I think it would probably have been better if I knew how to use my Alumni network. I don't like relying on people. I don't like asking for help. Recommendation letters are the hassle. They make me feel as if I couldn't do it myself, as if I couldn't prove I was worth it without someone else.
Pride aside, Andrew Miller has a fantastic resource on how to maximize your alumni network.
Here's a genius part:
- Start early. The earlier students start working with alumni, the better. DeLapa says, “The best time for students to start connecting with alumni is freshman or sophomore year. The second best time is now.”
- Use your school’s resources. Your tuition doesn’t just cover your courses; it also offers you access to a wide range of services on campus. Among these is the career services office, which is usually a great place to contact for information on getting in touch with alumni. Many schools will offer career fairs, networking events, and resume help through these offices, so they’re definitely worth checking out.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out on your own. With social media it’s easier than ever to connect with alumni on your own, but many students feel awkward or unsure of doing so. They shouldn’t. According to DeLapa, most alumni are honored to be asked for career advice and help, and if they aren’t, the worst they’ll say is no.
- Once you make connections, stay in touch. Don’t let your alumni connections go cold after you’ve made them. Send regular messages to those who’ve helped you, updating them on what you’re doing and asking any additional questions you may have.
- Be professional. When interacting with alumni and career services staff, you should do your best to look and act professionally, just as you would with a potential employer. Think it doesn’t matter? DeLapa says it definitely does. “If I meet a student who is poorly dressed, poorly groomed, demanding, or otherwise unprofessional, I will assume that’s how he or she would appear to an alum or potential employer.” This obviously isn’t how you want to be perceived, so if you don’t know how to dress or act, ask for help. Most career services offices offer courses on professional dress and etiquette.
- Ask about jobs. If you need a job after graduation, one of the first places you should look to is your alumni network. You can ask alumni you know, check out the association’s Twitter feed or LinkedIn page, or even contact career services to see what inquiries they’ve had from alumni. Sometimes, alumni will share these openings with their alma mater before the general public, giving you first access to great positions.
- Look for in-house alums when applying for jobs. Alumni can also help when you’re applying for jobs you haven’t found through your school. Do a quick search on LinkedIn or your school’s alumni network to see if any former students work at the company to which you’re applying. Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University, says that alumni are often willing advocates for fellow alumni and students. “The range of opportunities is from company owners, who hire other alumni or students, to recommendations to hiring managers on behalf of another alum or student to even a simple introduction,” he says.
- Give back. If you’ve benefited from alumni connections, don’t forget to give back to your fellow students to return the favor. You may just find that it helps you in your own career by keeping you up-to-date on new trends and issues and lets you scout out some great new talent for your company.