As my 20th Reunion approaches, I find myself thinking about the value of my Smith education and all that I have gained because of it: knowledge, insights, skills, mental agility and connections—to the college and to the global alumnae network.
For me, the value of alumnae connections surfaced even before I became a Smithie. I have known Debbie Sosland-Edelman ’80 through our mutual community involvement for my entire life. A woman of great integrity and elegance, she has served as a lifelong role model to me. My youth group adviser, Karen Glickstein ’84, became my mentor, my guide and my friend and was responsible for placing a Smith application in my hand. I had my Smith admission interview with Leslie Mark ’83, who was—and is—brilliant, worldly, well versed, knowledgeable and articulate. As I think back on it, it was Smith alumnae and the desire to emulate them that drew me to the college.
When I graduated from Smith, I moved to New York City. Though I knew few people, I did not feel alone. Within weeks of arriving, I received a call from Cheryl LaSota Bundy ’88. She introduced herself, welcomed me to New York and asked if there was anything she could do to help me get settled. I asked her how she came to contact me, and she shared that we had mutual connections in my hometown of Kansas City, and that someone mentioned to her that I moved to New York. We had a great conversation and set a date to get together for a museum outing and dinner. During my years in New York, Cheryl and I got together several more times. She not only looked out for me, she also helped me to make connections socially and professionally in my then-selected field of banking, and alerted me to opportunities. I’ve never forgotten her kindness.
My Smith alumnae connections continue to play an important role in my life today. In early January 2011, I received a message from the college’s LinkedIn Group: “Resolve to network more with Smithies!” I agree. Whether you are a graduating senior, a recent alumna or a mid-career professional, the Smith alumnae network is a powerful tool. Here are some tips to connect with alumnae:
IT'S ALL ONLINE Use the Smith alumnae website. Here you can find the all-important Alumnae Directory to get alumnae contact and career information, plus read stories by and about alumnae in the online version of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly and in web-exclusive content. There is also information about club and college events (many held off campus), in which you can participate, including webinars and off-campus events through the Alumnae Association’s career services.
“LIKE” SOCIAL MEDIA Smith College and alumnae have numerous social media outlets on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, among others, and these are great for connecting, keeping in touch and staying on top of what is going on with the college and alumnae. These make it easy for others to connect with you, too.
JOIN THE CLUB There are Smith College clubs and affinity groups around the world. Find out what events are taking place and how you can volunteer. Not only will you stay connected to the college and have fun, you will most likely make some crucial connections with club members.
BACK TO CAMPUS Be sure to attend your Reunion; it’s a wonderful way to connect with alumnae you may not have known as a student and to reconnect with classmates.
PAY IT FORWARD Make yourself available to other alumnae. Post jobs or job discussions to Smith alumnae social media or groups. Offer to do informational interviews or give resume feedback.
Regardless of what you are seeking, it is a good bet that you will find an alumna willing to help out, offer advice and point you in the right direction. And avail yourself to others who are searching for contacts and information. The reciprocal nature of the Smith network and the relationships that you build are invaluable.
Alana Muller ’93 is president of Kauffman FastTrac, a global provider of training to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. She is the author of a book, Coffee Lunch Coffee: A Practical Field Guide for Master Networking, and a companion blog, CoffeeLunchCoffee.com. Muller has been a contributor to The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, CNBC and other publications. She has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, where she was the recipient of the Mike and Karen Herman Fellowship for Women in Entrepreneurship. In 2012, she was recognized as a 2012 Influential Woman by KC Business magazine. Follow her on Twitter @alanamuller.