Think about all the schooling you’ve gone through in your life – from Kindergarten to middle school, from high school to college – that’s 17 years of education! Now think about the most enriching parts of those 17 years; was it being lectured to on a daily basis, or was it the guest speakers, the field trips, and the networking events? I think you would agree with me that practical experiences are what round out a great education. At Wisconsin, one aspect of those practical experiences is the alumni involvement.
During my first few weeks in the Wisconsin MBA program, I crossed paths with at least 15 alumni, if not more, thanks to various recruiting events including the annual Golf Outing, sponsored by the Graduate Business Association, and several Brand Center company-specific recruiting events. And although it may seem overwhelming to most people to dive in head first into networking with alumni recruiters when everything is brand new and you have yet to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to be doing in business school, I found it to be an advantageous and early opportunity to establish relationships with alumni.
The early exposure to alumni was beneficial for a number of reasons: 1) It allowed me to build a relationship with this person, whether or not I was interested in the company for which he or she worked; 2) It allowed me to practice my networking skills; 3) It allowed me to meet people from companies I didn’t think I was interested in; and 4) If I were interested in a specific alumna’s company, it allowed me to establish a relationship early on in the semester, which proved extremely beneficial as the recruiting season progressed.
In my particular case, there were a few alumni with whom I established a connection early on after the first few recruiting events. They were kind enough to set up time to mock interview me, answer the many (many!) questions I had about their respective companies, and offer their advice on approaching interview season and choosing the right internship to fit my particular needs. The amount of time each person took out of his or her busy schedule to talk to me and the genuine nature in which they guided me through a process that was once unfamiliar to them is what has stood out to me over the last year and a half. I truly value every piece of information and advice I received from each one of those alumni, and I honestly believe that this network is what helped me secure an incredible internship and, subsequently, an amazing full-time offer.
As I look into the future and think about how I want to pay it forward upon graduation, I most certainly plan to continue the traditions of the alumni network here at Wisconsin. In fact, I feel as though I’ve already started giving back to our first year Brand class by serving on a second year panel to discuss summer internships, by mock interviewing, and by holding one-on-one meetings to discuss the interview process and company-specific information. Knowledge really is power, and it’s amazing to see that a little bit of your help can go a long way for some people.
The key takeaway is that this is a situation of quality over quantity. By sheer numbers, Wisconsin has one of the most extensive alumni bases in the country; however, it isn’t about how many people have graduated from our university, business school, or MBA program, it’s about how many of those people care enough to be engaged and involved in giving back to the program the gave to them in the first place. I fully intend on being one of those engaged alumni, and I encourage you to do the same.