When properly leveraged, an alumni network is an extremely powerful tool that may open doors in a competitive job market. Unfortunately, too many people abuse this resource and waste a tremendous opportunity. Here’s how to make the most of your connections:
Be prepared. Know the purpose of your discussion when you set up an appointment with a fellow alumnus, and have an agenda. This immediately demonstrates your professionalism and will help you make the most of your time. When inquiring about a company or job, be sure to study the company’s website, latest press releases, and their business model.
Ask thoughtful questions. I can’t tell you how many times a student or peer has started our conversation by inquiring, “What’s a typical day like for you?” This demonstrates a lack of preparation. Instead, ask questions that dig deep and only your alumni insider could answer.
Demonstrate knowledge and passion. I am always more inclined to help someone get a job if they have demonstrated their knowledge and passion of the field. Comment on industry challenges or breakthroughs and what excites you about the business.
Send a thank you note. People are busy and time is one of the most valuable resources. Show appreciation for the time an alumnus spent with you through a simple thank you email. Keep it professional and highlight what you enjoyed most in your discussion.
Follow up. Sometimes you may reach out to an alumnus for assistance and get radio silence. Follow up. There have been several times where I have wanted to help someone, but their email came to me while I was on the road and ended up in my never-ending starred for later folder. A little friendly reminder can go a long way.