Need a job? Look to your alumni network.

Using alumni networks to get a job

As an English major, I had no idea what my first post-college job would be. By the time May of my senior year rolled around, many of my friends had already snagged job offers and lined up post-graduation plans for employment. I had nothing.

Then one day I got a mass email from a club I was in — the school newspaper — about a potential summer job. An alumna had contacted our paper’s editor to see if any current or graduating students were interested in an editorial internship at her company. I applied, got the internship, and by end of August, they hired me on as a full-time editor. I stayed at that company for four years and got some very solid entry-level work experience.

In a world where studies show that some 80% of job openings are not advertised and 70% are found through networking, alumni can be a gold mine of job opportunities — they’re often receptive to helping younger graduates of their alma mater, and they often work at niche companies you may not have found on your own.

But unlike how I landed my first job after graduation, many alumni do not approach current students or young alumni with job opportunities. Many times, you need to seek out alumni networks, identify potential career contacts, and establish the connection. Here are four tips for reaching out and scoring a job.

  1. Use LinkedIn

    This professional social network is an amazing tool for making inroads at different companies you have your eye on. Search for your school’s official alumni page on LinkedIn. There you can use the “career insights” feature to find alumni connections by where they live, where they work, and what they do.

  2. Tap into alumni publications

    This means reading the class announcements at the back of the printed alumni magazine you get in the mail or signing up for email newsletters for clubs you were in or for your specific college (like the College of Business). Monitor publications like this for alumni news and career updates, then reach out to people with careers or positions you admire, or who work at companies you’re interested in.

  3. Seek out alumni in your city

    Join your official city-specific alumni group through your school’s alumni network page, or search Facebook for any alumni groups in your local area. Attend events hosted by these groups. Even if you don’t make a career connection right away, it’s a great place to sharpen your networking skills and meet new people. If you keep attending, chances are you’ll establish a rapport with alumni in all different industries — even if they can’t help you out with a job, if you make a good impression, they may put you in touch with their connections.

  4. Set up informational interviews

    Once you’ve established a solid alumni contact, whether through LinkedIn, an alumni publication, or another means, ask for an informational interview. These interviews are more casual than a traditional job interview: The primary goal is to learn more about a potential position, career, or industry before jumping in feet first. It’s important to be respectful of your alumni connection’s time. Don’t jump right to job opportunities, but rather focus on listening and learning at your initial meeting — and be sure to follow up with a thank-you note.

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