Working the Colonial network

All that rising senior and Class Council president John Estrada wanted to do this summer was intern for Anderson Cooper.

But when his resume alone didn’t get him a call back from the silver-haired anchor, he turned to Plan B: his network.

When Estrada helped out the GW Alumni Association with their “How Do I Become A Network TV Producer” lecture, he met the speaker Mary Ann Zoellner, a 1991 graduate and producer for The Today Show. Estrada asked for her business card, and she told him to get in touch if he needed anything. He did just that, and a couple weeks later, Estrada became one of The Today Show’s summer interns.

“I didn’t even know I was networking,” Estrada says. “I just needed some help . and a lot of the people I talked to were willing to help me out.”

These days, with the rise in college graduates, getting a job or an internship can be more difficult than ever. Fortunately, as in Estrada’s case, GW offers opportunities to give students and alumni a leg up through networking programs.

Besides the “How Do I Become A.” lecture series, the Alumni Association sponsors programs designed to help students network. Their networking nights, which are held in D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, teach students essential networking skills, such as how to introduce yourself and exchange business cards. The students then mingle with alumni and make use of these new skills, expanding their social network in the process.

The Alumni Association’s most successful series, however, has been the Dinner with Alumni program, in which a group of six to 12 students go to dinner with distinguished alumni who have included a State Department terrorism analyst, a Foreign Service officer and an engineer from a prestigious firm.

“That one’s 100 percent about networking,” said Andy Hill, assistant director of Student Alumni Programs. “Alumni want to reach out and provide advice, and students want to meet with alumni, because a lot of them can help them after graduation.”

In a similar vein are several other alumni associations tailored to specific groups of GW students, including Latinos, women and athletes.

One in particular, the GW Black Alumni Association has created a Yahoo group in which members are free to post job openings and networking opportunities, such as “fellowship hours,” which are gatherings created specifically for members to connect.

L. Trenton Marsh, the president of GWBAA, said he likes to partner with undergraduate associations as well as pairing up recent graduates with members already in the profession.

“(That way) when you graduate, you have as seamless a transition as possible,” he said.

Some alumni groups are currently going through redesigns. For example, the Luther Rice Society, an exclusive group where membership is limited to alumni who make annual gifts of a certain size to the University, is branching into groups based in particular fields.

There are many of these groups, including a GW financial group and a GW entrepreneurial group, and some groups like GW’s Entertainment and Media Alliance are up and running.

GWEMA is made up of successful GW alumni (including the producer of The Ring and The Grudge) in the entertainment and media fields who give back to the University, both philanthropically and through their time and resources.

“The group is still new, but we are looking forward to expanding into more internship opportunities and helping to find those first jobs for recent alumni,” said Tamara O’Neil, an associate director for the Division of Development and Alumni Relations.

“It’s really important to remember that every person you meet can be part of your network . and don’t be afraid to ask alumni questions or reach out to the Career Center,” O’Neil said.

John Estrada puts it a little more simply: “Just be really friendly.”

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