Photo by Cary Edmondson

A chance to share your expertise: Alumni offer career advice to students

By ESRA HASHEM, Student Writer

Fresno State alumni can share their expertise and offer career advice to a new generation of Bulldogs through a recently-launched online platform, Fresno State Career Connections (FSCC).

Launched through the Fresno State Alumni Association, FSCC offers alumni the chance to give back to their alma mater by connecting them with students who want their help.

Through FSCC, alumni serve as Advisors. Alumni create an online profile — which can be imported from their LinkedIn account— indicating their education and experience. Students then connect with alumni based on their career interests.

“It’s our alumni who are in the marketplace, they’re the experts, so they can provide more depth of insight to our students about their post-college career and those first steps,” said Matthew Schulz, who oversees FSCC.

Advisors share their expertise in three ways — through having career conversations, offering resume critiques, and through holding mock interviews with students.

Because Fresno State Career Connections is web-based, alumni can participate from wherever they are, at whatever time they are available. Schulz said FSCC is sensitive to alumni’s accessibility and the time they have to offer.

Through the platform, alumni and students connect to have online phone conversations, which are free of charge to everyone. Because the interactions aren’t face-to-face, it enables alumni living in any time zone to make themselves available to students.

“This is another way that we can enable alumni not just locally, but wherever they are — whether they’re in California, whether they’re in Wisconsin, whether they’re in Malaysia — to connect with a student,” Schulz said. “And in that regard, they’re able to give back to our alma mater utilizing their time and their talents, things they already have.”

Data provided by the Education Advisory Board

Alumni may review resumes and hold mock interviews with students as they begin to job hunt and apply to internships — increasingly important tasks for undergraduates, as 90 percent employers want some level of work experience right out of college. Alumni can also provide insight about which types of internships or job experiences employers in their field are looking for.

According to university research, in any given semester, about 1,000 students at Fresno State are undeclared. And while many students have declared their majors, research by the National Center for Education Statistics said up to 80 percent of college students change their majors at least once.

Alumni can have career conversations with these students who are considering different majors, want insight about a particular industry, or simply want advice from an alum who’s been on a similar career path that they’d like to pursue.

Schulz said alumni have advice to offer a range of Fresno State students — from freshmen unsure what they should major in, to college seniors uncertain about the path ahead.

“We’ve all been a student,” Schulz said. “College is a time when we start to see that the opportunities really are limitless, but that we have to make certain choices now that will influence the direction that we take as students and after college. If students are accessing our alumni to help them make a more informed decision, they can feel greater reassurance in the decision they’re making. That they’re heading in the right direction.”

Debbie Young, interim director of the Career Development Center, said that oftentimes, students hear about the importance of networking and building professional relationships, but that they do not know where to start or who to connect with.

“While students spend a lot of time focusing on their classes and getting their degrees, oftentimes there’s not a lot of time spent thinking about careers,” Young said. “And I think the best place to get the most accurate information as to what’s going on in industries today is through our alumni, and through connecting with people that are actually out there in the industry doing the job.”

She added that for alumni, “[FSCC] is this whole idea of giving back to the community that raised you. A lot of times, alumni want to give back and stay connected to the university — and it isn’t always financial giving back. Students want to hear from alumni, and it’s a very positive feeling for an alum to advise a student.”

To learn more about Fresno State Career Connections, visit fresnostatealumni.com/careerconnections. To sign up as an Advisor, click here.