How to use your Alumni Advisors

Now before I go any further, or indeed start, a shameless plug. The great work that the Alumni do wouldn’t be possible without the Alumni themselves. With that in mind, if you’re in your final year of University life and you just can’t imagine an Enactus-less life after Uni then good news! Once you’ve graduated, you too can become a member of the Enactus UK Alumni and keep living the Enactus dream! Sound good? Then head to our website – www.enactusukalumni.org – to find out more about joining. But do it after you read my blog.

Also, one other piece of housekeeping. Your Alumni Advisors are there to help you with any questions you might have. But if you have a major problem, or a real emergency with your projects, remember that your Programme Manager should ALWAYS be your first point of contact.

So – with that out of the way – to business! You’ve already heard from Ranj about how to use your Programme Managers, and from Aimee about how to use your Business Advisors. But you lucky people aren’t blessed with just those 2 types, and its my turn to tell you how to use the third string to your Enactus bow – your Alumni Advisors.

“But we already have advisors!” I hear you cry. And of course it’s true – you already have fantastic Programme Managers, and many of you will have a range of BAs – what could the Alumni, these ragged bunch of old-timers who can’t let go of their uni lives, possibly have to offer?

Some of the Alumni at Training Weekend 2012

Some of the Alumni at Training Weekend 2012

Well here’s just a short list of what makes your AA special:

1. We have plenty of time for you.

Yes you have a Programme Manager, but as Ranj mentioned in her post they have upwards of 20 teams each. They are awesome people, but no-one can be in several places at once, and so we – the Alumni – are here to ease some of that pressure. Most of the mentors only have 1 or 2 teams each, which means we don’t have to split our time so drastically. Which brings me on to point 2…

2. Face to face contact.

We will usually be able to give you more frequent face-to-face guidance than the PMs. Chances are your alumnus lives or works pretty close to you – so they are more likely to be available on a day-to-day basis. That said, if you want to meet up with your AA face-to-face please please please let us know you want our help sooner than the night before.

As well as face to face contact, some of them may even let you call them 24 hours a day if you need them. (Be wary of them though – they tend to have no lives, and do you really want to associate with people like that?)

3. We have been there.

The BAs are great – they can offer you a wealth of business knowledge, support, and professional guidance. And increasingly more and more of BAs are ex-Enactus. But for those of you who don’t have those types of BAs on your board, that makes it all the more important for you to engage your AAs. For all the great things that the BAs can offer, your AA will be able to offer insights and guidance that only someone who has been there can relate to. We’ve fought the battles you’re fighting, we’ve been there a 3am when everything seems hopeless, and we’ve been there went your entire team is arguing over the font you use on screen for your presentation.

4. You don’t need to hide anything from us.

Now, of course, what I should be saying here is that you shouldn’t be hiding things from any advisors – University, Business, Alumni, and certainly not your Programme Managers. But we’ve all been there. Often teams put on a good face to their BAs – and even to their Programme Managers – because they are afraid of seeming anything less than perfect.

Here’s the thing though – as Alumni, we aren’t offering you funding, we don’t judge at Regionals, and we aren’t looking to employ you when you graduate. We are there to help you get the very best out of your projects, that’s it. The best way we can do that is if we know exactly what’s going on.

5. We love doing it.

Now I’m not saying for a second that your BAs are forced to be there, or that they don’t enjoy what they do – because every single BA I’ve spoken to absolutely does. But the AA’s one and only reason for helping you is because they want to. They aren’t paid, they don’t get to count it against hours they put towards the company, and they still have other commitments that they need to attend to. Alumni Advisors are they purely because they love Enactus and want to see you do well.

So those are just 5 of the many reasons why you should engage your AA as often as you can. But how do you engage them? Well different teams will have different relationships with their mentors. I myself actively mentor 3 teams, and each one of them treats me differently. None of them are wrong in how they do so – its how they choose to use me best. You may choose to put your AA as one of the members of your Business Advisory Board, or you might prefer to call them in to pick up the pieces after a particularly difficult grilling. You might want to have them give advice on the structure and general running of your team, or you may decide their expertise is better suited assigned to a specific project. Again, none of these are wrong – just so long as you feel you are getting the most out of your alumnus.

Regardless of how long your AA was in Enactus for, regardless of where their team came in any given year, regardless of whether they still accidental call it ‘SIFE’ (we’re working on that – promise), all of the AAs have one thing in common: we love Enactus. I haven’t spoken to all of them, but I can say that with a large degree of confidence because they have no other reason for helping you. They are volunteering their time to you because they left university and decided that, actually, they weren’t done with Enactus just yet thank you very much.

Every Alumni Advisor has a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a real passion that they can guide you with. And we’re an egotistical bunch, so we’re happy to share that experience with anyone who asks, if it’ll gain us the love of an Enactus team. We’re needy like that (seriously – one mentor sent me a text the other day ecstatic that her team had given her a name badge at their BAB. A grown woman, in a professional career, giddy at the notion that someone had printed her name on a badge. That’s the level of narcissism you’re dealing with here. Use that to your advantage).

Jokes aside, do make sure you use us. For one, as competition draws nearer your PMs will be stressed out and anything we can do to ease that is money in the bank. But also, don’t forget, an Alumni Advisor is for the year – not just for competition. Use us for competition run up by all means – but don’t forget we’ve been involved in projects too.

And if all that fails to convince you, never mind that we can offer you great insights, and we are able to help you out of the trickiest problems because we’ve already been there. For some of us Enactus is the only fun we have outside our day-to-day lives. But you’re Enactus students – you understand this better than anyone.

Best of luck,

Will Churchill – Alumni Board Member

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About EnactusUK

Enactus UK runs in 51 universities in the UK, carrying out more than 250 social enterprise projects that use the positive power of business to help people in need - in the local and international community.
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