7 tips for networking the Ouachita wayJune 25, 2019 - Keisha Pittman McKinney
Working the Ouachita network, it’s a real need. But it's overwhelming and daunting
and provides the potential for lots of awkward moments. You know, the ones like you
have with crazy Uncle Ted across the Thanksgiving table, where you have enough in
common to strike up a conversation (thank you liberal arts education!) but not enough
to have many over assumptions playing out with every word you state.
The Ouachita network, or Circle as we like to call it, is vast. Our people are everywhere, and if we love to do anything, we love to cheer on the Tigers, especially the Tigers4Life. Its important to us to see each other succeed because we share those successes. But sometimes it’s intimidating to know where to even begin.
Let me share a few thoughts and seven tips for breaking into the Ouachita network:
- Make yourself a business card until you have one. Use a template or company like Vista Print or Moo. Include basic contact information. Look professional and stand out, but don’t get too crazy in your design.
- Get yourself a Ouachita portfolio folder from the Ouachita bookstore. Until you work for a company, where you need one with their brand on it, go to meetings with your Ouachita brand on the table. It's amazing how this tangible memento will always strike up conversations and sharing about your time as a Ouachita
- Have your diploma framed and matted. Buy one from the Ouachita bookstore, ask for a Hobby Lobby gift card for graduation or get a nice document frame from Target until you can get something nicer. If that’s too much for you, get a paperweight, business cardholder or coffee mug from Ouachita. I cannot tell you how many times visitors to my office would see my diploma on the wall and start asking questions.
- Set up a Google alert. Know what’s going on in 71998 so you can talk about it intelligently. Read The Ouachita Circle alumni magazine when it comes out. Stay in the loop on Ouachita and visit as often as you are able!
- Join the Ouachita Alumni group and follow Ouachita on LinkedIn. Keep and maintain those relationships face-to-face as often as possible. When you meet someone who is older than you who attended Ouachita or you didn’t know before, connect with them on Facebook or LinkedIn if it’s appropriate. Build a real relationship that you MAY get to use later. Don’t just establish it to see what you CAN get out of it later.
- Maintain a relationship with your advisor. As a matter of fact, this should be at the top. Pay attention during the first three years of college. Who are the people coming to speak in your classes? Those are alumni who are supremely invested. Introduce yourself. Go shadow them. Get an internship when you can. But BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Your advisor can be your biggest advocate. I’ve heard it said more than once and said it myself – you can tell the difference about a recommendation from a Ouachita They actually know you, and it goes a long way. Their word means something in the alumni network.
- Attend networking and alumni events. Eat the free cheese cubes. Come ready to present your best self. Put the phone down. Talk to your friends but shake hands, give side hugs and meet new people.
The Ouachita Circle is large. It’s worldwide, and it doesn’t matter where you are,
Ouachita people are there. Just ask my husband; we went for lunch this past weekend
at a state park in our area. While we were eating, a couple that I had met through
a previous church walked in. They were at Ouachita three decades before I was, but
you would never know because the bond was strong.
Ouachita alumni want to see other alumni succeed. We want to sing your praises, fan your flame and push you to do greater and grander things. But what you learned and what I learned at Ouachita is, “people matter.” That’s the real success to any kind of networking. Make real, lasting relationships with people, especially Ouachita people. And your web will always be woven with deep roots in whatever field you pursue.
By Keisha Pittman McKinney, a 2004 graduate of Ouachita with a degree in speech communication and sociology. After almost 10 years in admissions and development at Ouachita, Keisha moved to Northwest Arkansas as the executive director of American Cancer Society Relay for Life of North Arkansas. Following that, she served as the director of digital media at Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas. Keisha and her husband Chris (’04) live in De Queen with their 1-year-old son and boxer. Keisha currently serves as the Sevier Co Economic Development Tourism Committee chairwoman and is a freelance writer and social media consultant through McKinney Media Solutions. In 2018, she launched Arkansas Influencers, an influencer marketing talent agency and online community.
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