“After three months, I finally got the connection that landed me my first job. An IU alum put me in contact with a friend of theirs at Coalition Technologies,” Beehler says. A week later, she was offered an analytics job at the digital marketing agency. “I was extremely excited and believe that this all happened because of the networking I was able to do through the IUAA.”
Reach out early
Connecting to alumni early — even as soon as freshman year — can establish relationships that will benefit you years later.
“You may reach out to 10 alumni, and you may only hear back from one. Well, that’s one person that could lead you to your job,” says Julie Tuozzoli, manager of employer relations and alumni career development at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. She adds, “It’s not a guarantee that everyone will be at that moment ready and willing to help you or have a job at that moment, but it may lead to something down the road.”
If you want to make your own connections, start on campus. If your school has a private alumni network, sign up. Or check with the career or alumni offices to find more options for contacting alumni in your prospective field. Most of all, attend alumni-student events on campus.
Phil Jones, dean of career development at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, says many students have used alumni-student events to their advantage. “At a dinner last month on campus, an alumnus sat next to a student, and by the end of the meal had offered her an internship in London for next summer,” Jones says.
Most recently, a Dickinson alumnus who is a documentary filmmaker gave a talk on campus that directly led to an interview for a student who marched up to him following the presentation and said, “I want to do what you do.”
Socialize with alumni in your city
You can connect with alumni even if you’re thousands of miles from your school. If you live in or near a major city, find a local chapter of your alma mater’s alumni association to connect with. Search for groups to join on social media, then attend events in person.
“Alums in general have a natural tendency to want to help. It’s also a nepotism thing, and there are some schools that lean on it a bit heavier. But people gravitate toward similarities,” says Chad Reid, director of communications for a software company called JotForm. Reid heads the San Francisco chapter for the University of Cincinnati alumni group. He says the group hosts informal and formal networking events that are a great way for alumni to get together, swap business cards and get to know one another.
Be an active alum on LinkedIn
Use LinkedIn’s Groups Directory to join your alma mater’s alumni group on LinkedIn. You may find a general group or one tailored to your major or a field you’re interested in. After joining, get active on discussions. Don’t forget: You can send a message or connection request to anyone you’re in a group with.
You can also use the LinkedIn Alumni tool to weed through the network with expanded search tools. Find potential connections according to field, major, graduation year, employer or geographic area.
Reach out professionally and respectfully
When you find alumni to connect with, you must take a professional approach to inquiring about open positions.
“The number one rule when students reach out alumni is not to ask about job or internship openings. You want to start a conversation, and by starting with that question, if the answer is no, then where do you go from there?” says Debra Franke, assistant director for career programs at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.
Instead, introduce yourself and build from common ground, beginning with your alma mater, shared career passions or the area you live in. Ask for advice for pursuing a position in your field or at a company they work for that you admire. Once you have a relationship formed, then you can begin to broach the subject of jobs.
Anna Helhoski writes for NerdWallet, a website that helps consumers make smarter financial decisions. NerdWallet is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.
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