“A community and a resource”: Alumni career initiatives provide a platform for support

Brown alumni are sharing their knowledge and expertise in career development while building connections with each other.

While career progression has long been likened to scaling a ladder, the path to success isn’t always linear. 

This was the theme of a webinar focused on reimagining professional growth, in which career strategist Carole Ann Penney ’07 challenged her fellow Brunonians to think of their career journeys as road trips rather than undeviating climbs to the top.

“You are in the driver's seat,” she explained. “You get to decide where you’re going, and you create a trajectory that is unique to you.”

The virtual talk was part of a “rapid response” career initiative organized by the Office of Alumni Relations to support alumni as they returned to work after the COVID-19 global pandemic, navigated layoffs within certain industries, and adjusted to the changing nature of work. The initiative included virtual networking events, as well as a webinar workshop series. From best practices for virtual interviews to tips for tackling imposter syndrome, the alumni-led professional development workshops addressed a range of topics. This was followed by a similarly structured initiative centered around the distinct needs of alumni from historically underserved communities.

The programming is part of Brown’s expanded efforts to provide resources and platforms for alumni to support one another in their professional journeys, said Zack Langway ’09, vice president for alumni relations.

“We are excited to support and nurture mentoring and career-focused relationships between alumni and students,” Langway said. “And what we’re learning is that alumni also have a great desire for connection and support around their careers and professional pathways. Through these programs, alumni are creating meaningful relationships within their Brown community while also sharing their diverse knowledge and expertise with their peers."

“ Through these programs, alumni are creating meaningful relationships within their Brown community while also sharing their diverse knowledge and expertise with their peers. ”

Zack Langway ’09 Vice President for Alumni Relations

Expanding the definition of success 

Increasingly, the changing nature of work—hastened by the pandemic—has meant that many job seekers are faced with the challenge of pivoting into new careers.

“The labor market and the world of employment have changed so much in the last five years, as have our collective relationships to our work,” explained Alexandra Ocampo ’06, a bilingual and bicultural talent professional with over 13 years of experience in human resources and multi-unit management. “Together as a community, we can expand the definition of success and open doors for each other.”

Majida Kargbo AM’11 PhD’17, a former assistant director of professional development at the School of Professional Studies, advised alumni to craft their education, work experience, and career goals into a cohesive story they can use in interviews and networking events as a way to stand out from the crowd. 

“It’s really important to know your differentiators,” she told participants during a webinar on how to leverage storytelling and personal branding in job interviews. “Humans are complex and our unique personalities form through a lifetime of diverse experiences. So you have a unique selling point that sets you apart from others who do similar work.”

Building community capital

Still, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to career success. After Brown’s Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs) Alumni Engagement Survey demonstrated a need for targeted, intersectional career programming for women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other historically underrepresented alumni communities, the Office of Alumni Relations developed another series of webinars focused on addressing career challenges and opportunities specific to their lived experiences. 

One of the main goals of the initiative was to help participants strengthen social and professional ties as a way to build community capital and gain access to built-in networks that may otherwise have been a barrier in career advancement. 

“By centering the perspectives, career paths, and priorities of historically underrepresented groups, we are building our own unique and authentic community capital,” said Ocampo, who was a featured speaker during a virtual kick-off event with Langway.

Other offerings from the initiative included a virtual discussion on advocacy in the workplace with diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility (DEIBA) strategist Cari Mailloux ’07, a member of the steering committee for the Brown Disability and Neurodivergence Alumni Collective (DNAC), and an interactive session on developing a growth mindset with Chris Norlund AM’03, author of “Positive Angle: Reboot Your Mind, Live Your Awesome Life.” 

“ We all lean on each other, and by building communities that can collectively navigate stresses, we can learn how to survive and thrive amidst challenges. ”

Ravi Chandra ’89

Leaning on each other

Hearing from those who were once in their shoes can be especially helpful for recent graduates, according to Brown Alumni Success and Student Engagement Coordinator Olivia Watson ’16.  

“I like to share a bit of my own experience as an alumna, admitting that my first couple of years after Brown were sometimes challenging and uncertain,” said Watson. “I think being honest about that helps people feel comfortable reflecting on their own experiences so they can explore building fulfilling careers and lives with confidence.”

Watson also manages the "Fresh out the Gates" program, which supports graduating seniors and recent graduates as they transition to post-college life. She hopes participants felt inspired by her webinar about University resources for recent graduates, knowing that their relationships with Brown don’t end after walking through the Van Wickle Gates.

“It's a community and a resource they can return to throughout their lives for support and inspiration,” she said. 

For Ravi Chandra ’89, a psychiatrist, writer, and educator, leading a webinar about self-care in the context of cultural stress and change was an opportunity to highlight employee burnout, a common issue that remains a relatively taboo topic in the workplace.   

“It’s often discussed as an individual issue, but it’s really embedded in organizational cultures,” said Chandra. “I hoped to help people bring compassion to their inner lives, as well as name factors in our organizations which need attention.”

But more than anything, Chandra says he wanted to remind alumni that they don’t have to confront these hurdles alone.  

“We all lean on each other, and by building communities that can collectively navigate stresses, we can learn how to survive and thrive amidst challenges."


Expand your network

Virtual communities provide opportunities for Brunonians to develop relationships, share knowledge, and learn about career resources—no matter where they are. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a recent graduate, join today to build connections in your industry and stay up to date with alumni career programming.


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