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Director's Notes

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from Joan Hawxhurst

Using the Guilds for Mentoring and Networking

February 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm
By Joan Hawxhurst

When Kalamazoo College launched the Guilds in 2008, they were an innovative way to build networks of students and alumni professionals. Bringing people together around shared career interests through a communities-of-practice model, the Guilds used the functionality of LinkedIn groups to facilitate virtual and face-to-face discussions and connections. In a contemporary take on a medieval tradition, the Guilds were a way to develop mentoring relationships in which professional “masters” shared their experience, knowledge, and connections with student “apprentices.”

Since their launch, the Guilds have fostered hundreds of career connections. The Guilds LinkedIn group has offered an exclusive platform for members of the extended K community to search for people with specific interests or experience, ask questions, start discussions, advertise upcoming events and workshops, and collaborate on projects with those both on campus and across the world. Alumni and others offer online and in-person mentoring, job-search or grad school application tips, externship and internship opportunities in their organizations, and connections to professional networks and entry-level positions.

Today, eight years after the launch of the Guilds, advances in internet search technology and updates to LinkedIn’s features allow students to simply use Google or the LinkedIn alumni tool to instantly identify alumni professionals of interest, using keywords and filters to narrow search results. In effect, what used to be an exclusive benefit of joining the Guilds group is now available to all.

The main Guilds LinkedIn group is still a good way to find K alumni who have specifically indicated their interest in connecting with K students by joining.  The seven Guilds that were established as subgroups of the main Guilds group (Arts & Media, Business, Health, Education, Law, Nonprofit & Public Service, and Science & Technology) have been separated from the main Guilds group by LinkedIn. None of the current eight Guild groups on LinkedIn are accessible without an invitation, which the CCPD is happy to extend upon request.

The major benefit of Guild membership on LinkedIn is an expanded online network of individuals who are predisposed to help others in the group. When you join the Guilds group, you expand your LinkedIn network and are (after a newly imposed waiting period) able to send messages to individual group members freely using LinkedIn (depending on individual Guild members’ message settings).

What does all this mean for members of the Guilds group on LinkedIn? Guild members are still part of an exclusive career-focused community of individuals with K College connections. Members can still feel confident that fellow Guild members are genuinely interested in supporting one another’s career development. We hope members will continue use the Guild discussion forum for “asks” and “offers” such as the examples bulleted below.

We’re investigating possible new ways of strengthening the Guilds’ networks, including using the College’s enhanced online alumni directory as an entry point. In the meantime, here are some examples of ways alumni can continue to use the Guilds on LinkedIn:

Offer to introduce a student to someone in your LinkedIn network.

  • Offer to introduce a student to someone in your workplace/organization.
  • Brainstorm questions for an informational interview.
  • Offer to connect students interested in your field to professionals in your network outside of the Kalamazoo College alumni network.
  • Share an entry-level opportunity currently open at your organization. If none exist, share an open opportunity and explain how a recent K grad could work towards qualifying for consideration.

Guild membership is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and others with a direct connection to Kalamazoo College. To join the Guilds on LinkedIn, first create a LinkedIn profile, then send your email address and your LinkedIn profile URL to with the words “Guild membership” in the subject line. An invitation will be extended to you through LinkedIn within a week. After joining the main Guilds group, you may also use the same process to request to join any of the specific Guilds listed above.

Stay tuned in the coming months for updates on our efforts to enhance and expand mentoring and networking opportunities for the K community. If you have ideas or interest in supporting our next steps, please contact me at