Alumni Networking 101

As promised last week, I’m going to continue to talk about networking for several posts. Today, I want to talk about networking with the alumni from your college or university. I found a website that had several good articles about utilizing your alumni, and today I’m going to focus on “5 Steps to Effective Alumni Networking in a Job Search,” written by Phil Rosenberg for The Ladder. Although this article was published a year ago, the advice is just as good today as it was then.

As I describe in TIP 30 Join your alumni association, you have an amazing resource readily available, but you have to know how to tap into that resource. One of the most important ways to do that in our wired world is by reaching out to alumni through LinkedIn. Often you will be able to find alumni groups from your college or university, and perhaps even groups within your own disciplinary specialty. So that’s the first thing to do, then:

1. “Find the right alumni.” By “right” alumni, what Rosenberg means is the people who can give you information about jobs or talk to you about their organization’s hiring managers. He says it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to look for alumni who are in human resources as this will provide a pretty limited list. So, instead, look for alumni who have jobs that you would want or who work in organizations that are of interest to you, and make sure you connect with and learn as much as you can from them.

2. “Ask for information.” This article suggests that you ask for information about the hiring manager so that you can be better prepared if you get an interview. I would take it one step further and suggest that you conduct information interviews (see Tip 6 for instructions on how to do this) so that you can learn more about different career options and employers.

3. “Build bridges.” Use your alumni to introduce you to other people, who may not be in your alumni network, but who can help you learn more about a particular industry or field. The goal is to constantly expand your network!

4. “Have an alum vouch for you.” Once you’ve established a connection with your alumni, and once they’re comfortable that they have a good sense of who you are, ask them to vouch for you. This can be as simple as asking their permission to use their name when you apply for a job or call another contact or it can mean asking for something more involved, such as writing a recommendation for you on LinkedIn.

5. “Get an introduction to hiring managers.” Once you’ve learned as much as you can about a particular organization and have decided that this is a place where you’d like the opportunity to launch your career, ask your alumni contact to introduce you to the hiring manager within your area. This type of introduction is really important, and it can be helpful, but only as long as you’ve done all your research and preparation ahead of time. Once someone has vouched for you, you want to do a superb job of presenting yourself and earning the support they’ve provided.