World Event

Seniors and Alumni Network at Annual Real World Event

On Thursday, January 19, more than 450 Colgate seniors flooded back to campus early for their spring semester, where they met with 120 alumni over three days of speeches, panels, recep­tions and events. For most, their goal was to get a handle on what they might be doing this time next year when they no longer have a campus to return to.

The annual event, appropriately entitled Real World, has tradition­ally been a collaborative effort be­tween the Senior Class Council, Ca­reer Services, Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI) and Alumni Affairs. This year, Insti­tutional Advancement was added to the list of contributors.

“The point of Real World, first and foremost, is to make sure students have an opportunity to engage with alumni,” Interim Director of Career Services Teresa Olsen said. “Alumni are an asset to students, and we want students to see that lifelong connect­edness is an important part of Colgate. Another key takeaway is the opportu­nity for students to make individual connections that they can potentially cultivate over time into having greater priority for their postgraduate goals and ambitions.”

“This year, knowing that people are particularly concerned about getting jobs, we really wanted to make sure to rev it up and make Real World better in any way we could,” Senior Class Council Sec­retary Addison Miller said. “We especially wanted to make sure we were reaching out to people in our class who might not have known about it.”

Their outreach strategies seem to have found success, as the event had a record number of participants – 100 more than ever before.

“I am pleased to say that this year’s Real World was, in my opinion, the most successful cooperative between students, Alumni Affairs and Career Services in many years. Registration numbers, program satisfaction and staff feedback have all shown great progress,” Associate Vice President, In­stitutional Advancement and Director of Alumni Affairs Tim Mansfield said.

The sequence of events was thoughtfully designed to engage students every step of the way. Besides Senior Class Council members, Associate Director of Alumni Affairs Amanda Kalal and Alumni Engagement Coordinator Kim George carried most of the planning responsibilities.

“We try to make it a nice mix between specific career and real life learning opportunities, and sort of more social interaction between alumni and students. A lot of the interactions can follow what the learning opportunities have been,” George said. This strategy carries through all three days, though daily events vary.

“Thursday was about getting ev­eryone in the right mindset; Friday was about bringing the class and alumni together and setting the tone for the weekend and Saturday was more concentrated on life skills and transitioning from Colgate,” Olsen said.

The Key to Real World Success, the event’s opening night speech presented in a packed Little Au­ditorium by Bruce Crowley ’79, promised to provide “tips and se­crets” for maximizing the three-day experience. He offered seniors tips on what to do during the weekend itself, but also follow-up advice for developing relationships with the contacts they would soon establish.

“Real World is a unique opportu­nity…students need to understand how to engage and connect with alumni willing to help as they be­gin to evaluate life beyond Colgate. Those who master the art of the in­formational interview will get the most out of the contacts they initially make at Real World,” Crowley said.

Crowley’s own diverse experi­ences, as well as his background in student development and ca­reer coaching, give credibility to his career search advice.

“First take a critical inventory of your interests and skills,” Crowley suggests. “Think about the events in your life of which you are most proud – for those familiar with the book Flow, the Psychology of Op­timal Experience by Mihaly Csik­szentmihalyi – what are your Flow stories? How can those stories be dissected to provide greater insight into your interests, skills, preferred working styles and needs? How do you apply this information to make a more informed choice about what to pursue?”

Real World’s keynote speech was delivered by Brendan Tuohey ’96, founder and executive direc­tor of the non-profit PeacePlayers International, and took place the following afternoon. Though his life trajectory followed a very dif­ferent path than Crowley’s own, his story provided an applied ex­ample of successful answers to the aforementioned questions.

“It was a really engaging and inspiring speech. He was a flagship example of the unconventional but high level of success that Colgate alumni can achieve,” Senior Class President Pete Stein said.

Several more lighthearted, con­versational events helped to break the ice and provide networking practice for seniors. One such event was the new Networking and Etiquette Reception, in which stu­dents and alumni mingled as MCs Kelsey Hill Polifka ’03 and Bart Hale ’04 gave funny and relevant advice, like not to eat chicken sauté skewers because they’re awkward, and to remember to keep your right hand open for a handshake.

Overall, practical tips dominated Real World, which helped teach seniors the elusive skill of networking.

“While we’re often told net­working isn’t about asking for a job, it’s hard for students wor­ried about their careers and their future success to not have ‘Please Hire Me’ on the tip of their tongue,” senior Elizabeth Stein said. “Going to an elite, competitive school, students latch onto the word ‘success’ and in the same manner that students figure out what it takes to do their homework or get a good grade, seniors have been trained to plan and execute when it comes to their job hunt.”

“I came to Real World to ex­plore networking opportunities in the field of entertainment and production,” senior Andy Peng said. “I felt a great deal more comfortable with my job search after coming into contact with so many enthusiastic and personable alumni.”

While many students, like Peng, pursued specific goals, others came to terms with their uncertainty.

“I’m still not sure what I want to do with the rest of my life and it was great to hear from alumni who have gone through the same exact emotions I have,” senior Lau­ren Checo said. “There was a panel called ‘I Still Don’t Know What I Want to do With My Life’ and that one really made me feel bet­ter about not knowing or being unsure. It also gave me ideas about how to go about finding my passion and translating that into a career.”

Throughout the weekend a lighthearted atmosphere prevailed, helping to take the edge off of the inevitable senior jitters.

“Elisa Benson ’06, an assis­tant editor at Seventeen magazine, brought proof that her job has perks by handing out nail pol­ish during a panel,” Stein said. Benson, and other participating alumni, helped to reassure seniors that maybe the real world is not so bad after all.

Contact Rebekah Ward at [email protected].