Normalizing networking: Why alums really want to help students

Since before you ever set foot on campus, you have probably heard about the power of the “Eph network.”  “Networking” can be a loaded term – sounding daunting, impersonal and self-serving. Yet networking, or relationship building or connecting, is in fact something you do already and is key to success and happiness. The reality is, that in today’s job market, it’s not enough to keep your head down, get good grades and send out 100 resumes. You need to be vocal about your interests and career goals and build relationships with people in target fields. We could bore you with stats on the importance of networks in the current job market or how second and third degree connections factor into career success, but the reality is: Williams alums want to help you succeed … at everything. 

But, why? The College is more than just an institution for many after they leave the Purple Valley, and Ephs want to support the success of other Ephs through the value of their own experiences. Williams alums are dedicated, passionate and want to give back. They want to teach you how to “network” and prove it’s not as scary as it sounds; they want to help you make more informed decisions; they want to help you with course and major selection; they want to help you prepare for post-graduate life and meet people in new cities; they want to share their mistakes and life lessons. And yes – they want you to succeed in your job and internship search.

A main part of our job at the ’68 Center for Career Exploration is to make the formation of these connections as easy and productive as possible. EphLink, Williams’ first-ever mentorship program, has been thoughtfully designed to facilitate more and easier access to alums.  The system is composed entirely of alums who have volunteered to advise students, all opting in and setting up their own availability (as opposed to say, LinkedIn or the alumni directory). Alums customize the ways they can help you and how often; so, if you search and find someone who matches your criteria, you can be confident that they are truly available to you. There are currently more than 1600 volunteer Ephs from all over the world, in a variety of fields and with unique backgrounds and majors available to be contacted, and this number keeps growing daily.

If you’re hesitant about asking for help from older Ephs, we ask you remember that they were all standing where you are at one time, many just a few years ago. Keep in mind that you worked incredibly hard to get to Williams and shouldn’t hesitate to utilize the resources available to you. “Networking” is about using shared commonalities to achieve your goals – whether you have a quick question or are looking to build a longer-term mentorship, Williams alums are willing and waiting to hear from you. 

And, while it may be hard to imagine, you’ll be paying it forward to undergrads here at Williams before you know it. It’s all part of what it means to be an Eph.

Leigh Sylvia is the associate director for mentoring and transition programming, Mike O’Connor is the director of career discovery and Wendy Coakley is the director of alumni career networking.