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From panic to praise: Learning the value of networking

By Amelia Schoeneman '12
January 18, 2012

In the first weeks of last year's Career Network for Oles, Caleb Harrison '12 feared the worst — that no one would respond to his profile. "I was panicking. My peers were receiving responses from parents and alumni and I had yet to hear a thing," Harrison says.

Caleb Harrison '12 submitted a new profile for this year's Career Network for Oles program that launches this week. "I had always heard other students say they were hired because of networking. I now know that networking is an important part of figuring out what you want to do," Harrison says. Photo by Steven Wett '15.

Harrison, among the 300 Oles participating in the program last year, anxiously awaited advice and maybe even a job opportunity from St. Olaf alumni and parents regarding his interests in development, international law, and serving abroad in Africa. The Career Network for Oles connects alumni and parents with junior and senior students who share interest in a career field. Students who participate in the 3-year-old collaboration between the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), President David R. Anderson '74, and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations can gain a more concrete sense of what might transpire in a career path after graduation.

The dam broke two weeks into the seven-week program, when Harrison received his first responses.

He learned about opportunities in international law from alum Mary Kendall '78, the deputy inspector general for the Department of the Interior, and David Anderson '89, a partner of Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, an international law firm in Brussels.

St. Cloud attorney Ryan J. Hatton '98 directed him to an elderly rights organization in South Africa called Age Rights International. Harrison's contact there coordinated a possible interim opportunity for him to intern with a community development organization in Cameroon.

Furio de Tomassi, parent of a current student and chief of human resources management for the United Nation's Department of Economic and Social Affairs, gave Harrison the scoop on how to work with the UN on international trade and development.

Harrison's anxiety was washed away as nine substantive responses piled up in his inbox.

For Harrison, the responses from the Career Network for Oles illustrate the importance of making connections. "I had always heard other students say they were hired because of networking. From the Career Network for Oles, I now know that networking is an important part of figuring out what you want to do," Harrison says. Through phone calls and email exchanges, Harrison’ s contacts offered him advice on pursuing law and graduate school and leads on career opportunities.

Harrison was so pleased with his experience using Career Network for Oles that he’s participating again this year after tweaking his profile and career interests. “Career Network for Oles is a great way to gain insight into a potential career field and connect with alumni and parents who are valuable future resources,” he says.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or