Students make quick links with U. alumni
Career Services added a professional twist last night to the traditional speed matchmaking process. Instead of finding a love match, some students walked out with career-related connections from University alumni.
The fifth annual speed networking event gave students a chance to meet alumni in a fast-paced setting at the Rutgers Student Center Multipurpose Room, said Eugene Gentile, co-chair of the undergraduate committee for the Rutgers Alumni Association.
“[Students] have to learn how to network and meet people very quickly,” he said. “You have to get your ‘elevator pitch’ out very quickly to make people want to talk with you again. It puts them under a lot of pressure.”
In what looked like musical chairs, students and alumni sat in rows facing each other, speaking for three minutes before a bell would sound, signaling them to move over a seat and speak with another participant for a total of about 20 discussions.
Alumni were also divided into industry-specific groups, giving students an additional opportunity to make an impression.
Gentile said students learned how to present themselves to experts in varying fields that did not necessarily relate to their respective majors.
“Networking is not about finding a job,” said Gentile, who graduated from the University in 1980. “It’s about information-gathering. If you happen to get a job, that’s great, and that’s happened here, but that’s not the focus.”
Some students practiced fundamental interviewing techniques at the event, said Suzanne Troiano, who graduated from the University in 1991 and now interviews potential employers at her finance company, Primerica Inc.
She said an interview goes beyond what is found on a résumé.
“Whenever I do an interview, [applicants] have to have a great energy and a great personality,” she said. “Whatever they have on paper is fine, but what I do and what I’m looking for is a person with ease.”
An interviewee’s body language, handshakes, clearness of speech and eye contact are several cues Troiano and other employers pick up on instantly, she said. Speed networking can allow students to fine-tune their nonverbal skills.
Tammy Samuels, a career management specialist at Career Services, said students could find career and internship guidance during the event.
“I think it’s a great way for students to not only develop their networking skills but also find a mentor and definitely expand their professional network,” said Samuels, a class of 1997 alumna.
Gentile said the event’s chaotic atmosphere and constant communication among all participants are its highlight.
“Watching the kids and the alumni going rapidly with one another, the din in the room and excitement and seeing them gain contacts that they’re going to use — that’s great stuff,” he said.
Anthony Phillips, a School of Engineering sophomore, said he gained important information from every individual he spoke to during the networking experience.
“It’s not even hard. You just express yourself,” he said. “There’s no negativity at this event. It won’t hurt you in anyway, so I was not nervous.”
Phillips said it was valuable to see how University alumni developed their careers after graduation, and it gave him a chance to make advancements in his own professional goals.
“My favorite part of the night was when one of the ladies told me to send her my résumé,” he said. “I guess she’ll see if she can give me an internship.”
Yasmeen Fahmy, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said it forced her to break out of her comfort zone after the first three-minute discussion.
“Of course it was nerve-wracking. I was basically sweating the entire time,” she said. “I definitely got more comfortable as time went on. You learn what they want to ask you.”
David Prado, a School of Engineering junior, said he started figuring out how to present himself differently at the event.
“Going from person to person to person, I felt like I had the same intro,” Prado said. “So it definitely taught me switch it up, so otherwise I was going to drive myself crazy.”