Getting the most out of your college experience means leaving no opportunity taken for granted, and that includes getting in touch with your alumni network. Graduates — particularly those in your field of interest — can be extremely valuable when it comes to finding leads for internships and jobs both before and after graduation. Here are two ways to connect with alumni as well as some best practices for doing so.
Connect on Campus
The traditional way of meeting alumni still proves effective today: Your school will likely hold several alumni networking events in a semester, which is the perfect opportunity for you to get some one-on-one time with those who were in your shoes not too long ago. These will be your chance to put out feelers into the post-college world and to pick up a few business cards along the way.
Schools love to share the accomplishments of their alumni with their current students. As a result, you can also expect to see alumni at job fairs and discussion panels that are led by the campus career center. (Or you might even see alumni at a Homecoming game — you're not stuck with just a networking event!)
Connect Over Social Media
While it's great to be able to make an in-person impression, sometimes alumni no longer live close enough to be physically present at your school's events. But don't count those connections out just yet! Websites like LinkedIn are perfect for more than just finding job leads — you can use them to see if graduates from your alma mater are currently employed by a company that also has an opening you're interested in. A simple "Connect" paired with a friendly message can go a long way toward a blossoming digital professional relationship too.
No matter the form of contact — email, LinkedIn, in-person — treat your alumni interactions like you would a job interview. First and foremost, that means to always be polite, but it also means to give a little background on yourself. You should briefly introduce yourself with the following:
- Your name
- How you got the alum's contact information
- Why you're interested in meeting them
For local alumni, ask if you can meet for coffee or lunch to discuss either your school experience or to talk about their industry and career path. As a sort of informational interview, you can become well-equipped with advice on key skills needed for your career path or even internship or research leads.
But as with any interview, you shouldn't show up without preparing first. Have a list of questions ready to guide the interview — you want them to think you're serious about your future (and their time!). Some questions you can ask include:
- What internship experience did you obtain before graduating?
- What clubs or organizations did you join on campus?
- How well did you feel your major prepared you for your field of interest?
And, of course, be sure to send a thank you note or email the next day in order to maintain the relationship for the future.
For long-distance alumni, much of the same etiquette applies, whether by phone or email: Introduce yourself, always be polite, and ask useful questions.
If you're nervous about initiating contact with an alum, that's totally understandable! But my advice is simple: Treat each interaction as a conversation, not as a career move. If you approach things naturally, you'll do just fine. If you're still deciding on a career path, check out our career search for help. From there, head over to our college rankings to see which schools might be a best-fit for you.
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