How To Effectively Leverage Your Alumni Network
It's graduation season and for recent grads entering the job market, it's important to know that your alumni network can be a great starting point for professional networking. Before summer officially begins, remember to register and initiate connections with your alumni network. Here are a few tips for how job seekers can effectively leverage their alumni network.
Make genuine connections
Networking with fellow alums can provide great career track insights and leads to industry resources. But like any form of networking, the goal should always be to build and maintain relationships. You should never attend alumni networking events simply to "get hired", and should always create authentic connections before leveraging an alumni relationship for a job opportunity.
Reach out to fellow alums at a prospective employer
If you're applying for a job and you notice that one of the high-ranking officers at the company shares your same alma mater, if you don't know him/her, do not cold call him/her to try to get a foot in the door. Chances are a move as rash as trying to leverage a non-existent relationship can come off as too aggressive, lacking social tact and professionalism, tainting your reputation.
If you do wish to reach out to fellow alums (with whom you have some connection) at a prospective employer, be sure to introduce yourself professionally. Keep the introduction simple, let the person know which job you're applying for, and ask if they have any insight about the culture or industry that you should be aware of before your interview.
If the person you're interviewing with is a fellow alum, it's ok to casually mention a collegiate connection at an appropriate time during the interview, or at the end of a post-interview thank you note. But it should always be an aside, rather than the focus of the conversation. Never assume that a connection is a sure-fire foot in the door.
If you decide to meet with a fellow alum for networking purposes...
- Come prepared with questions that showcase your curiosity and ambition. Don't ask questions that could be easily answered with a Google search. Make the most of your networking time by being prepared.
- Consider asking the person to tell you the story of how they got to where they are now. These types of conversations take the pressure off of you, and will give you clearer insights that will likely lead to better questions and deeper relationship building. And don't expect the person you're trying to network with to help you figure out your life direction.
- Be sure not to talk about yourself too much, since that would be a missed opportunity to learn from someone who is likely ahead of you on the career track. Good listening is just as important as asking good questions. Everyone loves a good listener!