|Business Link: Student-Led Initiative Connects Students and Alumni|
|When School of Business students seek specific career advice, one vital source is the school's alumni.|
When School of Business students seek specific career advice, one vital source is the school's alumni. Just one year ago, Randy Williams '78 wanted to strengthen those informal networks. He found a small group of students eager to help create a formal student-alumni networking group called Business Link. Business Link has grown from four students a year ago into an organization of more than 30 School of Business students and alumni, faculty, and administrators dedicated to providing students internships, networking, and career planning.
Students graduating into a post-recession job market need to set career goals early in their education, says Williams, a business development specialist who founded WMS Consulting in Fayetteville, New York, in 2003. They need to assume more responsibility sooner in planning a career.
"Today jobs are scarce, and competition is high," Williams says. "Competitive students know their career options, are decisive about their career path, and land meaningful internships in their field of interest, starting freshman or sophomore year. Many IC Business School alumni can provide students such guidance."
Students like Jon Leister, a senior, understood the benefits of obtaining business-specific advice. "A program like Business Link is for only the Business School and it focuses on the connections students can make through alumni," he explains.
Last spring, Leister and fellow students Matt Hutton, Caitlyn Reinecker, and Jess Sprung presented their ideas to the Business Advisory Council, the alumni group that advises the school's dean and of which Williams is a member. A scheduled 15-minute meeting lasted for more than an hour and resulted in the council's enthusiastic endorsement, said Reinecker.
Of the 40 business students who attended an informational session in September, 30 immediately joined Business Link. During fall semester, Business Link offered a networking seminar; a networking reception with eight alumni; mock interviews and critiques of resumes; a presentation by Chris LaCroix '79, a Business Advisory Council member and retired managing director of LSV Asset Management; and prepared students who would be attending various networking nights during winter break.
"Business Link can expose students to different options that exist and match them with a goal that suits them,” says junior Justine Stohler. It conducts workshops on writing a resume and cover letter, creating a profile on LinkedIn, interviewing, and dressing appropriately. Stohler is working on a finance career brochure to outline positions available in financial services.
A goal this semester is establishing School of Business clubs in various cities, beginning in Syracuse. Reinecker and Leister will propose the concept to alumni at a professions dinner in March. They also want to organize professional luncheons on campus with alumni.
“Connecting students with alumni as mentors in the same career field is another important task we will be undertaking,” says Reinecker, a junior.
Hutton, a 2009 graduate and an analyst at Macquarie Capital Advisors in Buffalo, stresses the importance of learning how to network and create relationships that can last for years. Business Link, he says, allows students to become comfortable talking to a successful alumnus: "This skill will become increasingly important to students once they begin their careers in the real world."
For Stohler, who shifted her major from physics to finance at the end of sophomore year, mentoring is vital: "I've learned it is imperative to start early with networking and getting internships. I see Business Link as the most important tool a student can utilize."
With more than 700 students in the School of Business, the need for alumni activity in Business Link remains high.
"I believe that just about any working IC alum can come up with meaningful internship assignments for IC students," says Williams. "Opportunity is only limited by the imagination, and students like being challenged."