In February we had the honor of being invited to join members of the 2013 cohort for a mixer after class. It was great to see some familiar faces from my previous alumni networking, and to meet some new ones as well. Many thanks to Penelope for organizing the gathering!
The MSC program is a very safe environment in which to practice networking. Everyone understands the need and is supportive of such efforts. In our current core class on the study of networks, in fact, we are highly encouraged to break out of our homophily and find new seats (and hence new neighbors with which to associate) in the classroom. Over time, my husband has noticed a marked increase in my ability to walk up to strangers at an event and start talking, and this change is without question attributed to my MSC experiences. Not that I’ve turned into a new, gregarious person, but I recognize my own goals in such activities as being legitimate and worthwhile.
That said, the class of 2015 had a rather poor showing on the evening of the mixer. Engaging in social events outside of class is not a quality for which we are known. I’m told this is unusual behavior, that previous year cohorts enjoyed many drinks together. My theory is that the Saturday-only program format provides little incentive to get together outside of class. Each Saturday is a full day, and when it wraps up our weekends are already half over, at which point we feel obligated to return to our normal lives. Others in the program may have different explanations.
Nonetheless, I was glad I attended. In the course of networking with alumni, the mixer helped reinforce my perspective on the MSC program and what it can do for students. I bounced my theory off of the alumni I spoke to that night. The degree itself is (like many degrees) not a guarantee of anything. Rather, it changes you from the inside out by offering new perspectives on important topics, thus making you more employable and promotable. But how that applies to your journey? There is no formula for figuring that out.
This perspective gets reiterated to me at every turn. In class, networking with alumni, and taking advantage of the career resources offered to us, I feel challenged to walk my own path and resist the desire for a prescribed plan. I’ve learned from the coursework and subsequent readings: there is no immunity from career challenges, and it’s likely everyone will be forced to deal with them at some point. For this reason and many others, it is great to see the alumni network striving to be active and supportive. I plan to be there when the next event comes around.