How a Trip to Sicily Helped Me Understand the Value of Alumni Relations
by Rebecca McAfee
I’m embarrassed to tell you I was a bit anxious about the trip. The prospect of attending a week-long Moveable Feast Retreat in Sicily with 15 strangers put me a few blocks away from my comfort zone. I know the two organizers of the event through shared friends and they promised it would be great. So, I took the leap of faith that spending seven days living in a thousand-year old Italian abbey cut off from WiFi and my friends and family would be a good idea.
Spoiler alert: It was an awesome idea. But, not for the reasons you may think.
Sure, the setting was unbelievable, the food was amazing, and we certainly achieved the trip’s stated goal of “shifting the lens through which we see the world.” What really made the adventure was my fellow travelers. I should have known.
When you work at Conenza, you spend a lot of time thinking about connections. Our whole reason for being in business is to help companies build lifelong relationships with employees, even after they have moved on in their careers. We do that by helping them launch and nurture corporate alumni programs that make former employees want to stay connected. In turn these former employees become knowledgeable brand ambassadors who help generate new business and often refer qualified candidates for open positions (sometimes they boomerang back themselves).
On the trip, I met my first “feaster” in the Palermo airport. We became fast friends and rallied the rest of our group by making our own “Moveable Feast” sign so others could easily find us upon arrival. Even before we took off on the 90-minute drive to Abbazia Santa Maria del Bosco that simple gesture helped create a bond that only grew the rest of the week.
During our time together, we learned about Sicilian culture and food. I’m sure everyone on the trip is now qualified to lead a tour of the area. More importantly, we took the time to get to know each other and shared stories about our own cultures and life experiences. I came home with a long addition to my bucket list of places I want to visit. You can also be sure that everyone on the trip is living advertisement for Moveable Feast Retreats because the organizers carefully created an atmosphere of comfort, safety and comradery.
Back home in Seattle, it struck me that my experience was similar to what alumni programs can do for former employees. By making it easy for alumni to link with each other, stay up-to-date on company news and participate in a variety of corporate-sponsored events, they want to remain connected. All it takes is some trusted partners to lead the way and the will to get started.
I think I can help with that.