Embarking on a job hunt is no easy task. One way to network your way to success is to reach out to your alumni network. Alumni are indispensable resources and can not only provide invaluable advice to help you in your career; they’re also potential gateways into companies where there are job openings.
True strategic networking is about building meaningful and genuine relationships, and you’re one step ahead by engaging with alumni in your network. You already have something in common with them, and this helps establish rapport. Alumni are not only graduates or former students from a specific school, college or university; they can also be former associates, employees or members of an organization or group, so you potentially have a large group to draw upon.
How Alumni Networking Leads to Multiple Job Offers
A few years ago, a headhunter reached out to me about a potential job opening. When she detailed the roles of the position, I became very interested. After an initial phone screening by the hiring company, I was invited to meet the executives. I now had to do my homework and figure out how I would stand apart from the other candidates.
Now, this all came about before LinkedIn was founded, so I had to do some “old-fashioned” research to find someone I knew who would know someone at this company. I couldn’t find anyone in my immediate circles, so I decided to do a search on my alumni directory. I ended up finding a fellow alumna who worked for the company, so I gave her a call — at home — in the evening. She thought I was a telemarketer, understandably so. After I explained I was also a Penn Stater and the reason for my call, the ice was broken and we had a great conversation. She filled me in on the culture of the company and gave me helpful details about the person I would be interviewing with.
The story continues. It turns out that after our discussion, she called the CEO of the company, who was also the person I was interviewing with, to tell him about our call. When I met with him, he said he was extremely impressed that I went out of my way to do my due diligence, locate an employee and then call her to find out more about the company culture. He offered me the job.
At the same time, I was also interested in another position from Monster.com. There were over 500 applicants for this position, and although I was qualified, my background was not a direct fit. Because of this, I knew my resume wouldn’t be one of the select few chosen for an interview. I had to figure out a way to attract attention and get in front of the right person.
Again, I went out to my alumni network — this time from my grad school — and found someone who worked at that company. I reached out to her via email to introduce myself and asked if she would be willing to have a conversation and give me some advice about the industry and the company. She agreed and we set up a time to call. We ended up having a great conversation, and she offered to personally forward my resume to the HR recruiter for the position. Long story short, not only did I get the interview; I ended up with a job offer.
Now, which job do you think I took? Doesn’t matter. The point is that you have a common bond with people who share your alma mater, so use that to start a meaningful networking relationship.
How to Do Your Own Alumni Networking
Here are some steps to help you build your professional network by connecting with fellow alumni:
- Search for old classmates, former colleagues and people you know from groups and organizations you’ve belonged to, and connect with them on LinkedIn.
- Think about people who would make good connections for you. Maybe they’re someone in the same industry or working for a company you may want to work for or do business with someday. Send them invitations to connect on LinkedIn. For a more personal approach, send a personal note with the invite and explain why you want to connect.
- Build the relationship by proposing a phone call or meeting.
- Stay in touch. Make it a point to know what they’ve been up to and comment on their statuses and updates.
- Occasionally reach out with a personal note or phone call.
- Look for ways to help out if possible. Provide a referral or make an introduction.
When reaching out to prospective alumni contacts, it’s important to set the stage for building a genuine and worthwhile networking relationship. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Here are some ideas of what to include when requesting a meeting.
- Indicate how you found them (alumni network, LinkedIn, referral from a common connection, etc.).
- Share what you have in common (work, school, group, organization).
- Specify your current goal (career exploration, industry research, job search, introduction).
- Let them know what you’re asking them for (information about their organization, advice about career opportunities, industry tips, job search techniques).
- Propose a way to meet (in-person, phone, Skype).
- Suggest some times and/or places and ask what would be convenient for them.
- Always mention that you’re also willing to help them in any way you can.
Networking Is Just the Beginning
Keep in mind that alumni won’t just hand you a job because of a common connection, but most alumni may be willing to speak with or meet you if you set realistic expectations. By taking the time to build a relationship, you’ll open more doors and have more opportunities to meet new people, gathering information, obtaining tips and getting referrals.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start networking!
How has your alumni network supported you? Share in the comments!