This past Monday, February 11, Communication students had the opportunity to network with Marist alumni in NYC. This event was financed by the Mary Louise Bopp Communication Internship Fund, created by the late Prof. Mary Louise Bopp, who taught at Marist in the late 1980s, following a long career in NYC.
“I thought this event was the best one yet (we’ve run three in NYC) in terms of energy, engagement and participation. The students were very active and the alumni never took a break – a sign that things were humming and everyone was engaged,” Prof. Gerry McNulty, Director of Communication & Media Arts Internships, said.
The turnout for this year’s event was 34 students and 13 alumni.
The alumni sat at tables designated by industry (TV, Sports Comm, PR, and Advertising) and the students had the opportunity to mingle with them. The event was structured so that every 15 minutes or so students would switch tables to get in as much networking as possible.
McNulty and Deborah Porter, the internship coordinators, began planning this networking event immediately after last year’s event.
“We review the exit surveys done by students and collect comments from the alumni guest speakers. We distill that into two or three key suggestions for improving the next year’s event,” McNulty said.
The Communication Advisory Board came to campus over the summer and discussed plans for the event with McNulty and Porter.
“Fast forward to November, when we picked up on making arrangements for the bus, caterer and began drawing up a list of potential guest speakers. The Advisory Board gets the first invitation to participate, and then we send invitations in December to additional alums. By late January, everything was in place,” McNulty said.
The bus arriving to the city full of students was a little late, due to fog and city traffic, besides that, McNulty said he thought the event went very well.
“The networking event was perfect because it was a great way to meet very accomplished professionals, while still staying in the comfort of our wonderful Marist family,” Kelsey Odom, a senior Journalism major, said.
Odom’s advice for younger students is to attend these networking events, and to be yourself.
“All of those people we met were in our position once too and there’s no sense in trying to act like you have all the answers. This event was to our benefit, so use it to the fullest advantage and ask any and all questions,” Odom said.
One of the alums, Kristen Spirko, ’09, is an Account Executive at Taylor and is currently enrolled in the Marist Integrated Marketing Communications Graduate Program (expected to graduate summer 2014).
Spirko was pleased with the turnout of the event and how prepared the students were.
“I’m always impressed by Marist students, and this was no exception. Students came prepared with printed resumes and business cards, and most importantly, lots of questions. You could really appreciate the strength of the internship program at Marist in speaking with these students, who were eager, professional and enthusiastic about the opportunity,” Spirko said.
Spirko said that networking is so important in communications fields, especially for college graduates.
“Marist has a really unique alumni network that is so important to tap into. It is great that Marist is guiding students in making these connections, and it is the responsibility of those in attendance to follow-up with alumni to build the relationship further,” Spirko said.
After collecting anonymous surveys from the participating students, McNulty said that most of them found the event to be very helpful.
“We received a grumble or two about the late bus, but most alumni said they thought the students were serious and well-prepared. Most students said they connected directly with specific alum and plan to stay in touch – and that’s what we want,” McNulty said.
Networking events like this one will occur annually.
Spirko’s advice that she gave to students at the event was,
“1. Create your elevator pitch: Be able to market yourself in 30-seconds or less. Sometimes that’s all the time you’ll have.
2. Create a professional profile to bring on informational interviews: The top half should be an abbreviated resume, and the bottom half should be a list of companies/agencies you are interested in working for. Present that, along with your full resume, at informational interviews to give a better idea of the industries you’re interested in and prompt introductions to additional professionals. I learned this tip from Marist alum, Stan Phelps, and it works like a charm!
3. Use LinkedIn: If you see a job post online that you’re interested in, check to see if you have any LinkedIn connections. Chances are you do, and then you can ask your closest connection to do a formal introduction. This opens up the opportunity to submit your resume through a current employee, which is likely to get much more attention that one sent along with a hundred others online.”
Personally, I find networking events the perfect opportunity to introduce myself face-to-face with alumni who I admire. I keep in touch with all connections because you never know when one might think of you when a position opens, or who else they can introduce you to.
By: Gina Rose Sirico (Journalism & Advertising, senior)
*All photos courtesy of: Al Nowak from On Location Studios