By Janice Shellenbarger
April 16, 2015
Appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of IUP Magazine.
Building relationships through networking is an IUP tradition that alumni continue to endorse and promote.
According to Mary Jo Banks Lyttle ’86, M’89, director of IUP Alumni Relations, the university’s alumni form a strong network of more than 125,000 members around the world.
“We all know that IUP alumni receive a great education, and by recruiting fellow alumni for careers and internship opportunities,” Lyttle said, “they strengthen their own professional network.”
The Office of Alumni Relations offers many cost-free networking tools for alumni, including an IUP group associated with online professional network LinkedIn, monthly career webinars, an online community with a business directory, and a number of networking events at locations throughout the country.
Résumé review is among the services IUP’s Career and Professional Development Center offers alumni and students. Tammy Manko, left, the center’s director, worked with Quanisha Charles, a doctoral candidate in the Composition and TESOL program.
Gary Greenwood ’06 was a senior computer science major when he contacted Mark Anthony ’82, M’83, then director of the Career Development Center. Anthony advised Greenwood to attend some of the upcoming networking events. “It was my last semester,” Greenwood said, “so I went to everything I could,” including an event in Washington, DC, and one in Pittsburgh.
At the Pittsburgh Alumni Networking Night, Greenwood met staff members from PNC Bank. This led to his first job. “There were 16 seniors in the Computer Science program the year I graduated,” Greenwood said, “but I was the only one who had two job offers going into finals week, which was just unbelievable.”
Now overseeing new product development as senior agile project manager at software firm Confluence in Pittsburgh, Greenwood has continued to attend alumni events after graduation. “I had such a good experience with networking events my last semester,” he said, “I felt obligated to be part of it” as an alumnus.
Greenwood attended the programs IUP and PNC cosponsored in Pittsburgh, as well as many on the IUP campus. “I traveled to IUP and spoke to students specifically about business technology,” he said.
Davie Huddleston ’68, PNC Financial Services Group’s senior manager of diversity and inclusion and former director of campus recruiting, said that IUP alumni make up a large part of the organization’s work force. “IUP graduates are our second or third largest group, which is a significant amount and tells you that our students are highly successful,” he said, adding that networking events are an excellent opportunity for “gaining good advice.”
Stephen Shiring ’81, M’85, a faculty member in the Department of Hospitality Management, regularly accompanies students to events such as trade shows. “Recently, I took 42 students to the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago,” Shiring said, “and they were able to meet with alumni in the area.”
Events like these provide opportunities for current students interested in internships or alumni looking for new career choices, Shiring said. “I think it’s so important to have that connection to the industry.”
In addition to cosponsoring networking events with Alumni Relations, the IUP Career and Professional Development Center offers several other services, including career coaching, résumé review, and career fairs. Alumni currently have the same complimentary access to those services that current students have, according to Tammy Patterson Manko ’88, M’91, the center’s director.
Hospitality management professor Stephen Shiring, far right, accompanied students to a National Restaurant Association show in Chicago last spring. From left: Dan Williams, of Homer Laughlin China Company, and students Kristen Northrop; Rachael Felicion ’14; Aurora Diaz ’14; Dan Williams CA’13, ’14; and Michael Dercole CA’13. IUP’s Dan Williams later got a job as a consulting chef with Homer Laughlin.
“Networking events are valuable to anyone attending them for making connections and building relationships that can potentially enhance their career goals,” Manko said. She noted that alumni also can benefit from networking events by hearing about what is happening at the university. “It bolsters their pride in the university, piques their interest, and keeps them involved,” she said.
Current students benefit from exposure to alumni, who can provide valuable insight about the career paths they’ve taken. In fact, networking events are not restricted to students and alumni. According to Manko, “People are encouraged to bring a spouse, a partner, a coworker, or a friend.”
Diana Gomez-Franco ’13 was an accounting major from Chester County when she attended a Philadelphia networking event two years ago. “I actually hadn’t planned on attending but went as a guest of my fiancé, Antonio Ayllon [’10],” she said.
Current students were invited to come forward and introduce themselves, which brought Gomez-Franco, an honors student, to the attention of Jeff Gittler ’80, a partner at Citrin Cooperman, a top accounting firm in Philadelphia.
“We are one of the 25 largest accounting firms in the country and do not recruit outside of the metropolitan area, as we have found sufficient talent here in Philadelphia,” Gittler said. “But Diana’s great credentials were impressive enough to land her a position at the firm.”
After a year as a staff accountant at Citrin Cooperman, Gomez-Franco moved with her fiancé to Houston, Texas, where she is a staff accountant at FNC Technologies.
She attributes getting her first job to meeting Gittler in Philadelphia and encourages other students and alumni to take advantage of these opportunities. “I’m really glad I went,” she said.
How Alumni Can Help
The Pittsburgh Career Networking Event is one of several opportunities students and alumni have to make valuable connections.
While the array of career services IUP offers is known for helping current students to find work after graduation, those same services are also open to IUP alumni, regardless of when they graduated.
On the flip side, alumni who are established in their fields can also help current students and fellow alumni find work or advance in their professions. Here are some things they can do:
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