The art of networking Bennie/Johnnie-style

Grads counsel students at annual CSB/SJU Career EXPO

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November 28, 2012

By Mikayla Mages ‘13

CSB and SJU students experienced first-hand the power of an informal professional network known as the Bennie-Johnnie connection at the fifth annual Career EXPO on Nov. 7 at the College of Saint Benedict.

The EXPO, sponsored by Career Services, is a daylong full immersion of career exploration available to all students first-year through senior. One hundred ninety-one alumnae/i attended the event, sharing their career experiences at panel presentations, a career fair and an evening networking reception. Amid the exchange of crisp business cards these graduates impressed upon students the value of networking and repeated that message throughout the day.

 "It's not what you know, it's who you know. Try to find a Bennie-Johnnie connection and reach out to them," said Angie Krtnick Complin '04, recruiting manager at Saló Search in Minneapolis.

Derek Tamm '04, chief development officer at Northwestern Mutual in Minneapolis, told students, "You've got to be out meeting alums, doing these events, networking."

Sarah Jansen '02, senior business training consultant at Wells Fargo, repeated the mantra. "I think most of the jobs people have gotten lately have been because of the people they know," she said.

What makes the Bennie-Johnnie connection so special? Aaron Anderson '94, senior project manager at The Toro Company in Bloomington, believes it has to do with loyalty.

"Part of what you buy when you buy an education here is the network with it. There isn't this kind of loyalty at other schools in the area," Anderson said.

Students also heard advice for how to market their liberal arts education when applying and interviewing for jobs or internships and writing resumes.

"The name speaks for itself. We're known for providing well-rounded students," Complin said. "It's important for students' resumes to have those skills outlined."

Each year, student attendance at EXPO has increased. Last year the event drew 513 students, but this year's number jumped to 651. Typically the senior and sophomore classes have the highest attendance, but Career Services encourages  all students to attend.

"We've got to get them out of the sense that they don't need to do anything till they're a senior or junior," said Heidi Harlander, director of Career Services.

"Students need to know how to interview, apply and get the experience."

That message resonated with first-year Frantz Soiro, a biology and chemistry double major and pre-physical therapy student.  

"I know it's kind of early for me as a first-year but I kind of wanted to get a head start. It's a good way to get out there just in case I want an internship or job opportunity," Soiro said. "A lot of jobs are pretty complex but I guess that means there's experience I need to gain. They (alumnae/i) are very good at explaining their jobs so you're not lost in the whole concept."

Soiro also experienced the magic of the Bennie-Johnnie connection.

"The best piece of advice I actually received was from a senior. She said I have time to gain as much experience as I can. She said don't stress it and that I'm getting a good start."