Friday, March 31, 2006

 

No Rest for the Weary…

March ends the toughest and most successful month of my professional life. As with most jobs, the more you learn and achieve, the more responsibility you are handed. As my alumni knowledge has grown over the last few years I have began to tackle responsibilities that were out of reach at first.

For example, I was approached in December about giving a presentation to a Master of Public Administration class. I gleefully agreed thinking it would be good experience and a nice piece to fit my resume. I found out a few months later that he wanted me to speak for over an hour…For only four students!

In a nutshell, I stayed late a few nights, practiced in front of my roommates (who were bored out of their gourds) and made a wonderful presentation to the MPA class (only three showed).
Note to self: get all the facts before you commit to a project. I ended up spending many hours putting the perfect presentation together for three students. I’d probably do it all over again, but next time I’d be a little more prepared

Another major project of the month was my Irish beer tasting at my parent’s restaurant. A beer tasting is pretty much when you get a lot of people together with obscure beer and delicious food. Of all the beer tastings I have done, this one took the most commitment. When it was all said and done we had over 80 happy customers promise to back next time. I received quite a few comments on my detailed beer bios, river dancing, Irish toasts and classic corduroy outfit.

Finally and most importantly was our Alumni Leadership Awards ceremony, a project spearheaded by me. The event has not been done in five years, so there was a major concern on how well it would be attended. Our alumni board selected three great winners and looked to my office to guide the event into a success.


(Congressman Kildee with alumni winners Bobby Crim, Greg Gaines and Rob Jewell)

I worked extensively on the alumni awards ceremony. I made phone calls, sent typed and hand written letters, requested our entire board be present, made dozens of media contacts and even purchased an entire table for friends in my class. I basically morphed into a tangible alumni award.

The end result…Probably the biggest alumni event next to homecoming. Over 200 well respected alumni and friends including senators, mayors, business leaders and even the Lt. Governor John D. Cherry. We raised over $2,000 for our alumni scholarship, made new contacts with possible donors and even brought tears to the eyes of many with wonderful speakers.

I was looking forward to a little R&R in April, but thanks to my preacher asking me to work on a major church project, my mom committing me to a Cinco de Mayo beer tasting and the induction of new graduates into the Alumni Society, it looks like I will have to wait until May or even Neveruary.

Monday, March 27, 2006

 

Bridges that didn’t burn…My first project


Upon graduating from UM-Flint in May 2003, I took time to enjoy myself…Sit back, relax and soak in the real world. After all, I did just spend five years of my life working 30 plus hours a week while taking a full load of classes. Why shouldn’t I just unwind for a few months?

That was the temporary prospective I held. Then student loan payments kicked in and my tolerance of several dead-end interviews had all but ran out. Fortunately my luck did not.

(the image is a pic of our Alumni Society Board of Governors, I am the young guy in the back)

Like I said last time, six months of substituting and bartending was interrupted when out of the blue my former director called and I accepted a full-time job. Thanks boss, lesson learned: when it comes to your professional life, treat it as just that, professional. Hold yourself to high standards and never burn bridges. You never know when you can use them. I was definitely bitter when my boss laid me off, but instead of being foul when I exited I bit the bullet and expressed my appreciation for the experience. My boss remembered this when a position opened and I was the first call she made.

Now the job itself. Not to honk my own horn, but my communication responsibilities to UM-Flint alumni are vast and far ranging, even immeasurable to some. But that’s not the way it started. My first project was passed down the hierarchy from our former vice chancellor (three bosses up from me). It was the extremely important job of finding the perfect binders for all alumni board members.

The Perfect Binders, super specific special ones. Blue leather exterior held together by gold metallic corner plates and double threaded stitching, three-quarter interior pockets, three two-inch rings with the snap lock (I made the terrific mistake of getting a slide lock sample), custom gold imprint on the both the front and the spine, and if I could, get one of those cool little calculators in there too.

After more than two months of several samples, I found what he was looking for…The Perfect Binder. Too bad my VC resigned shortly there after. The Perfect Binder sits on my desk as a constant reminder that no matter how hard I try to make certain projects a success, they might not work out the way I want. My focus has to remain on simply trying hard.

Wow, March is almost over. This has been the busiest and hardest month of my professional career. Only a few days left…

Sunday, March 19, 2006

 

The Most Important Thing I Learned in College…

The most important thing I learned in college was not from my professors, peers or textbooks. Although my University of Michigan-Flint education has provided me with an abundance of knowledge that I will value the rest of my life. It was from my internship in the Office of University Relations at UM-Flint that I received the most applicable piece of knowledge...

“You stumped?” said 30 years of television experience turned university/media relations specialist, Mel Serow.
“Oh yeah! I’m not sure there is a story here,” answered a still damp behind the ears college senior Matt Bohlen.

“Ok, listen. Who, what, when, where, why. The story will take care of itself. Maybe it will be boring, maybe it will be interesting, but you won’t know until you answer those questions,” lectured Serow as if speaking to a freshman English class.

So here we go intro…who, what, when, where, why…boring or interesting.

Mom named me Matthew, Dad said I was a Bohlen. As of May 2003 I am an alumnus of the University of Michigan-Flint with a Bachelor of Business Administration, concentration in marketing. I am currently employed in the Office of Alumni Relations at my alma mater. My formal job title is Assistant Alumni Relations Officer, funny cause there is no actual Alumni Relations Officer. It seems it’s one of those titles that tells the accounting office how much to pay me.

Basically my work is pretty straightforward: communicate with alumni. However, my responsibilities seem endless (don't worry, in a good way). From writing congratulation letters for new graduates to giving presentations to masters classes with students twice my 25 years, alumni relations has literally worked its way into a major part of my life.

The alumni relations office is housed under one roof with the university relations office. The two work hand in hand on a daily basis with dozens of projects. I was a paid intern/employee in the Office of University Relations for my 2002-03 senior year. I was promptly laid off in the wake of the State of Michigan’s severe cuts to higher education. Budget cuts…part of life…get used to it.

I bummed around for six months, exploring grad school, bartending at my parents’ restaurant, substitute teaching and interviewing for jobs that I was either over-qualified or under-qualified for. Then one morning my former director called and offered me a position working in alumni relations. I asked if I would be laid off anytime soon. She laughed and said not as long as I do my job better than the last guy. I was tired of not putting my U-M degree to work and the money seemed to fit my budget needs. So I accepted the position and have enjoyed the last two plus years trying to do my job better than the last guy…and any other guy in the business for that matter.

That’s enough for now. Still logging time as a bartender calls for a little R & R, especially after St. Patrick’s weekend. I will tell you a little about my first few weeks in alumni relations next time.

Friday, March 10, 2006

 

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