Why College Students Should Rely on Their Alma Mater for Jobs


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Christa was one of the lucky few students who had a job lined up for after graduation. But when that workplace didn’t pan out a few years later, she quickly learned how rough the job market could be. After a month of her search going nowhere, Christa decided to turn to the place that helped her get her first job: her alma mater.

A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, she went back to their career services site and began to look at the resources they had to offer her. She found open positions that interested her and, to her surprise, every application she sent out received a response. After four job offers in nine weeks, she started a job she loved — all because of her alma mater.

Before you t

hink, “Good for Christa, but what good does that do me?” know that your university probably has support for you, too. Gallup and Inside Higher Ed’s 2016 survey, Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, found 83 percent of colleges are creating programs to help students get “good” jobs.

If you think your university career services department or alumni center have nothing of value to offer, here are four reasons to reconsider:

1. Networking opportunities with alumni

There’s an inherent connection since both parties attended the same school — and this connection could help land an interview or job.

Start by finding former graduates you can connect with. Search for local alumni gatherings, which include volunteering opportunities, happy hours, and sporting events.  

Unfortunately, a lot of people miss out on major career opportunities because they don’t network. As a 2015 survey conducted by the University of Phoenix School of Business found, 53 percent of the 2,000 adults surveyed are either hesitant to network or avoid it altogether, and 27 percent of those who think they don’t do enough networking also think they lost job opportunities.

You can land job referrals and professional references, but remember, networking is not just shaking hands and asking for favors. You need to think long-term. To build long-lasting, meaningful relationships, you want to identify your most valuable connections. Then, keep a list and schedule follow-ups for each contact.

Send contacts articles and other information you think they’d find helpful. Continue to stay in touch through social media and email, and try to schedule coffee or lunch meetings every now and then.

2. Job opportunities at your alma mater

Higher education is a great industry that hires to fill a great number and variety of positions and often. While it’s competitive, you can find awesome career opportunities in your old stomping grounds.

Alumni aren’t your only networking opportunity. Reconnect with some of your favorite professors and advisors you were close with. Revisit any organizations or clubs you were active in. Offer to volunteer at events with them or with departments you’re interested in.

The power of your network cannot be understated. LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Trends Report found 38 percent of people are hired through a referral. This is why building a strong rapport is important — you are taken more seriously as a candidate when you have colleagues vouching for you and the value you bring.

You should also pursue internships so you can turn them into full-time work. Between earning referrals from the university’s current staff and proving your value as an employee during an internship, you are creating an excellent opportunity to land a job in good standing.

3. Connecting all the moving parts

Your university offers several excellent career management resources, but it can be overwhelming. You need to know how to put them together.

First, you need clear direction of where you want to go in your career. Speak with a career counselor. You can find what path you want to take and even think of ways of managing a career outside of your major.

Then, use your college’s internal job placement services to search for exclusive opportunities you won’t find elsewhere. Also, diversify your job search efforts by searching other job boards and continuing to expand your professional network.

Conduct informational interviews with your internal alumni network to learn more about employers in your industry and what it’s like to work for them. This helps narrow down your search, so you can target specific companies.

4. Using confidence building tools

Many recent grads need a boost in confidence. To feel better about yourself as you enter the workforce, work with career services to get a handle on how to communicate your value.

Attend interview prep workshops, watch webinars, and make the most of your alma mater’s online resources. You don’t need to enter the workforce feeling unprepared and uncertain.

For example, the University of South Florida offers access to OptimalResume, a career management platform that covers topics like portfolio building, skills assessments, and website building. They also offer live and recorded trainings.

Your alma mater offers plenty of career management resources. They aren’t just throwing student loan debt on you. Make sure you make the most out of your university so you can turn your degree into a career you love.

How are you making the most out of your alma mater during your job search? Let us know in the comments below!


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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.