Alumni relations is a joy.
Whenever I speak to alumni-facing professionals, they share their joy connecting with alumni.
It’s satisfying, meaningful work.
Sometimes, it comes at a cost. Often, it’s a personal cost.
Alumni engagement is a hectic, always-on activity. More than a can-do attitude, you need a level of energy dialed to 10 (or even 11!).
By the end of the calendar year with holiday get togethers in full swing, that alumni sparkle, can be little more that a flicker.
Time to re-energize for the New Year! Find that sparkle!
Here are four key actions to re-invigorate your alumni practice for 2023:
Yes, take the time to celebrate your achievements and those proud moments. I talk a little more about reflection for alumni professionals in another post here.
Make no mistake this isn’t just reviewing those KPIs – key performance indicators are often for others to review. (and KPI can often mean Keep People Inspired, the ongoing mantra of alumni relations, which can be hard if the air is out of your inspiration balloon!). Think of those 4 or 5 key moments in 2022 that made alumni engagement, inspiring work for you. Give each one of these moments an associated word – a reminder of the moment- and put this on a sticky note for yourself somewhere. Dive in are my associated words for my immersing myself in the alumni research consultancy work Weizmann Institute of Science earlier this year – my first travelling stint in two years. Added bonus was enjoying an outdoor swim – in March!
Staying curious in our sector is a must. It’s not gravy to spend time learning about the work of other professionals, especially events, programs or initiatives that intrigue you.
Reach out to a fellow alumni/careers/students services professional or faculty working with alumni in a new or innovative way. Then go back to #1 and ask yourself: (how) can I adapt this practice here? Start an Alumni Friday practice yourself – it’s not decadent, it will make you better at what you do.
Our lives can’t only be all-alumni all the time. By stepping away and giving yourself some perspective with a hobby, sport, course is goldmine to develop your practice. I plan to dust off my sewing machine in the New Year!
Ever wonder why they say you get your best ideas in the shower? You’ve stepped away from your work – and the lightbulb moments (read – sparkle!) follow! Resolve to spend time on something new and this balance in your mind-body-heart-soul will bode well for your energy in your alumni work too. No harm in diversifying the alumni activities on offer too – alumni professionals need to spend more time as the conductor of an orchestra of alumni opportunities and events (happening across the organization) than the roadie hauling around the equipment and setting up event after event. Find out what ways alumni can also renew their mind-body-heart-soul at your institution that is a quick win!
While I’ve suggested NOT immerse yourself in alumni work, this next recommendation may seem contradictory. Consider volunteering your time or talent to your own alma mater (and if you do already, perhaps in a new way).
Giving in this way provides you with an insider’s perspective on how alumni are cared for and stewarded as volunteers. Becoming a mentor, writing a career profile or joining an alumni board takes time. The bonus? This giving pays off in how you view your own alumni relationship building practices. My focus this coming year is a new alumni awards program as I settle into my role as President of the Alumni Association at University of St Michael’s College – University of Toronto.
Second, spend a little time finding those alumni champions for your work – those that will give generously of their time to advocate for alumni work internally. Senior leadership within your organization, a respected member of faculty or distinguished alum who ‘gets it’ are the ideal. These champions giving of their own time and talent are worthy of our relationship building energy and generous stewardship. They will be there speaking up for alumni relations (and alumni!) when we aren’t there!
The four themes– reflection, curiosity, passion, and generosity — align to the four themes in my The Alumni Way book. They aren’t just the traits of savvy, engaged alumni, they re-energize the alumni-facing professional too.
Is it time to rediscover the alumni sparkle for you and your team?
Last week I delved into these topics in much more detail. I was invited to give the keynote workshop at the International Alumni Centre Conference at the UCT Prague in the Czech Republic. In the highly interactive session, we explored ways to build and energize alumni practices. With alumni relations still new and emerging, these points become so crucial (especially in finding alumni champions). The outcome was all participants went away energized, with a set of actions and the bones of strategic planning themes for 2023!