Communities are defined not just by proximity, shared experiences, and common interests, but by the willingness of their members to help one another.
For recent college grads, alumni communities offer offer just that: a network of people who are willing to help. But unlocking your network's potential can be difficult. It's not that alumni aren't willing to lend a hand. They just aren't all in the same place, they don't know what each other need, and they can't connect with one another easily.
To solve this problem, one recent Reed College grad, Anna, turned to the Reed Switchboard to ask for advice. With four thousand users, Reed Switchboard is home to almost a quarter of the college's alumni community. It was the perfect place for Anna to look for mentors with writing, editing, or publishing experience.
We asked Anna a few questions about her success.
How did you find out about Switchboard?
I started using Reed Switchboard when I was lucky enough to meet Mara, Switchboard's founder, in Florence. I was studying abroad and she was there temporarily, and I had reached out about finding a host.
We met in the early days of Switchboard, but I knew that it was a magical thing even then. The very fact that I found a Reedie as far away from home as Florence attested to the power of Switchboard. As I approached graduation, I used Switchboard more and more frequently to share and look for opportunities beyond Reed.
You asked the Reed community for advice on Switchboard and got quite a few responses. What was that like?
I feel so lucky to have gotten the responses I did to my post. Though I do have some writing experience under my belt, talking to Reedies in the fields of journalism, publishing, and PR was incredibly helpful for me as I decide what I want to pursue after Reed.
It's pretty remarkable to me that people will take time out of their very busy lives to share their wisdom with me, but I certainly appreciate it. These folks gave me many ideas and in turn connected me with other people they thought could help me. A wonderful domino effect has occurred, and I'm still meeting with people (Reedies and non-Reedies) to chat about all kinds of writing-related ideas and opportunities. In sum, I received not one mentor, but many, and that's pretty darn neat.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND SWITCHBOARD TO YOUR FRIENDS?
Would I recommend Switchboard to a friend?! Absolutely. And I often do. I feel like Switchboard is a fairy godmother. It's there if you're looking for a friend, a pet-sitter, a job, advice, or housing.
Switchboard, however, is also a community. Which means that you get to give back and make that same magic for someone else, too.
Check out Anna's project, A Year of Twenty, which profiles a different "twenty-something doing something" each month.