How to Activate Your Alumni Network

By now, you’ve surely heard that it’s not what you know when job searching, it’s who you know. There are so many ways to network out there that one route often gets overlooked: Your alumni network. This is a sprawling and often successful way to find out about job opportunities or get an interview that might not otherwise have been so forthcoming. But how do you go about accessing all that potential? Read on for some ideas to get the ball rolling.


1. Offer your expertise

This may sound counterintuitive, since presumably you’d like to strengthen your alumni network in order to find a job or change careers. But offering the professional expertise you already have can put you in touch with others who can help. Many universities host in-person or online professional development lectures—why not sign up for a chat with interested students and other alumni? It’s a great (and often fun) way to get your name out there.

2. Attend events

Reach out and sign up for your university’s alumni networking receptions and career fairs to become looped in on all the latest events where you can meet others from your old alma mater. Even class reunions can put you in touch with someone you haven’t thought of for years—and who might have surprising connections right where you need them the most. Just be sure you have an “elevator pitch” ready to go at these events. Time is often limited since so many people attend, so having your experience and goals in mind can help you get to the point succinctly and politely.

3. Update your alumni magazine

Did you know your old college probably has an alumni magazine (or at least online newsletter) that updates everyone on your current professional and personal whereabouts? This often-overlooked resource helps make you visible to other alumni in similar fields, makes it easier to contact you (and for you to contact others), and also loops the alumni office into what you’re doing. They’re more likely to help foster alumni connections if you’re on their radar.

4. Utilize social media

You’ve likely already started doing this, but it’s worth repeating: Social media is by far one of the most popular ways to get in touch with your alumni network. Whether it’s LinkedIn, your college Facebook page, or a special alumni networking community hosted by your alma mater, be sure to hop on any and all places that can put you in touch with those who work in your desired field. However you make contact, be sure to remain polite as you explain how you got their information and why you would like to talk or meet. If they’re local, consider an in-person meetup for coffee or lunch. You can learn a lot about how they got where they are in their career through lots of questions and lots of listening.

5. Help others

Yes, you want to connect with others in your alumni network, but sometimes the best way to do that is to help othersconnect. Keep your eyes and ears out for opportunities to link up two people who could help each other out. If you know of an alumni who is looking to hire someone in a certain field, and you know someone who might be a great candidate, reach out and introduce the two. It might not help you directly, but it puts you on more radars and will slowly earn you a reputation as someone with “good connection practices.”

Networking is, for better or worse, a huge part of the job hunt—or at least, it should be. Don’t hesitate to reach out and make contact with your fellow alum. After all, you start out having at least one major thing in common, and sometimes that’s all it takes in order to get the ball rolling.

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