Image by Shanel Smith.
When applying to college, you probably heard many admissions officers tout their school’s “strong alumni network.” And for good reason: Alumni can be incredibly influential not only when you’re an undergraduate, but after graduation. They may be able to unlock employment opportunities for you, and they’re also the only people in the world who can identify with your current situation and career goals, since they’ve literally “been there.” Still, I find that many of us don’t know where to start, so let’s talk about the four best ways you can make the most of your school’s alumni network.
As a current student or recent graduate, connecting with alumni can seem intimidating. Remember: The number one way to leverage your school’s network is to be part of it. Many graduates forget to update their contact information after moving out of their dorm. Make sure to send your new email and mailing address to your university’s alumni office. If you’re not on the list for monthly newsletters, mailings for homecoming, or any other notifications, you’ll miss out on key opportunities to get involved.
So maybe you forgot to register with the alumni office, but somehow you still end up receiving calls or snail mail about donating to your institution. I already know what new alumni may be thinking, “I haven’t even figured out how to pay back my student loans!” While you may not be able to write a check, look for unique ways to donate your time. Many alumni stay connected through mentoring, volunteering at campus events, or hosting current students for site visits.
Let’s say that you’ve landed the job or internship of your dreams (congrats!), but now you need help navigating internal office politics and networking in your new city. The LinkedIn Alumni Tool makes it easy to locate alumni where you live and even those who may work for the same company. Sometimes just going to the same college is all the common ground you need to strike up a conversation.
When reaching out to alumni, be sure to take an interest in them personally and professionally. Don’t just ask them if they can hire you or connect you with someone who can hire you. You’ll gain far more career advice — and maybe even a lifelong mentor—when a true relationship is cultivated.
Image by Shanel Smith