It’s a Small World After All
As StudentBranding.com has grown, Dan Schawbel and Melissa Kong have encouraged the contributors to connect with one other – via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It was during my own reading of contributor bios that I discovered contributor, Jamie Mitcham is also an Oklahoma State University alumnae. Not only did Jamie and I both graduate from OSU, we also graduated from the same degree program! We connected via Twitter and have since proceeded to gush about how much we love OSU, what makes it great and how we hope to help students. Not only did I find someone else to talk OSU athletics with – I found a new colleague and expanded my professional network. So, it seems like the perfect time to address how alumni networking impacts your career.
Alumni Love Recruiting from Their Alma Mater
While I cannot speak for every university or every state – I can tell you, in general, that alumni love to return to their alma mater to recruit new grads into their organizations. At OSU career fairs, for example, alumni want to make sure their alumni status is indicated prominently on their name tag. Why is this so important to them? First, most alumni enjoyed their college experience and are proud of it. Second, they look forward to this instant connection they have with a potential job candidate. Simply put, it helps them build a rapport. To take it a step further – alumni that remain engaged with their university typically are aware of the quality of programs, organizations and activities students may list on their resumes. Many companies send alumni to their respective universities to recruit for the specific purpose of developing relationships, rapport and networking on campus.
How to Find Alumni
There are a variety of ways to find and connect with alumni. First, contact your college or university alumni association and then look for the following opportunities:
- Is there a student auxiliary group that you can join? A few examples: OSU Alumni Association S.T.A.T & Student Alumni Board
- Are there activities or opportunities you can attend to network with alumni?
- Is there an alumni/student mentor program?
- Is there a list of alumni by industry or position?
- Can I participate in homecoming activities? (This is when all of the alumni come back!)
Alumni associations are more than just about tailgates, football games and donating money back to an alma mater – they also allow for connections to be created and maintained. You also have an opportunity to expand or enhance your professional network and even career opportunities. It’s not unusual at all for me to get a call from a small business owner who is an Oklahoma State alumnus and wants to hire an Oklahoma State graduate.
Before College, There was High School
Alumni networking doesn’t start and stop at the college level; it often begins and continues during high school. Many high schools maintain and update their own alumni lists. They also recognize distinguished alumni. Even as a high school student, there are opportunities to connect with successful alumni. StudentBranding.com contributor Jamie Mitcham‘s employer, Casady School, has its own robust Alumni Association and alumni programming.
I’ve Got an Alumni Contact- Now What?
So you’ve found an alumnus you want to connect with – how should you start? Well, don’t start by asking for a job or internship. Alumni are not always in a position to offer you those things and just because you went to the same college or high school doesn’t mean they can offer you a position. Give them a chance to get to know who you are and the quality of work you produce.
Here are some basic steps to follow:
- Reach out first with an e-mail or letter to introduce yourself, how you got his or her contact information and why you would like to connect with them. Then, indicate when you will call them by phone to follow up.
- Before you call, research his or her company, industry and what you want to talk about. Have questions prepared.
- Call them when you say you will! If that is not a good time for them to talk with you, ask them for a time that might work better.
- After speaking with them and learning all you can, follow up with a thank you note. Sending a handwritten card is still always best.
Alumni: noun, plural (masculine plural, but often used as the plural for both sexes)
Alumnus: noun, masculine
Alumna: noun, feminine
Alumnae: noun, feminine plural
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out! It can be intimidating but alumni will be happy to talk to you! And to fellow contributor and OSU alumna, Jamie Mitcham – I say…”ORANGE!”
Lanie James serves as Employer Development Coordinator for the Career Services office at Oklahoma State University, also known as HireOSUgrads.com . She holds both a B.A. in Journalism Broadcasting and a M.S. in Mass Communication from OSU. Her research emphasis focused on emerging and social media in Career Services. She also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Association of Colleges & Employers (@OkACE). Connect with Lanie on LinkedIn or Twitter @JLanie.