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Making meaningful connections

New Cal Poly platform seeks to create an enhanced student-alumni network

By Jarod Urrutia

Fourth-year student, Journalism

Cal Poly Career Services recently launched a new online platform that will provide students the opportunity to network with alumni and gain valuable mentorship.

Career Connections is “networking, made easy,” according to Career Services Executive Director Eileen Buecher, who noted that the platform aims to create an online community of­ alumni eager to give back to Cal Poly through mentorship, and students seeking to establish themselves professionally.

The platform was developed in partnership with the Alumni Engagement Office, the Cal Poly Alumni Association, the Orfalea College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Science and Mathematics, and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Buecher noted that Career Connections is an effort by Career Services to create new networking opportunities beyond events like professional networking mixers and career fairs.

 “Cal Poly has historically had a strong alumni community,” said Buecher. “They are prospering in their professional lives and loved their time at Poly, but we’ve realized there’s a disconnect. We needed a bridge between the communities of these great students at Cal Poly and our alumni who love Cal Poly.”

More Than Just Networking

Career Connections functions as a standalone resource accessible from students’ Cal Poly Portal and the Career Services website. Students will be able to browse alumni by industry, interests and geographic location. Among other things, students can direct message alumni, establish back-and-forth video conversations, and schedule meetings.

Buecher said she hopes to create additional professional advancement opportunities for both students still at Cal Poly, and those ready to graduate and join the workforce.

“Career Services already does great work with job postings, internship postings, career fairs and more recently, student and alumni networking,” Buecher continued. “But we needed a way to create community beyond campus and graduation, in a way not possible just through our events.”

Associate Director of Career Counseling and Education Amie Hammond added that career networking is critical for today’s students. Platforms like Career Connections allow students to jump right in and establish a foundation for the future.

“From a career counseling perspective and the work we do directly with students, it’s a great tool,” she said. “My career counseling team is constantly trying to help students understand the importance of a network in terms of exploring careers and receiving opportunities — internships, referrals, things like that.”

Hammond noted that Career Connections aligns perfectly with Career Services’ Career and Life Success model, which focuses on cultivating emotional intelligence, personal relationships and professional foundation.

“It’s more than just getting students a job,” Hammond said. “It’s about preparing them for the job market both short-term and long-term.”

“Any opportunity students have to have interpersonal interactions is going to further their skills in emotional intelligence,” Hammond continued. “The platform is all about interpersonal interactions, and we can cultivate students’ development alongside building their networks.”

A Collaborative Process

Buecher noted that the development of Career Connections was driven by alumni.

“The Alumni Engagement Office was vocal about how so many of our alumni wanted to reach out and help our current students,” Buecher said.

As a result, Career Services pooled resources with its campus partners to research and establish a networking platform that could benefit the entire Cal Poly community. 

“We realized it was bigger than us, not just a specific department or college,” said Buecher. “It needed to be done to advance the university, and add value to it.”

“For areas such as the Orfalea College of Business, which utilize mentorship programs to connect students with a suitable alumnus to provide guidance, Career Connections will make scheduling and meeting with those mentors both easy and accessible,” she added.

Hammond noted that Career Connections is different from other networking platforms because it features alumni who are eager to assist current students in all aspects of their future professional career.

“Through Career Connections, students will have access to alumni who have joined the platform because they are eager to have students connect with them,” Hammond said.  “This should help alleviate a common concern that we hear from students: that they are bothering or imposing on someone if they reach out.”

At the end of the day, Buecher noted that the platform serves as one more tool to help students prepare for their future – and help alumni remain connected to Cal Poly in a meaningful way.

“We see Cal Poly Career Connections as a valuable life-long resource for students and alumni,” she said. “They will create a sustainable community of supporting each other to realize career success. It’s a space to share knowledge and celebrate Learn by Doing accomplishments in the working world.”

Interested in supporting student success through Career Services? Make a gift today by visiting https://studentaffairs.calpoly.edu/givetoday/areas.

For additional information about Career Services, visit https://careerservices.calpoly.edu/

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