Part career development tool and part passion project, SagePost47 is the newest way for Pomona students to connect with alumni. The program was developed by students Yi Li PO ’16, Anthony Perna PO ’17, Cyrus Poteat PO ’17, and John Kim PO ’17, in collaboration with Alumni MD Ma PO ’11 and Chris Byington PO ‘12.
Although the service launched last semester, Li, now a senior with a consulting job on deck, approached Ma with the idea when she was just a sophomore.
There are a variety of career development tools at hand for Pomona students. Advising is available at the Career Development Office (CDO), Claremont Connect provides job and internship listings, and networking opportunities—like the Career Round Table put on by the CDO on Feb. 12—take place throughout the year. What was lacking—before SagePost47 hit the World Wide Web—was a way for students to connect with alumni informally.
SagePost47 reads almost like an online dating site, with user bios outlining personal and professional accolades. Students can scroll through attractive photos of PO grads and select from whom they would like to receive advice.
Students are encouraged to initiate conversation with their chosen mentor, and SagePost47 provides a wealth of helpful tips for formatting emails and arranging phone calls under their guidebook section, but the progression of interactions between mentors and students is up to them.
“Alumni are willing to talk not only about their work, but also their life during and after Pomona, how they’ve succeeded, and how they’ve failed. I think it gets pretty personal in their stories,” Kim said.
This personal touch is what sets SagePost47 apart from other networking tools. The team emphasized the value of developing relationships with alumni that go beyond exchanging business cards. “What we’re trying to build is an authentic one-on-one mentoring relationship,” Poteat said.
These relationships, however, are not always easy to cultivate. It’s difficult to market the value of something like authenticity. “The hardest part is knowing that this program could benefit so many students, yet the idea doesn’t always sound appealing,” Perna said. Despite difficulties, the team is persistent in their efforts. They are doing everything they can to spread the word about this new resource.
SagePost47 hosted their first information session of the semester on Feb. 7. The event was well attended, and not just because of the free boba. They also held the first of what will be a monthly workshop on Feb. 11, where students had the chance to chat with alumni of all backgrounds on a Google Hangout. This month’s theme was networking.
'Networking' can be a polarizing buzzword. Some see it as a powerful tool for professional advancement; others think it undermines the value of true merit. SagePost47 hopes to clear up the dispute.
“A lot of people tend to think that [networking] is a very corporate thing, like mainly consulting and finance. And yes, students who are interested in those industries tend to network more,” Kim said. “Our team thinks networking should not be limited to that.”
They seek to broaden the definition of networking beyond a means of securing future employment. “This isn’t like you’re determining your future,” Poteat said. “It’s like you’re figuring out your future, and alumni could be a huge resource for that.”
SagePost47 describes the relationships they hope to initiate as that of mentorship. Perna stressed the value of a mentor as “someone who can guide you.” This could start with a 20-minute Skype conversation and may even result in a long-term friendship. “We encourage the students to make sustainable connections,” Kim said.
According to the SagePost47 team, the importance of genuine mentor/mentee relationships cannot be overstated. And it’s never too early to start.
“I think in an ideal world, students would be reaching out sophomore and freshman year to alumni and just talking to them,” Poteat said. “I wish I had started earlier.”
Right now, there are around 50 mentors on the website representing a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. As more students sign up, however, the pool will grow.
Many alumni are eager to become mentors. “There’s a stream that’s coming in as well as us reaching out,” said Perna. Ma and Byington have been the primary resources for facilitating these connections.
The student audience has proven more difficult to reach. “It’s more, right now, about ‘How do we engage as many students as possible?’” Perna said. “Once we keep increasing membership, that’s when we’ll increase the alumni on the website.”
The process of establishing one’s career post-graduation is often intimidating and shrouded in mystery. By putting current students in touch with recent graduates, SagePost47 removes some of this mystery. Relationships with people who have gone through the transition could make life post-graduation seem less daunting.
Poteat expressed his confidence in the project’s growth. “In terms of people that are engaging with the program, we think it’s going pretty well. Things are evolving, and we’re always trying to expand our reach.” If you go on the SagePost47 website and don’t see someone who you’d like to be your mentor, you can sign up for the mailing list to stay updated. Chances are, your perfect match is waiting for you somewhere.