Is alumni relations trying too hard? 

Dear Friends, 

Have you ever been at an event and it seems to go by in a flash? Or, met a mentor and suddenly an hour has passed by? This can be (alumni) life in full flow. 

This week I spoke at the Max Planck Society in Munich. My 30 minutes seemed like 3 minutes. The audience of alumni managers were engaged in the event. I was in full flow and speaking about inspiring and valuing alumni is my passion. 

What I didn’t expect is how my sessions unearthed so many new ideas – for me, and for the alumni manager audience. My session acted as a prompt for new ideas and connections. I feverishly wrote in my notebook directly after the session. 

As I settled into the flight later, I realised I left my laptop at the gate. While this frazzled situation will be sorted between me and airport lost and found, I realised this absence of a computer would force me to do something outside of the norm – no writing on the plane! 

I was too exhausted from my silly mistake to reflect, so I delved into a book. I am reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (fellow alum!). By serendipity I began reading the following: “As human beings, we are capable of extraordinary leaps of insight and instinct…Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.” (p.122). In this section he discussed how too much reflection can mean you lose the flow. 

In alumni relations circles, this can be the targets and metrics that can cloud the magic of an event. Flow is the catalyst to ignite special alumni moments. If alumni have these insights and feel the sparkle they come back again and again. Creating these conditions for flow sometimes means trusting our instincts of making an event or initiative special and not overthinking it. Finding passionate speakers, () especially alumni speakers, that can be relatable role models and increase flow. This doesn’t mean abandoning the structures that help get the resources you need, but it does mean being alumni-centric. 

Your challenge this week: 

For alumni-facing professionals: Stop. Commit to 30 minutes of your Alumni Friday today. Stay still and quiet for a minute. What is an alumni article, podcast or video you have been meaning to get to? Build that time in and relish in it. Meet an alum 1-to-1. Let the ideas and conversation flow. 

For students and alumni: Meet a fellow alumni who is trying to do the same thing as you (e.g. explore careers, find a first job etc). Invite them for a conversation. Let the commonalities (and differences!) in your experiences create a flow. 

For everyone relish and indulge this week. Give yourself a break, even a short one. I will too. 

On that note, I will be taking a short Alumni Friday newsletter break next week, returning fresh and furious on the 29th. Feel free to peruse the archive for inspiration! 

Yours in alumni flow, 


Quote from the book

“Sometimes even after reflective questions and curious conversations, we aren’t there yet. We need to find out voice…As we allow a hidden passion to surface, we bring more dimension to our lives.”

The Alumni Way, p. 120



Photo below: Dr Sabine Ziegler and I after the Max Planck Society Alumni Managers lunch, with Nobel Prize busts of MPS. Paraphrasing her, she noted (in flow!), they are the past, alumni are the future!
(And photo credit also goes to Sabine!)