Volume 26 · Number 4 · Summer 2009
Jennifer Giblin ’09, Lindsay Hoffman ’09 and Joseph Ku ’09 (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
In this economy, networking skills are more important than ever. Mentoring by alumni gives UC Davis’ newest graduates extra tools to pursue their dreams in tough times.
By Brooke Converse
Thousands of graduating students walked triumphantly across the stage in a series of UC Davis commencement programs in May and June — straight into one of the toughest job markets in decades.
But many of these new graduates take heart from the career advice they’ve received — even before finishing their coursework — from alumni already established in the work world.
“I started using my networking skills and connections before I even graduated,” says Lindsay Hoffman ’09. She is interning for the Center for Leadership Learning on campus while she looks for other opportunities. She says she isn’t discouraged by her job search.
Before graduating, Hoffman belonged to the Student Alumni Association, a leadership and mentoring organization that gives UC Davis students the benefits of a Cal Aggie Alumni Association membership before graduation. SAA members also receive multiple opportunities to network with alumni in their fields of study.
“During my time with SAA, an alum taught me about having an elevator speech,” Hoffman says. “I immediately went out and wrote one for myself and now I use it all the time when I tell people what I want to do.”
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SAA offers a number of networking opportunities throughout the year. Among them:
Aggie Diner, held in the fall, an award-winning program that allows students to connect with working alumni over dinner. Alumni from a variety of career fields offer their professional advice and chat with students about their experiences both on campus and in the business world.
Take an Aggie to Work, a program that gives students the opportunity to shadow alumni on the job for the day and get a feel for prospective careers.
Take an Aggie to Lunch, which pairs alumni and students based on mutual career interests. Students are given contact information for an alum in their career field and are required to call and set up the lunch themselves. How the students choose to use the networking opportunity after the initial meeting is completely up to them.
Toni Alejandria ’08 says Take an Aggie to Lunch helped her identify her career path, though a much different one than her Aggie mentor’s. “During spring break last year, I was in New York City and had lunch with an alum who’s a freelance writer and had experience in the magazine business,” she says. “Talking to her made me realize that it’s OK to take chances in life, especially when it comes to something you’re passionate about. So I decided to run away and join the circus.”
Toni Alejandria ’08 rehearses for the trapeze. (Courtesy photo)
She didn’t run far, but she’s serious about a circus career. A past president of SAA, Alejandria currently works full time for the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, promoting events and networking opportunities as the regional chapters programs administrator. In her free time, the former dance major goes to the San Francisco Circus Center where she studies aerial hoop, flying trapeze and trampoline.
“In the future, I hope to be a part of a company like Cirque du Soleil or Diavolo Dance Theatre — companies that combine aspects of circus, dance and aerial arts,” she says. “I plan to continue pursuing my circus and dance dream until my body gives out.”
Joseph Ku ’09 says he gained valuable networking skills by participating in SAA.
As SAA vice president of campus relations, he served as liaison to UC Davis departments and groups. Ku says he discovered that sometimes he was the mentor. “I realize that I might be able to help someone else get where they want to be.”
“SAA opens a lot of doors,” Ku says. “Students who want a better future should join. It can help make them more positive and successful.”
In this economy, some recently graduated Aggies are choosing to delay their job search and go to graduate and professional school instead. Jennifer Giblin ’09 is heading to Washington University in St. Louis this fall to pursue her doctorate in physical therapy. “I don’t think looking for a job right now would pay off as much as continuing my education.”
Giblin says skills she learned while serving as SAA co-president will help her the rest of her life. “SAA has taught me to open up and learn from others,” she says. “I was and still am a little shy, but it’s helped to develop who I am as a leader.”
Her SAA experiences also make her want to give back, she says. “Even though I’m moving on, I plan to stay involved. I’d like to start an alumni chapter in St. Louis and stay involved as much as I can, because I know firsthand what an important role alumni play.”
Are you interested in mentoring the next generation of Aggies? For more information about how to become a mentor, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Brooke Converse is CAAA’s communications officer.