As graduation draws near, college students become stressed about employment. After spending the majority of their lives studying, they suddenly have a new, often unfamiliar task: the post college job search.
But many college students don’t realize the bounty of resources available to them for the job search. Beyond employment agencies and company websites, college alumni networks are a great resource for potential job opportunities and employment ideas.
But just how can college students tap into the power of alumni networks? What are the proper routes to take, and what’s the right etiquette for approaching a potential networking contact? Here are six ways college students can use their college alumni network to land a job:
1. Start early. Don’t wait until the minute you need a job to start tapping into your school’s alumni network. While it’s never too late to get started, you should try to make networking connections throughout your entire college career so you have a good database of personal networking contacts to tap into after graduation.
2. Find contacts. Talk to your career services center to see if they keep a database of alumni willing to talk to students about their professional careers. Many colleges and universities do this. Most schools also have alumni relations offices that can put you in contact with professional alumni in your industry or field, or those that have relationships with employment agencies.
3. Get involved. Joining campus organizations–or even off-campus organizations–can help you to connect with current students and gain access to alumni who have participated in the same groups. Consider student clubs, volunteer groups, community centers, political organizations, student newspapers or blogs, theatre groups, or other organizations that pique your interest. Not only will you gain a great addition to your skill set and resume, but you’ll glean direct access to a large pool of alumni with similar career goals.
4. Tap into social media. In today’s technological landscape, the power of social media — sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn — is unmatched when it comes to connecting professionals across time and place. Brand yourself on your personal social media accounts by ensuring your image remains professional and focused on your industry, but don’t forget to showcase your interests, unique traits, and personality as well. Once you’ve established a professional personal brand on social media, you’ll feel more comfortable reaching out to alumni contacts. Alumni and employment agencies often reach out to students with completed LinkedIn profiles.
5. Start a conversation first. Approaching someone by saying “I need a job” isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’ll just look desperate and, even worse, inconsiderate. Whether you’re talking to alumni contacts via email, phone, or social media, always start a conversation first, and talk job opportunities later. Find a common point of interest with your new networking contact–it’s easy with social media–and go from there. Reply to their tweets, comment on a blog post, or send an email with a news article or online video you think they may like.
6. Set up an informational interview. Informational interviews are a great way to pick the brains of professionals you admire. Informational interviews can often lead to advice, job openings, or introductions to more networking connections. To set up an informational interview, simply ask your networking contact to meet you for lunch or coffee. Bring a copy of your resume and a few questions you want to ask. Keep the conversation short–less than 30 minutes–and follow up afterward via email or phone to thank them for their time.
Tapping into the power of an alumni network doesn’t have to be difficult. If college students are proactive about the networking process, they’ll have no problems establishing themselves in entry-level positions after college.
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for university career centers that gives students and alumni complete control over their job search. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.