Last month, I put out a call far and wide for people to book an ‘Alumni Friday’ with me.
What’s an Alumni Friday? It’s time you carve out every week to build your network and follow-up with friends, colleagues — and especially fellow alumni!
What a response!
On Friday 30th of September I had 8 Alumni Friday meet-ups!
The first one was at 7:00am, the last at 7:30pm. I sparkled some work in between these energizing 20 – 30 minute Zoom meetings.
They spanned students, fellow alumni, advancement professionals and even fellow alumni entrepreneurs across 6 countries. This was the exception to my typical Alumni Friday, usually of these conversations a week and follow-up.
Why an Alumni Friday?
My top 3 takeaways present excellent reasons to dedicate this hour a week to network building.
1- A Welcome Pause
We spend so much of our days on devices, multi-tasking, switching from apps that promise better efficiency. Amid this fast-paced world, the Alumni Friday is a welcome pause. A chance to give one person our undivided attention. To scope ideas and build human connection (the high touch without all the travel!). In each conversation last Friday I had an a-ha moment. Sometimes it was out loud and shared. Sometimes it only entered the world in my notebook. In any case, when we pause, we think. Our daily routine can entrench our thinking and a conversation can offer a reflection to illuminate ideas, offer insights – and yes! – help build our networks in the process!
You might still have your best ideas in the shower (another pause in our day!) but I bet an Alumni Friday would also do the trick!
2- Curious questioning to Passions
These Alumni Friday conversations were also peppered with curious questions. I got some doozies! How can I find alumni on LinkedIn and what do I do when I find them? That was one. Are my book ideas available in bite-sized videos or articles? (The answer is yes, watch this space!) I was asked about my career trajectory and my post-book plans. With curious questions I started to think about my own career and my work differently. Could I offer more stand-along workshops on networking? Yes! More thinking and the questions also helped to conjure some actions to build The Alumni Way business in exciting directions – I am grateful!
I asked some curious questions too. I met a student interested in working in Canada after graduation. I asked the simple Why Canada? The response and follow-up questions surfaced other career options based on his passions. More Alumni Friday career exploration sessions are in his future!
With the prescribed time limit of 20 minutes (stretched sometimes to 30!) the conversations are focused and positive. Sometimes questions aren’t answered – they hang in the air, their curiosity dripping down for the rest of the day. Asking questions with curiosity is useful – with colleagues, family, even when asked ‘do you have any questions?’ at job interviews. Alumni Fridays offer us practice for asking and answering curious questions.
3- It’s about you, but it’s not about you
The students, alumni and advancement professionals that booked an Alumni Friday session with me had a purpose.
The magic of these sessions is simple: both people in the Alumni Friday conversation benefit. The conversation could be career exploration, alumni innovations (even ways to bring my book’s ideas to more alumni and students!), but as was demonstrated on Friday, I learned from the conversations too. I made introductions and also arranged others. This makes for a healthy networking ecosystem. Generosity is key – it’s important to ask those two key questions: ‘How can I help you?’ and ‘Who else should I speak to?’
Bonus! Follow-up is key!
Alumni Friday is only the beginning – I made some promises and I am slowly making my way through the follow-ups! Some follow-up messages and thank you have already come back my way too. It doesn’t need to happen immediately, but I will be curious if the student I spoke to decided to go to Toronto or maybe pursue a career in sports management. A follow-up doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to be part of a ongoing conversation. Promises were made for a second Alumni Friday conversation – I look forward to it! For those of you I met last week- don’t worry I will be in touch soon!
Alumni Friday is building that networking habit- early and often – so networking isn’t relegated to a time when you really need it, like getting a new job. It becomes second nature, inquisitive and joyful!
Thinking of starting an Alumni Friday? Ask for 20 minutes and see where it takes you!
Curious about bringing an Alumni Friday mindset to your students or alumni? Happy to discuss with you! Book a time here!