How To Help Students Tap Into Alumni Networks

alumni networks
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alumni networks

(This post was updated on 6/22/2020)

Using alumni networks is an ideal starting point for any college student’s career.

Whether you’re a professor, adviser, or career counselor, you serve as an excellent resource for your students when it comes to networking. Because of your position, you have access to a vast network of alumni who can help your current students advance their careers.

Alumni networks serve as a crucial pool of advice and career opportunities for college students. According to a 2020 Jobvite survey, 45% of job seekers found out about job openings through friends, and 31% found out through their professional networks. Networking is an excellent way for college students to break into their industries. Most college students are searching for ways to network into internships and jobs; and alumni can serve as the first stepping stone.

When helping students connect with alumni, it’s important to be strategic. Ideally, you should connect your current students with students you have a good relationship with. This way, you serve as a mutual connection between the student and alum, and you avoid putting your current student in an awkward situation. 

To help students tap into alumni networks, consider these ideas for connecting current and past students:

1. Set up informational interviews.

Connecting your students to alumni for informational interviews is a great networking opportunity. This allows students to approach alumni for professional advice without blindly contacting someone.

Informational interviews are also a great way for students to learn more about their major and gain helpful advice from a professional. In fact, this informational interview could lead to a future job shadow or internship opportunity from which your student could benefit.

2. Encourage job shadows with alumni.

Job shadows are also a great networking opportunity for your current students. If you want your students to see how their university education applies to the real world, alumni can show them the connection.

Alumni are typically open to hosting job shadows for college students — especially if one of your alumni is a recent graduate, as they will understand the difficulty students may have transitioning into their professional careers.

3. Internship and job opportunities.

Alumni often have great leads for internships and entry-level jobs. In fact, if you still have close contact with some of your previous students, they could hook your current students up with internships before the opportunity is advertised publicly.

Reach out to alumni to find out about available internships and entry-level jobs. After you come up with a list of opportunities, send out an email to your students who’d be interested in the job or internship. If a student happens to be interested in the opportunity, then you can connect them directly to the alumni who shared the position.

4. Resume and cover letter advice.

Another way alumni can help your students get ahead in their careers is by connecting them with alumni who’d provide real-world career advice. A new relationship like this gives your students a competitive advantage when they write their cover letters and resumes

If you have a few alumni who had a lot of internship experience in college, see if they’d be willing to visit some of your classes to do a professional development workshop with your students. 

This workshop would serve as a chance for alumni to lend advice to students struggling with their resumes and cover letters. In addition, students could ask questions regarding their internship and job search, too. After all, alumni were once in the shoes of your students, so they understand the pressures of launching a career in college.

5. Create a list of alumni your students can contact.

In addition to finding alumni who can meet with your students, see if some would be willing to be added to a contact list that students can access for networking purposes. This way, your students can connect with alumni on their terms and make it convenient for you.

To help your students make the most of their college experience, encourage them to network with alumni. This network will allow students to make professional contacts and advance their careers without the worry of being ignored or overlooked by professionals. 

How do you help your students tap into alumni networks?

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.