Beloiters Helping Beloiters is ‘Matchmaking at its Finest’
Sometimes something beautiful emerges out of a crisis.
Take Beloiters Helping Beloiters, for instance. The new networking effort carefully matches small groups of alumni volunteers with 2020 graduates who are entering the job market in the midst of a pandemic. The alumni serve as coaches, champions, and mentors, and give Beloit graduates a boost as they begin their job searches at a challenging moment.
The project launched rapidly in early April, with leadership from Beloit’s Alumni Board and college staff managing existing career frameworks, such as Beloit’s new Channels program, Career and Community Engagement Center, Alumni and Parent Relations, and the Provost’s Office.
Alumni assist new graduates by sharing their professional networks, coaching and mentoring, and committing time to offer encouragement and support.
“A lot of alumni want to help and be active, but most only recognize donations as one possible avenue,” says Joe Brambil’16, who serves on the Alumni Board and the steering team behind the initiative. “This really opens up a lot of creative lanes for people to participate.”
When Alumni Board Vice President Tim Smith’91 asked for alumni volunteers in a post to an alumni Facebook group in April, he was greeted with approximately 150 responses almost overnight.
Alumni board members like Linda Appleby’83 say alumni have always been interested in assisting new Beloiters, but the pandemic’s effect on the job market mobilized everyone quickly. Brooks Riendl’99, Beloit’s Alumni Board president, agrees. “This is something we have talked about for a long time,” Riendl says. “When I heard about this, I was 100 percent on board.” Both Appleby and Riendl are serving on the steering team.
How it Started
The initiative originated out of a class called Navigating Your (Business) Career. Matt Laszlo’92 was teaching the course this spring as Beloit’s inaugural Executive in Residence, a new post within the economics department. Like the rest of Beloit’s faculty, Laszlo had to turn on a dime when the new coronavirus disrupted his in-person courses. He redesigned the second half of the course to focus on how an organization responds to a crisis. He saw the problem-solving approach as an opportunity for students to learn from what was happening around them, as well as providing a way for them to process the crisis.
“I wanted students to start thinking this way,” says Laszlo. “Let’s say we were in charge of the college right now. What would be most critical?”
His students generated a couple dozen suggestions, and Laszlo raised the stakes by pledging to present their proposals to Provost Eric Boynton. Many of the class’s suggestions were already being addressed, but graduating seniors were especially concerned about building enough networks to sustain a prolonged job search. That’s what hatched Beloiters Helping Beloiters.
As of this writing, 111 alumni were signed on to the project, and 96 newly minted graduates were participating, which is 31 percent of the graduating class.
To facilitate small group matches, students initially filled out a couple of surveys, while the steering team helped create clusters of alumni in specific professions.
The Career Center mined student appointment data and drew on personal relationships staff have with students to make the matches. Laszlo says a great deal of personal knowledge factored into connecting new graduates and alumni. “We really tried to curate and personalize the matches,” says Laszlo. “This is much more than matches on paper—this is matchmaking at its finest.”
Landing that First Job
Even with the program barely off the ground, students were making good use of the assist from alumni. Christopher Mazza’20, who’s in a cluster focused on business and entrepreneurship, says he’s already interacted with 10 to 15 alumni through the program, and some, including Laszlo, have helped him extend his network beyond the alumni community.
With two marketing internships under his belt and plenty of hands-on experience in Beloit’s entrepreneurship center, Mazza had started an early job search last fall. He recognizes the pandemic is going to set him back in the short-term, but his long term goal remains the same: to land a full-time role in communications or marketing.
He says he appreciates the efforts of Beloiters Helping Beloiters.
“I think this is something that the college should be doing,” Mazza says, “and it’s something that meets the moment of the coronavirus pandemic, but I don’t think it should stop after the pandemic has ended.”
And it won’t. Although this pilot effort coalesced quickly to respond to an urgent situation, Beloit was already developing professional networks for students to tap into as part of its new Career Channels program and the college’s Career and Community Engagement Center.
Director of Alumni Relations Sharman Turner describes this summer’s level of involvement for alumni as “a big ask and a big commitment.” She says that from now through Labor Day, the program will be running in high gear.
Recognizing that not all alumni could commit to volunteering with this intensity, the Career Center developed a menu of other ways alumni could help, such as posting jobs and internships available at their organizations. Even reviewing a student’s résumé over email with an eye toward a specific industry could take as little as an hour.
While this summer’s Beloiters Helping Beloiters program is already up and running, alumni are encouraged to contact the Alumni and Parent Relations Office or the Career and Community Engagement Center if they have interests in future mentoring initiatives.