Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If You Build It They Will Come

You know, I realize I should just get used to this . . . but I continue to be amazed at the willingness of Westminster alumni to stand up and be counted. Last week I wrote about the importance of relationship building over networking, and I pledged to do my very best to create an alumni network that is worthy of our alumni.

And then, without any more prompting from me, I got responses from young alumni around the country offering their help!
  • From the Bay Area, California - Chris Skinner
  • From the Washington DC area - Seth Longhurst
  • From New York City - Jessica Mertlich and Cassie Norman  
I feel like the guy in "Field of Dreams". Remember that movie? He builds a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield? Well . . . humor me, because I feel a little like that. I've been dreaming about what the Westminster alumni network could become (kind of like the Costner character did with his ball field). I have had this idea that by communicating often and well (like creating this blog) we could engage alumni all over the country and the world and do so in meaningful ways. I am thrilled that our first big "call" has resulted in alumni from various areas of the country stepping up to offer their assistance in creating a viable, and meaningful network. 

I honestly believe that our alumni have been patiently waiting for us to "build it". As alumni, we need just a bit of infrastructure (you know, like the ball field in the movie) and our alumni will come!!! The good news is that we've built the infrastructure. It now exists in a unique online community called  inCircle. Within this program, alumni can connect with each other in the same industry, city, or area of interest. We can promote the idea of "alumni hiring alumni". This program will also allow alumni to network with each other, search for jobs, provide career advice, or reconnect with former classmates and professors.

Like the "field" in Iowa, inCircle can be our field of dreams!

In the trailer for the movie (above) Ray's wife reminds him that he believed in the magic and it happened. 

Well, I believe in the magic - and it is happening. I'm so encouraged. Let's do this. Let's build this field of dreams. Let's make those dreams reality for our alumni. Contact the alumni office at 801-832-2748 or

The Alumni Network is OUR field of dreams. We're building it. Will YOU come?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Relationship building rather than networking

We've all heard the old adage, "it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know". There is a little bit of truth to that, but honestly, if what you know isn't much, then who you know really doesn't matter, right?

Conversation card
 For example, a lot of people get jobs, big breaks, maybe even fall in love based upon the connections they've made with other people in their lives. So who you know can make a difference.

But, honestly, anyone can just "get out there" and start meeting people. And I'm pretty sure you know some of those people. The people who have a ton of business cards but not many true friends? The people who literally "collect" facebook friends, but would be hard pressed to tell you how they know each of them? They may think they are doing a good job in the networking department, but they really aren't.

It doesn't matter how popular you are, or how many friends you have on facebook.
Real connections, and ultimately real relationships, are built upon knowing someone, not just superficial acquaintances or brief encounters and handshakes at an event. I know I'd much rather hear a story about someone's life than get their business card. And . . . I'll also be much more likely to remember them. I'd much rather know who a person is, what they stand for, what types of things they feel passionately about, and how they contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

If all you have is WHO you know, and there is no substantive "WHAT" to back it up (i.e., an honest connection, a compatibility, an understanding and respect), then ultimately it is all for naught.

For example, we've all been told about the power of networking. I checked out this word and found this definition:  "the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business." Did you know the word "networking" first appeared about 1967? I'm picturing all those marketing guys in the television show "MadMen" walking around full of self importance while talking about their "networking lunch". This is not what I'd call meaningful.
Salt Lake Country Club: A great venue certainly doesn't hurt

Networking is, on its face, relationship building for a purpose. Therein lies the problem. Ultimately, people realize that they are being "net-worked". I believe that is why both the word and the act of networking have lost their power and their meaning. Superficial connections are just that - superficial.
I've been studying up a bit on this, because in my new role as alumni director I really feel a certain sense of obligation to help our graduates find employment. More importantly, I'd like them all to find employment that they love and that provides meaning and purpose so that they can really enjoy their lives. In this economy, that is a tall order.

Recently we hosted the annual "Cocktails and Connections" event at the Salt Lake Country Club. It was a knock your socks off success. We doubled the number of attendees, and everyone had a great time. Of course, it didn't hurt that it was in a beautiful location, with good food and good wine.

And while some people there networked and were "net-worked", more often some real relationship building was taking place.

Westminster Alumni at "Cocktails and Connections"
The best thing about an alumni network is that everyone starts with common denominators in both the WHO you know and the WHAT you know departments. When one alumnus meets another, they already have a lot of shared experiences, classes, professors, friends, etc. At the Cocktails and Connections event I witnessed people beginning to establish real relationships based upon immediate mutual respect for each other, born of a Westminster education. This is the power of a true alumni organization.

I'm going to work like crazy to bring the power of a real alumni network to as many Westminster alumni as I can. I hope you'll join me. In the meantime, tell me what you think, give me your suggestions, and help me create a robust network that will serve us all well into the future.