Elon Connections: Alumni helping alumni in New York
Katie Sherman '04 and Sara Baker '11 are helping Rebecca Smith '12 and other Elon students and alumni in New York make professional connections.
Katie Sherman ’04 endlessly bounces around New York City, hopping from her office to a social occasion to a networking event to an alumni function. She stays active. She stays busy. And all the while, she stays connected to Elon University, its students and its graduates.
Sherman is serving as a mentor to students in the Elon in New York City summer internship program and the alumni-centered Bridges program. She was assigned an official mentee, but she hasn’t limited her support to only one student. By her count, she’s mentoring up to five students on a personal level and interacting with many others on a one- or two-time basis via email.
“I love it,” says Sherman, who majored in corporate communications and now works as an associate copy director at Conde Nast. “I’m a super-networker. I enjoy working with students who are ambitious. Elon students are easy to sell.”
One of those former students, Rebecca Smith, a 2012 journalism alumna in the Bridges program, has called Sherman the “Ross Wade of New York,” Wade being the assistant director of Career Services for the School of Communications. And what he does to help students on campus—polishing professional portfolio materials and linking students with professionals—Sherman does in New York.
Sherman is not Smith’s formal mentor, but she is someone Smith has leaned on quite a bit since arriving in New York in early June.
“She came to talk to us about working in New York, and I remembered I had emailed her previously as a student,” says Smith, who hopes to work on the editorial or online side of a magazine. “I emailed her again, and she responded and recognized my name. She said, ‘Hey, would you like to come to Conde Nast and meet with Elon alumni and a person from HR?’ Even though she didn’t know me, she ended up inviting me to her job.”
That’s standard for Sherman, who meets with students for coffee or lunch and helps them navigate the city or connect with the right industry pros. In fact, she got Smith’s resume into the hands of the Conde Nast HR rep.
“Katie was really excited to see us,” Smith says. “She reached out to us all individually to find a connection we could use. She’s been actively emailing everyone, even people who are music performance majors. She’s trying to talk to everyone to find where they want to go.”
Sherman is giving back because Elon benefitted her when she first moved to New York eight years ago. She got her first job as an intern in advertising through the Elon Job Network. Then, she nailed down her job with Conde Nast because of another Elon alumna, who also turned out to be Sherman’s fourth cousin.
“I feel like New York can be easy,” Sherman says. “It doesn’t have to be that hard. You just have to know people. I think people should reach out. I love Elon endearingly, and people who come out of Elon are very smart. They’re easy to place, especially the ones who come to New York.”
Smith herself is reaching out constantly, becoming a super-networker in a fashion similar to Sherman. Smith has made it a priority to meet with as many people as possible, be they her mother’s accountant’s niece, an attorney who’s also a family friend or 2011 media arts & entertainment alumna Sara Baker.
Smith and Baker have known each other for more than 10 years, and although both were close when they were younger, they didn’t spend a lot of time together during the three years they overlapped as Elon students. But they reconnected at an Elon in NYC and Bridges alumni mixer during the first week of June, when Smith recognized a voice in the room.
“Even though we went to Elon together, we didn’t talk that much,” Smith says. “Since then, we’ve had coffee and reunited here. We met for coffee during the workday and just walked around (the city) and talked about the social aspect of New York. She sat me down and made say what kind of job I wanted. She made me write a bio of myself so she could pitch me to other people. She’s like my own PR rep.”
Baker works as a media relations manager at Sageworks, so she isn’t directly connected to the journalism field Smith hopes to enter. But Baker has pitched Smith to the reporters with whom she’s worked in the past.
“She’s more of an editorial type, and I now work in PR,” Baker says. “And I work with media professionals, so I was trying to think of a way I could connect my past and my present and connect her with people I know in my current position who are in editorial.”
Nothing has turned up yet, but the two—along with Sherman—are still trying. And Baker will continue to support students and alumni because the mentor-mentee relationship is one that invigorates her. She also thinks it’s an important experience—one she never had that she wishes she did.
“Rebecca is my informal mentee,” Baker says. “I think the opportunity to help someone else is really awesome about reenergizing you for a place you live and work. It’s really rejuvenating seeing how excited people are to live here and work here. And that re-excites me not just for being an Elon alum but also being a New Yorker.”
All three women agree that having a robust Elon network in New York is mutually beneficial. It creates a sense of community and makes the transition from small town to thriving city all the smoother.
“(Smith) is another person in this big metropolis who’s connected to me as an Elon alum, and we are a community whether we are in Burlington or here in New York or anywhere,” Baker says. “I feel lucky all the time that I get to live here and work here and have people that I know. And I guess that’s why I want to be connected to people who want to be here, because I want them to have the same experience.”
Elon Connections is a short series of stories about Elon alumni, parents and friends who are helping current students and recent graduates find success in New York and Los Angeles.