By Tammy J. Halstead, M.A., Director of Alumni Advising & Development
It is Homecoming Weekend! With a packed schedule and so many friends and acquaintances to see, it can be challenging to fit everything in. One of the coolest aspects of Homecoming is the opportunity to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in a while and to meet new alumni friends. In my individual consulting work with alumni, connections with fellow alum are consistently at the top of professional development wish lists. A deep and strong alumni network provides every alumnus/a with a resource for professional and career development exploration, at their fingertips. In my years at F&M I am continually struck by the openness of our alumni to share their experiences, insights, and advice with fellow alumni and students who are exploring next steps in their own professional development. Homecoming Weekend is the perfect opportunity to harness and nurture that network – both in terms of reconnecting with people we already know, and also engaging in dialogue with alumni friends we have not yet met.
Happenstance plays a role in many of the connections made over Homecoming weekend – you unknowingly show up at the same event as a classmate; or catch a glimpse of a friend with whom you’ve lost touch, across the Green. Throughout the weekend we all will have spontaneous encounters that foster new connections; there is nothing better than walking into an event and unexpectedly seeing good friends. In these moments, serendipity contributes to the fun and excitement of the weekend. While embracing the joy of serendipity, a small amount of advanced planning can enhance your ability to foster relationships and make connections throughout the weekend, and help you deepen your personal alumni network. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your time on campus:
· Check out the Look Who’s Coming link on the Homecoming registration page. From this page you can sort by class year and scroll through the list of attendees. Don’t rely on your memory – jot down the names of people you want to see.
· Review the Homecoming schedule to identify a few events that you know you want to attend. Consider using social media to share your attendance plans with alumni friends and acquaintances to increase the likelihood of both serendipitous and planned connections. Make sure to include a couple of events that are outside your normal circles. Events that take you outside your usual interests are prime opportunities for meeting new people.
· Make a point of building new relationships. Set a goal for yourself – “At each event I intend to speak to 2 people I don’t know”. Asking questions is a great technique for fostering new relationships, so come to Homecoming prepared with a few questions to pose to alumni friends you haven’t yet met. Arriving early or staying a few minutes after events provides quieter moments to chat with fellow attendees; and don’t forget to exchange contact information with new acquaintances.
· Play the role of “connector”. Make an effort to introduce people to alumni they may not know; invite new contacts to join you and your friends for coffee or a meal later in the weekend. You will be helping others build their own network while increasing the chance others may do the same.
· Follow up. Take a moment now to schedule time on your calendar in the days following Homecoming to follow up with connections. That follow up may include quick emails, phone calls, or scheduling coffee dates – regardless of the content, having a post-event interaction is an important way to maintain connections and it makes people feel good!