Dozens of Psi Upsilon alumni returned to campus on Friday, Nov. 13, to spend that night and all day Saturday working with 30-40 current Hamilton undergraduate members to help prepare them in their pursuit of internships and full time jobs. With the full support of the college's Career and Life Outcomes Center and the Office of Alumni Relations, Paul Freyer ’83 and Pat Gilrane ’83 initiated this weekend program five years ago and have organized it every year since with the help of dozens of other alumni.
Indicative of the program’s success, last year 40 out of 44 undergraduate members had jobs or internships before commencement. Eight of this year's 11 seniors have already secured jobs after graduation. That the Hamilton Psi U program will be rolled out next year by chapters at Duke, Michigan State and NYU as well as "about a dozen more campuses," according to Freyer, is proof of its value.
Freyer and Gilrane both point to the commitment that member alumni have to “pay it forward,” lending their time, expertise and experience to help undergrads. “This is a unique way in which to reengage alumni with their alma mater and to highlight the positive aspects of a fraternity,” Freyer said.
Engagement with the alumni begins at the start of the semester when students are each assigned to a mentor team composed of a young alumnus and a more experienced alumnus with whom to work throughout the year. Students are responsible for regular communication with these alumni mentors, sending their resumes and cover letters for review, conducting regular telephone conversations and maintaining email dialogue about their aspirations and activities.
During the career weekend alumni from varying fields talk about the different aspects of the job search process as well as their specific industries ranging from technology to retail to investment banking to insurance to academia. Panel members frequently have majored in subject areas that don’t relate to their chosen careers. They emphasize the fact that a liberal arts education truly prepares you for anything.
“Our purpose is to prepare our members to the place where they are fully capable of getting their internships and job – we do make introductions but we aren’t about giving out jobs,” said Freyer. “We talk to the members about their interests and we work with them to get then ready. They learn about how to go about networking; they receive feedback on their resumes and cover letters; and they get advice on the small issues that make a big difference. For example, when should an applicant plan to arrive at an interview? And how should that interviewee spend the 30 minutes before the start of an interview?” Gilrane added, “All of the Psi U alums supporting the mentor program gain great satisfaction in hearing and seeing the burgeoning personal and professional growth of each and every undergrad in the program.”
Students are also instructed on the time allocation necessary to succeed in landing an internship or a job. They are told that looking for an internship requires at least as much time as you might spend on half a course and a search for a full-time job is equal to that of a whole course. Alumni members want to ensure that students are properly prepared and ready to go on interviews before alumni offer contacts with colleagues. They want assurance that students have invested in the appropriate preparation so as to handle these interactions properly and will avoid wasting anyone’s time.
Senior Matt Tetro, who has already secured a job in banking following graduation, commented on his participation in the program over the last three years. “My career interest is in finance. My mentor Dave Christie, who works for JP Morgan Private Bank, played an integral role in preparing me for internship interviews last year and placing me in contact with Psi U and Hamilton alums in finance. This past summer I had the opportunity to work at Goldman Sachs in New York City, and I attribute my ability to have that opportunity to all of the advice and mentorship of the career program. Unlike many students moving into finance after college, I come from a medical family in Buffalo, N.Y., with no connections in finance. Hamilton and Psi U Career Program provided me that.”
Two Psi U member from Duke attended this year’s weekend because they will be initiating a similar program at Duke as will several other Psi U chapters. The two Duke alumni participated in the weekend’s activities, offering their insights into careers in technology and consulting, providing details regarding the process of securing internships in those industries, including interview tips and preparation advice.
The Office of Alumni Relations and the Career Center have worked with Psi U from the beginning of the program. “The relationship has been great, a true open partnership on how to best serve these undergraduates. The center already offers students so many resources and counseling,” said Freyer. He and Gilrane are in contact with Laurie Russell in the Office of Alumni Relations and Pat Mullane and Sam Welch from the Career Center, and they discuss what the weekend will look like. “It’s a special and unique partnership,” according to Freyer. “This program is a success because of the dedication of the Psi U alumni,” said Pat Mullane, director of external relations for the college’s Career Center. “Their willingness and sense of obligation to help those who come behind them is what makes Hamilton such a special place. The encouragement the Psi U brothers receive from their alumni mentors to engage with the Career and Life Outcomes Center makes a difference in our work with them as the students truly understand the power of networking and the concept of Hamiltonians helping Hamiltonians.”
Sophomore participant Matt Story echoed the Career Center’s mantra. According to Story, “I learned that it is never too early to start planning for your future, especially with all the resources we have offered here by the College and also through the fraternity’s networking web. This weekend gave me a glimpse of what I need to start planning for today and how much the Career Center can help support me in my endeavor.”
Pointing to tips from which he has benefited, Story explained how one of his mentors gave “insightful information on the who, what, and when on building relationships over emails….[he] helped me understand that when I am attempting to form a relationship I need to show a persistent interest, a hunger for success. Because no wants to hire someone that does not think they can be confident enough to succeed.”
Tetro discussed the value of the program and his commitment to it. “If there is one piece I will take from my four years in the Career program, it is the importance of constantly helping those that come behind you. Each Career Day I have heard Psi U alums talk about how they did not reach their current positions alone. Just as those above me, I too have received guidance, mentorship, and advice from Psi U and Hamilton alums alike. And this support must always be passed on because you may never know when you will need it down the road.”
Summarizing why the Psi U alumni sacrifice a weekend to return year after year to campus to work with undergraduates, Freyer said, “It’s a great experience.” He credits all those involved. “The secret ‘sauce’ that is making this work is the enthusiasm of the group – and this is a big group effort – that we all are so excited about helping the undergrads, giving back to both our fraternity and College. Last, but probably most importantly, it is fun and we are all having a great time making this happen. …This is a real game changer.”