higher ed

Switchboard Abroad is a Home Away from Home

Emma '09 found international alumni connections on Switchboard.

Emma '09 found international alumni connections on Switchboard.

Since she graduated from Reed College in 2009, Emma's life has taken a turn toward the cosmopolitan.

Emma has looked for connections and advice throughout North Africa and the Middle East over the past few years. Her alumni network has always been there on Switchboard to help.

Why did you start using Switchboard?

I first used Reed Switchboard back in 2011, when they were looking for alumni to speak with current students on campus.

I offered to speak with Reedies about political science/international relations graduate programs and my experiences in the local legal sector. 

You've used Switchboard everywhere from Lebanon to Morocco. Could you share your stories?

I've used it a few times since 2011.

Once, I connected with a Reed grad living in Turkey while I was looking for housing in Beirut. He had a number of tips for me and sent out a message to his network in Lebanon.

Switchboard success

Recently I've used Switchboard to connect a current student interning in Boston to my housemate who was looking for a subletter, offer advice to a recent graduate looking for information on international NGOs working with insurgency organizations, and, finally, to ask for connections in Morocco. 

I connected with Devon by searching Switchboard for posts dealing with Morocco and found a past post suggesting Devon might have some ideas. Through other internet searches, I figured out where Devon had interned in Morocco and sent her an e-mail asking for advice.

Switchboard success

She then connected me to the organization she had worked for, and I was able to have an in depth conversation with the manager of that organization. Success!

Would you recommend Switchboard to friends?

I would definitely recommend Switchboard. I think it is a great way to directly connect students with alumni and alumni with alumni in a way that is more organic and user-friendly than what Reed otherwise offers.

People love helping people, especially within the Reed community, and Switchboard facilitates that in a great way. 

On Switchboard, Alumni Are Always on Call

Zina '12 uses Switchboard to find mentors, opportunities, and places to stay.

Zina '12 uses Switchboard to find mentors, opportunities, and places to stay.

Everyone, at some point in their lives, will look for a job—and colleges and universities do a good job of helping their alumni find them.

But people need more than just jobs. We need mentors, advice, and the occasional place to stay. Colleges can't be everywhere at once to help alumni with everything they need.

Their alumni network can.

This is the story of Zina '12, who uses the Reed Switchboard to connect to her alumni network when she needs help from her community.

When did you start using Reed Switchboard?

I started using Reed Switchboard in the summer of 2012. I helped Switchboard one summer by taking photos for a project of theirs. It has been awesome watching it grow and become a user-friendly system.

My first post was in March '13 when I asked for contacts inside Oregon Health & Science University. The responses I got encouraged me to reach out personally to labs I was interested in, and I landed my current position as a direct result of that advice.

You've posted several times on Reed Switchboard. Could you share your stories?

I have used Switchboard as a safe way to find ride-shares, which has been great not only because I am way more comfortable, but also because I get to meet people I have something in common with that I wouldn't otherwise have encountered.

None of my Craigslist fears apply because there's the built in sense of community and accountability. I ended up driving with a Nepali transfer student in his first year at Reed from Portland down to the Bay and back for last Christmas. We compared notes on capitalism, funk, and coffee shops.

I had a blast with him on the road and we have kept in contact. 

Switchboard success

Asking for career guidance on Switchboard yielded excellent results as well. A wealth of alumni responded to my query.

I talked to some on the phone, some via email. Some were only a few years older than me. Some were quite a ways along in their career path.

Everyone brought a different story and set of experiences to the table.

Switchboard career advice

Many of them said they played trial and error with jobs until they ended up somewhere they never would have expected to feel right. This helped me relax about needing to get it right the first time and allowed me to experiment more freely.

What do you love most about Switchboard?

Switchboard is the best platform we have to connect alumni. I have met Reedies through Switchboard that I never would have been able to find otherwise.

Switchboard makes me feel embraced by the alumni network in a way that I could not have imagined while I was still a student.

I have had successes that range from small helpful pieces of advice, to finding places to stay overseas. I feel comfortable bringing any kind of crazy ask to this network. It is a versatile website that helps facilitate communication between and meet the needs of Reedies of all makes.

I think it almost single handedly coordinates the post-Reed community, which has vastly enriched the Reed experience for me.

Alumni Help New Grads Find Their Footing

Asking for help as a new grad can be daunting.

To help them feel more comfortable reaching out for guidance, Oberlin promised the Class of 2015 that alumni would respond to their asks on Switchboard.

Miryam '15 posted an ask on Switchboard looking for connections in the arts, and she heard back from alumni right away.

Now she visits the Oberlin Switchboard often, hoping to pay the favor forward to the Oberlin community.

Why did you start using Oberlin Switchboard?

I started using Switchboard as part of the "May Day" initiative. Ma'ayan [the wonderful operator of the Oberlin Switchboard] told me that Switchboard was doing a special promotion where all Class of '15 posts made on April 30th would be answered on May 1st by alumni.

I had heard about Switchboard before then, but the promise that a team would be helping me find an answer to my post definitely helped motivate me to post.

How'd it go?

The experience asking for advice was not as scary as I thought it would be.

There was a suggested formula that the May Day team sent out that I followed. I wrote a bit about myself and then detailed my question. The most difficult part was being as concise as possible while still standing out from the crowd.

I got two helpful comments pretty much right away. I was asking for help from a couple of different arts fields and I got replies from an author, a musician, and an actor, so it was really helpful to hear all of those different perspectives.

I've checked Switchboard often since then, replying to other posts.

Would you recommend Switchboard to your friends?

I would absolutely recommend Switchboard to my friends, especially those still at Oberlin or who have just graduated.

The alumni community is welcoming and knowledgeable, and it's a shame to not take advantage of that. The more people who use Switchboard, the more connections can be made.