Like any graduate student, I was skeptical about the role networking would play in my academic schedule at American University. But, at the student-alumni events I attended my first semester, I learned that true networking is about the personal connections you make. So forget the fancy reception rooms and high-powered lunches, real AU wonks can network anywhere: including next to the giant panda habitat at the National Zoo.
One event I attended to build my networking skills was the annual SIS Deans Reception, which brought 21 graduate students, staff, and faculty together with 19 alumni for a casual evening of cocktails and a tour of ZooLights, the National Zoo’s holiday light display, hosted by Dean James Goldgeier. Between appetizers, ice breakers, and a speech about the new SIS Office of Career Development, students and alumni alike felt the strength of the AU connection—as we all say: "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle."
While networking can be tough, I found that the informal setting and lighted pathways of the National Zoo allowed graduate students and alumni to truly come together. At the reception, I saw my fellow students meet alumni who worked throughout DC. Most students are only aware of a handful of career options, and meeting alumni who have paved unique career paths broadens our horizons.
Several of the alumni I chatted with began discussing SIS. Between recommendations about classes to take and professors to meet, I learned which skills alumni had learned at AU have served them best in the workplace. Perhaps the most important moment of networking for me was hearing about the job searching process from alumni who had been in the position I am in now. Listening to the tips they had picked up and the careers they have now made me more confident about finding my next step after AU.
Events like the Dean's Reception not only expose students to new possibilities, but keep alumni close to the university community as well. AU's office of alumni relations puts on a variety of events that bring students and alumni together. Students who are nervous about learning to network can use the SIS Office of Career Development to broaden their skills. Once you have your business cards, check out which upcoming alumni events are right for you!