Switchboard Operators Make Asking for Help Even Easier

Reaching out for help can be daunting, especially if you don't know the person you're asking.

Some Switchboard users go the extra mile to make sure that their fellow community members feel welcome reaching out.

Tiffanie '99 of Oberlin heard that current students were intimidated by the prospect of asking alumni for help and advice, so she posted an offer on the Oberlin Switchboard to connect students with people she knows—to serve as a switchboard operator.

Tiffanie's offer makes it even easier for Obies to find what they need on Switchboard. We asked her to share her story.

Why did you start using Switchboard?

I started because we (of the then-constituted Oberlin Alumni Council) were encouraged to use Switchboard to keep in touch with one another and with students through this new "Craigslist for Obies." I signed up mainly just to "see how it worked" and get a sense of it.

you offered to send people in the right direction if they don't know where to go—TO BE A Sort of Switchboard Operator. WHy?

I was recently on campus and heard from many students sentiments like, "I'd love to get in touch with alumni to ask about networking, job/career stuff, grad school stuff but I don't really even know how to approach an alumnus. I don't want to bother people/I don't know where to begin or how to open the discussion."

And while many of the alumni have said a thousand times to students, "Remember, we are all Obies. Every alumnus is an Obie like you. You already have this in common. Very likely people will be eager to help if you just reach out," I realized there was still a big hurdle for some students who just couldn't stop standing in their own way—they didn't feel confident to just reach out.

Instead, I simply invited them with an Offer. And somehow, that cracked the code.

I've had several email exchanges, several great phone calls with really enthusiastic students who have great questions or just want to hear ideas of things to look at and consider. I've connected people to others in my network (often other Obies, but sometimes not).

Would you recommend Switchboard to fellow Obies?

I would highly recommend Switchboard. It is a great tool to help people meet needs—their own or the needs of others. I've used it to send a friend a hug, to help students think about graduate school or career options, even to help friends get rides! It's simple and easy—it works!