You’ve no doubt heard of speed dating. Well, leave the romance to students on the porch of Lausanne — this is a different kind of matchmaking. Speed networking is all about career.
The WU Alumni Association Career Network co-hosted its first event with the Office of Career Services in November 2007. The evening of speed networking guaranteed participants would meet at least 10 people and practice their networking skills without the surge of insecurity that comes with introductions.
A survey of alumni in the Career Network led to the speed format. “Alumni want opportunities to expand their professional networks, and they have a strong desire to provide advice and mentoring to students and young alumni,” says Stacey Lane, associate director of alumni and career networking and one of the event organizers.
Many alumni who attended, like Brian Hufft ’01, want to give back to Willamette by helping current students. “I enjoyed offering guidance about the real world and life after graduation,” Brian says. “After the event, several students contacted me for specific feedback on their resumes, and I have continued to provide input and feedback.” Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from such interaction. Brian was scouting for credible candidates for a job he needed to fill. “It’s great to see that students are interested in this sort of interaction, too,” he says.
In fact, students were so excited, there was a wait list to attend. “I had fun with the whole networking idea,” says Lauren Andrzejewski ’08. “I was nervous, but the alumni were so friendly. Now I feel more confident about approaching others, and I realize networking opportunities are everywhere. Having conversation starters and asking for advice is enough to get started. Alumni advice and feedback — from career suggestions to ideas on how to decide what to do after graduation — was invaluable,” she continues. “Juniors and seniors feel a lot of pressure to make decisions, so it was reassuring to hear from alumni that you don’t have to have it all figured out by now.”
While it’s been a decade since Andrew Bernhard ’98 graduated with a degree in religious studies, he’s finally found a career that unites his passion for helping people with his interest in science: biotechnology sales. Elizabeth Howe, assistant director of alumni communications, asked Andrew about using the Willamette Alumni Career Network to take the next step in his career.
A: From the time I started at Willamette, I knew that what I wanted to do with my life was help people. I initially intended to major in religious studies and go to seminary to prepare for the ministry, but later I decided I might be better suited to being a physician than a pastor. So after graduation, I began coursework in biology and chemistry at Portland State University and got a job in a genetics laboratory at Oregon Health & Science University. In the lab I witnessed firsthand how biotechnology was already helping people in dramatic ways and decided to focus on a second bachelor’s degree in molecular biology so I could pursue a career in that field.
A: Because I am a “people person,” I knew I was not cut out for a career in the lab, and it was a real struggle to find my place. I tried working in marketing, first conducting research for a firm that invested in start-up biotechnology companies, then developing products for a healthcare software company. Both were great experiences, but I didn’t want to spend my career in a cubicle any more than I wanted to spend it in a laboratory. To get some sales experience, I took a job as a commercial real estate broker. It was fantastic to work with different people everyday. Prospecting for new clients certainly thickened my skin and taught me the importance of networking. Now that I’ve worked in sales and marketing, I have a solid understanding of the process from initial product launch to the closing of a sale.
A: People who don’t know my background often think it’s a dramatic change. It’s not. I’ve discovered two things I’m really passionate about: biotechnology and sales. Now I’m trying to combine the two, and I’m excited because I’ve found the way I was meant to help people. To me, that’s what sales is all about — not about pushing products but building lasting relationships. You have to prove you’re trustworthy, and you have to be a good listener. Then you can help people save time and money by getting them what they need.
A: Networking has been the critical part of my career transition. I’ve made connections with friends in biotechnology sales, met people at biotechnology companies through other friends and former employers, and discussed my career plans with leaders of biotechnology associations. I began by doing informational interviews to make sure this was the right career path for me. Now I’m doing more formal interviews with potential employers to find a company that’s a good fit. I’d appreciate new contacts to expand my network even more.
Probably the most helpful tool for networking is one I didn’t even know existed six months ago: the Willamette Alumni Career Network. Stacey Lane has been absolutely fantastic, providing guidance on putting together professional resumes and cover letters, sharing insight on preparing for various interviews and improving networking skills, and significantly broadening my personal network by connecting me to people through Willamette alumni. The Career Network has been invaluable.
Further your own career or share your experience and connections with other alumni by joining the Willamette Alumni Career Network. Contact Stacey Lane at 503-370-6748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awards and Networking
Jupiter Hotel, Portland, Ore.
April 24, 2008
Who says you can’t own a hotel if you’re a biology major! If you know a fellow WU graduate who’s taken an interesting or unusual career path, nominate them for an award. Nominations are open to all alumni, not just those in the Salem/Portland area. Call 1-800-551-6794 for more information or visit www.willamettealumni.com/ and jupiterevent.com
Willamette will host reunions for the Classes of 1958, 1963, 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1998 and the Jason Lee Society (50 years and more). Reunion highlights include class gatherings on Friday night, QuadFest with children's activities Saturday afternoon, and the Celebrate Willamette! dinner Saturday evening. Join your class committee to help make your reunion great!