Homecoming is an event each Fall at the ICO campus that brings alumni and current students together. It provides an opportunity to meet future colleagues, make connections, and learn a little bit about the current hot topics of the field. The weekend-long event starts on Friday evening. This year, the ICO courtyard was turned into a Blindspot Kickoff party equipped with a photo booth, tiki bar, live music in the form of karaoke, and delicious food, of course. For the students, Friday is a great way to get warmed up to starting their weekend of networking. For the alumni, it’s a nice amp-up to the later event; 2015’s outing happened to be a White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field.
As an alumnus, your Saturday starts off with breakfast served at the hotel before shuttling over to the ICO campus to begin the line-up of activities. These include a 2-hour continuing education course and a Student-Alumni Mingle that takes over the gym. One of the sought after work study jobs during Homecoming is helping coordinate and assist with the Saturday night dinner cruise on the Odyssey that takes off from Navy Pier.
Fortunately, ICO has graduates all over the US and Canada, and you’re bound to find someone with similar interests that you can learn from at the Student-Alumni Mingle. Most often, there’s also a table or two with other professionals such as lawyers, company representatives, real estate associates, and practice start up and management assistants to help you get a more whole picture of aspects of optometry you probably hadn’t even thought about. Many exhibitors are also part of this event and are always eager to demonstrate their new products or talk about potential future opportunities with you; some are ICO alum themselves and are great resources for a “once school is over” perspective.
After attending Homecoming, or other networking events offered, it makes me realize that networking is a skill in itself. One must learn it and practice it to be good at it. The earlier you start, the better at it you will be by the time you really need to turn to those skills- when you’re almost a doc and looking for a job… so start NOW! If you’re really ambitious, it wouldn’t hurt to start writing your CV now, either. I started mine about 6 months ago and I constantly think of stuff to add that I had forgotten about. It has become an ongoing project of mine, and not surprisingly, it will be a lot more complete by the time I need to submit it for a potential opportunity.
ICO is very fortunate to have such a geographically diverse student body. After graduation, some of us will return home, some of us will move somewhere new, and some of us will tackle a residency program. Once we start our careers and become busy with family, career and just life in general, it will be difficult to get everyone together at the same time and place. ICO Homecoming is an event that I look forward to attending as an alumnus. My circle of friends has definitely talked about the subject and agree that we will make every effort to be there. I hope that my colleagues are having the same discussion and plan to attend.