If you’re on the hunt for a new job, there’s one resource you’re probably overlooking: alumni. Here’s how you can leverage your network.
Networking. It’s the key to getting your foot in the door or scoring that initial interview during your job search. But it’s challenging if you don’t know where to start. And it can be intimidating to meet professionals you don’t know.
But that’s why tapping into your school’s alumni network is an excellent option. Not only does it give you an automatic connection, but most people also want to help other graduates from their alma mater. ( to tweet this advice.) Leveraging this network proves to be a useful job search strategy.
Explore your alumni association
If you’re not sure where to meet fellow alumni, check out your school’s alumni association. Generally, these large organizations are broken down into smaller groups. Search for an in your specific industry, and keep an eye out for alumni social or networking events.
Network online, too
In addition to meeting up with groups of alumni (call it bulk networking), network online. This means following the Facebook, Twitter and accounts of alumni groups and your school.
Eventually you’ll be able to connect with specific people. You’ll learn about upcoming events and know what’s going on at the school, which can be great small talk at an event and a good way to break the ice.
Saying something like, “Did you hear about the new dorm they’re building?” will spark a better conversation than “This weather is terrible.” You can also sign up for email alerts or browse the school website periodically.
LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with alumni via the “Find Alumni” feature. This allows you to search LinkedIn based on location, company, the years they attended the school and industry.
Let your university connect you to alumni
It may seem like you’re already using your university, but most of the time, college career centers have lists of alumni they can reach out to. They can put you in touch with alumni in your particular industry or area of interest. A career adviser might be able to connect you with people who frequently help alumni and give you advice on the best way to get in touch.
Most universities now have an online directory of current alumni, what they do for a living and their contact information. The best thing about reaching out to alumni via a database is they’ve most likely volunteered their information, so they’ve already essentially said they’re willing to help.
You can also reach out to your former professors (or the dean of your school) and see if they have former students they’re still in touch with who might be willing to answer an email or meet up for coffee. Talk to anyone who might have access to a wide network of alumni.
Though there are a variety of ways to meet alumni, the rules of communication are the same no matter what the medium is. Remember that doesn’t mean you’re reaching out to them for a job. You want to build a relationship so you can learn about the industry, their company, job-hunting or anything else that might be of value.
Ask about their job and what they do on a day-to-day basis. Think about the person’s job and what questions you can ask. Maybe entry-level alumni will be able to offer more details on how to break into a particular field, while a senior level employee might be able to offer more information about the state of the industry.
Tailor your questions (whether they’re about responsibilities, interviewing tips or company questions) to the person. You can also find out information such as which industry groups will be useful to you or which publications you should be reading.
Only after you’ve established a personal should you broach the idea of a potential job opening. Tell alumni exactly what you’re looking for and see if they know anyone who might be able to help.
The key to success, no matter what stage of the relationship you’re at, is to be respectful of the person’s time. Take your cues from the people in your network, and treat them as people you’d like to get to know — not just as an avenue to a job.
Carly Dell is the community manager for the innovative offered through Simmons College. In her free time, Carly enjoys traveling, binge-watching HGTV and trying new restaurants. Follow her on Twitter and .