Year of Graduation: 2011
Current Position: Alumni Relations Officer
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.
Recently I returned to Collegeville accepting the position of Alumni Relations Officer in the Saint John's Institutional Advancement department. I am one of four staff members in the alumni relations department at SJU and the broadest description of my position is that I am the liaison between Saint John's and the school's alumni. In more detail I work very closely with what the SJU Alumni Association calls our Chapters and Clubs. Chapters are groups of alumni who are in the same region that host events and provide a network for alumni to be a part of. Clubs are very similar except they relate to things that are a common interest, examples include a Johnnie Basketball Alumni Club, a Politics and Public Policy Club, an Ultimate Frisbee Alumni Club, and so on. My job with the chapters and clubs is to help them plan and host events, provide them with resources such as names, contact information and mailing lists, among other things, and make sure that we have strong alumni volunteer support across the nation. I also help with the planning and execution of major events such as Homecoming, the Johnnie Standup, the SJU Red Ride, the Alumni Summit, and various other events.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
As the last semester of my college career came to a close, I had my mind set on working in the cycling industry. I had obtained a sales position at Erik's Bike Shop in Roseville and found myself right on track with my dream. In the back of my mind though, I knew that my backup would hopefully revolve around working for a non-profit, college, university, school, etc. I spent three months working for Erik's in Roseville as a Sales Associate before I took an Assistant Manager position at their Dinkytown location. I found that I loved working with bikes, the customers, and my coworkers, but the pay wasn't very sustainable and the hours were all over the place. I had been applying to positions at other colleges and universities in the Twin Cities throughout July and August to no avail and in late August I was given an interview at Saint John's and about a month later I was offered and accepted the position.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
To students interested in working in secondary education in general, don't give up. I sent out over 25 applications before I received the interview at SJU, so persistence is something to utilize. If you are interested in a specific position that you see on campus such as alumni relations, admissions, academic advising, etc., don't hesitate to reach out to the staff member and set up a meeting to talk with them about what they do, what they did to get there and what they recommend. It is helpful to hear the prospective of people currently working in a field you are interested in and I have found that many staff and faculty members at SJU are more than willing to help.
What really helped me in the general sense of finding a job post-college was the use of our vast alumni network. I worked out an interview with Erik's through an SJU alum and the same happened with my current position at SJU. Utilize that network, take advantage of networking events that are held on and off campus and utilize programs like Take a Johnnie to Lunch. Connect with alumni, most enjoy helping students and also enjoy talking about their jobs and time spent at SJU.
What skills are important in your field?
In my field good communication skills are key. Every day I am calling someone on the phone, drafting emails, writing thank you notes or meeting our alumni in person. Knowing how to phrase things and just knowing what to say and when to say it is something that is very important to alumni relations. It is not all about talking, writing, and typing though, listening is a huge part of the communication process, so being a good listener is very important as well. As a senior at SJU I took a media writing course and I use the things I learned in that class every day, knowing how to write correctly is important as well. I received my degree in Communication from SJU and I use the skills I learned in my major courses daily. Public speaking, persuasion, media writing, new media and rhetoric are all topics I covered in an upper-division communication course and they are all things that I use on the job.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I look back on my time at SJU and wish that I had been involved in more. Take advantage of all of the clubs and events. Participating in the debate club, the student government, politics and a pint, the Nordic ski club, etc., these clubs and events could lead you to participating in something that you never thought you would be able to and they will help you develop relations with other current students and alumni that will be very important to you in the future. Get involved and stay involved.
Study abroad one way or another. The CSB/SJU study abroad program is so beneficial. I look back on my time in Ireland and realize how much that it shaped my perspectives, future learning, and ideas. Whether it is a semester long trip or a May term, do your best to get abroad. When you return you can connect with others who have attended these programs before you. I have found that there is no conversation starter with other Johnnies and Bennies like saying that you spent time abroad, even if you didn't go to the same place. When you are abroad you can also take advantage of volunteer or internship opportunities (which you should do domestically as well). Volunteering and interning abroad looks good to future employers and it gives you vital experience. If nothing else, studying abroad is an extraordinary experience and gives students the opportunity to expand their world and perspective.
I don't want this to sound like the Career Resource Center paid me for a plug in this write up, because they didn't, seriously, take advantage of what the CRC has to offer, and do it every year you are at SJU. I started to utilize the CRC as a Junior and by started I mean I may have entered the facility once, maybe twice. My senior year as I was scrambling to assemble some semblance of an idea for post-graduation, I spent time in the CRC researching alumni, honing my resume and learning how to write a cover letter. Do this early on, I can't stress how important connections and a strong resume are, let the CRC help you.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of working in alumni relations at SJU is seeing our alumni having an awesome time, reliving their days at SJU with their friends and classmates and all in all revisiting how much this place in Central Minnesota meant to them. Seeing and making people happy is something that will always be rewarding me.