Alumni Career Services offers virtual networking from the comfort of home

No time to network, you say? What if you could connect with other Penn Staters in your field or geographic area without leaving the comfort of your couch? Alumni Career Services can help make it happen.

Since earlier this year, the Alumni Association's career networking team has offered alumni "virtual networking" sessions, employing high-tech options with a personal touch. 

Alumni Career Services has held several successful virtual networking sessions through its partner, Brazen Careerist, which was co-founded by Penn State’s own Ryan Healy, a 2006 graduate and the company’s chief operating officer.

Virtual networking is a little like speed dating, in format. And because participants are all Penn Staters, there’s already a friendly bond and a positive virtual environment. It takes three easy steps to get started:

-- Visit the event's link, register for the event and set up an account;
-- Log in at the appointed time and read over the instructions on the page; and
-- Hit “enter.”

Then, you’re paired up with someone for eight minutes and can type up a conversation in a “chat” format. You’re free to exchange information during that time, and when the time is up, you say farewell to each other. A few seconds later, the system pairs you with another connection.

Once the session has closed, you can access a “dashboard” within the tool that allows you to review the chat history with each person you talked to — and to connect with each via LinkedIn if you so choose.

Renee Petrina, a 2004 graduate, who works in Washington, D.C., but lives in and commutes from Louisville, Ky., attended a lunch-hour Penn State virtual networking session on March 18, the second one held. She teaches adult learners and expressed that she’d like to try multiple discipline chat rooms at the same time. Alumni Career Services has been working to fine-tune the networking experience to meet such requests.

“Virtual networking gives you the opportunity to meet with a variety of other alumni that you may never meet otherwise,” said Cheryl Bonner, director of Alumni Career Services.

“Virtual networking gives you the opportunity to meet with a variety of other alumni that you may never meet otherwise,” said Cheryl Bonner, director of Alumni Career Services. “You can determine whether you want to connect with that person in the future. Our goal is to organize the sessions by industry and geographic area.”

Darcy Norton, a 2012 graduate, signed up for the fourth virtual networking event in May. Bonner was involved in the session herself that evening and was paired with Norton. “Darcy said that she got so much out of the first hour that she wanted to connect for the full two hours,” Bonner told AlumnInsider. We checked in with Norton a few days later to get her take on the experience.

“I spoke to a variety of people, which was nice,” Norton said. “I talked to some recent grads, like myself, as well as graduates with years of experience in different industries. Those who are more experienced were glad to offer advice, even though I did not necessarily have advice for them. So, I definitely was grateful that they took the time to make suggestions regarding networking and job applications.

“I spoke to 15 different people and connected to some of them on LinkedIn. There are also approximately three or four people I have been corresponding with for additional career advice.

“All in all, it was definitely worth the two hours and kind of fun to meet fellow alumni from different backgrounds,” Norton said. “In my opinion, any help and advice is good, because I can take from it what I want.”

Bonner shared what one young man joked when she asked him why he’d joined the May event.

“I came for the food,” he said.

Alumni Career Services also offers another virtual networking experience: virtual career fairs. The first one took place May 28 with 75 participants. Check out the Alumni Career Services website for more virtual career fairs in the coming months or for other career-related services.

Contacts: 
Last Updated June 20, 2013