Drexel University’s vast network of 160,000 alumni across the country and around the globe are eager to be a resource to current students.
Similarly, students from all majors, backgrounds and grade levels want access to the alumni community without having to wait until they are Forever Dragons themselves.
What is the best way to connect Drexel alumni and current students? There wasn’t always a simple answer to this question, but that has now changed. Enter: Dragon Network.
This online professional development community, which facilitates career-focused conversations and connections among Dragons, already boasts about 3,000 users. It was rolled out to alumni over the summer and current students earlier this month.
Creating an offering like Dragon Network has been a longtime goal of Drexel Alumni. This summer, the organization was able to partner with colleagues across campus, including co-sponsors the LeBow College of Business and the Dornsife School of Public Health, to launch this new resource.
“Throughout my tenure on the alumni board, I have heard from students about their desire to connect with Drexel alumni as they navigate their academic and professional journeys,” said Amish Desai, BS ’03, chair of the Alumni Board of Governors. “We were thrilled to be able to provide Dragon Network to more easily facilitate these connections and allow students to take advantage of the insights and expertise of our alumni community and support career success.”
Not sure how or why to start using Dragon Network? Here’s how you can create your profile, take advantage of connectivity tools within the platform, and ensure your networking success.
The first and a very important step when signing up for Dragon Network is filling out your profile, which confirms information like your major and student organizations you’re involved in, as well as the areas of interest you would like to explore as you connect with alumni.
All of this detailed information added by students will give you the best opportunity to be connected with the type of alumni you seek, said Lauren Villanueva, BA ’04, MS ’09, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations.
And you might be asking yourself, how does Dragon Network differ from LinkedIn? Villanueva confirmed that a big way is that a student’s interests will be matched by what alumni say they are “here to help with” in their own profiles, from résumé review and interview practice to speaking about industry trends and work/life balance.
Another way that Dragon Network differs from LinkedIn and other forms of online networking is that there is no passive “friending” or adding of contacts. Instead, it is built to facilitate direct outreach and meaningful conversations, all in one place.
“If you aren’t entirely sure how to navigate the networking process, Dragon Network provides a lot of helpful tools to help you start making connections right away,” Villanueva said.
Upon completing your profile, you will automatically be matched with three top connections you can reach out to right away or save within the platform to easily find and connect with later.
When you’re ready to reach out, there are message templates to easily populate and tailor to your own individual outreach, whether you’d like to connect with that alum around career exploration or general networking.
“For students who are intimidated or nervous about networking, these templates give them a starting point to build their confidence and foster meaningful conversations with alumni,” said Sara Keiffer, content strategist, Office of Institutional Advancement.
If you’d like to search for more contacts outside of those initial matches, head to the “mentors” tab where you can also search by location, major, industry and more. Finally, explore “groups” in order to connect with people more broadly based on a shared interest, professional specialty or region.
“If you're a student moving to Los Angeles after you graduate, you can join the West Coast Dragons group and start building a network in your new city. Or, if what you're most interested in is exploring different career paths, you can choose from a variety of professional interest groups,” Villanueva said.
You can start using Dragon Network no matter where you are in your career exploration journey. Along with knowing how and where to connect with the alumni you’re most excited to meet, it’s important to keep some best practices in mind when utilizing this new resource.
“You never know where a conversation could lead,” Villanueva said. “They could lead to a job opportunity or introductions to other valuable mentors and professionals. I recommend that you approach these conversations with an open-mind, curiosity, and a willingness to learn from the experiences of people who have been in your shoes.”
Villanueva reinforced that Dragon Network is a place to start a conversation and build relationships. Student co-op, internship or job searches should utilize Handshake as a main resource.
Professional hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to affect students and the job market. So, signing up today can help you make meaningful connections that can support your short and long term goals.
“So much has been halted or put on pause given the way of the world,” Desai said. “Dragon Network facilitates the ability for students and alumni to build relationships and focus on their ongoing career development, even though it might be challenging to connect in person as we normally do.”