Giving back as easy as giving someone a break
Who can deny the first thought that comes to mind most often when one hears the term “giving back to one’s alma mater” is the opening of your checkbook. One might also think of donating one’s time, be it through volunteering to serve on the Association of Rice Alumni board of directors, interviewing prospective students via Rice Alumni Volunteers for Admission or spearheading a committee in a regional alumni group.
Yet there is another area that is often overlooked: mentorship and career outreach.
I remember as a senior back in 2012 walking into the career fair in the Rice Memorial Center whose offerings were either in consulting or engineering, neither of which suited my humanities background. Of course, that is not today’s Rice — the recent addition of buildings in such a short burst of time suggests that much — but I should hope there have also been strides made in the companies present now at Tudor Fieldhouse. And indeed, there have been noticeable, laudable changes elsewhere: The addition of the “internship and practica” page on the School of Humanities website and Sallyportal are much needed.
We alumni, however, must also do our part to support these efforts, current students and other alumni — and no, you are not too ‘busy’ to help. While anecdotal, I cannot recall the number of stories I have heard from other alumni in their networking efforts of anemic affinity groups or unresponsive peers, all the more baffling when their profiles on Sallyportal state that they are willing to help.
We need to offer more types of opportunities in more industries to applicants with more diverse educational backgrounds, and that will come only when we in positions of power use it responsibly and altruistically. Power does also not have to mean occupying the C-suite either — merely being able to hold the door open to others places you in an advantageous position. If your company has openings, post on Sallyportal and recommend the applicant; we all know the deplorable, Sisyphean nature of applying to jobs, exacerbated by recruiters who ghost and prescreening software.
Though the career fair is only one event and one way to hire, if you work at a company that’s recruiting, convince them to apply for a table — after all, you know the type of applicant you’d get because they are you, perhaps even better. Especially if you work at a Fortune 500 company; our alumni base is small, so the chance of landing a job at one of these after graduation is even slimmer. And if your school is not listed as a core school from which many elite companies hire the bulk of their candidates, you don’t stand a chance. An article in Harvard Business Review wrote, “In the end, a personal connection to an existing employee or client was one of the few shots nonlisted students had at getting interviews.”
Volunteer to host a student (or several) for a formal externship through the Center for Career Development, particularly since internships are not only few and far between. The pool of opportunity gets smaller when one factors in limitations based on major and the ability to take on an unpaid internship. Indeed, studies show internships lead to job offers. At the very least, if someone reaches out for career advice, get back to them, particularly since many jobs are shared by word of mouth. We should understand that for some, like first generation students, the CCD might be the first source of job advice they have received, and as such, our recruiting efforts as alumni to give access to certain corporate spaces are increasingly important.
Any one of the aforementioned ways of giving back are noble, but whichever means we choose, we are all called to give back however we can. The worst thing any of us can do is stay silent or unengaged, content on reaping the benefits of our education for ourselves while pulling up the ladder of opportunity behind us. To quote Michael Lewis: “Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods, you owe a debt to the unlucky.”
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