New graduates and those in career transition often ask me about good resources for networking. Connecting with alumni groups and associations is often one of my top recommendations. Surprisingly, what should be most obvious is often forgotten as an effective path to connecting with others; there is value to investing in this group of people who share something in common. And during these uncertain times, the power of alumni associations also adds a sense of community and connectedness.
Alumni engage in various ways, depending on where they are in their careers. Recent graduates often have different perspectives and needs than those who completed their education years ago. Here are two approaches on how alumni associations can help in your career search and growth.
Alumni Groups for New and Recent Graduates
Many of you are familiar with most of the services offered by your alumni associations. So now what? First, look for those who share common interests: major, career interest, graduation year. This will help you “make the connection” with others who have shared experiences. You may also share some of the same career aspirations and have experiences and ideas that can benefit a wider group.
Second, find a mentor: a past alumnus who is working in your desired field or even a desired organization. Using your connection to alma mater is a great way to make the introduction. Finding the right mentor may take some time, however it will be time well spent. Bonus: also look into career coaching resources that your alumni group may be able to refer you to, such as Coaching 4 Good’s career development packages.
A third, fundamental step is joining the LinkedIn alumni group. This will allow you to search for others and stay informed on career and alumni services that may be of value.
Older Alumnus and Those in Career Transition
Unlike new and recent graduates, you now have the experience to balance with your degree. There are many things you have learned along your career journey and how you engage is going to be unique. For example, finding a mentor may not be a top need. You are likely more interested in finding those who can hire you or make introductions for you.
Again, using an alumni LinkedIn group is a powerful resource in helping you connect with others. Keep in mind that career coaching is not exclusive to new or recent graduates. A decision to work with a coach can help you stay focused and motivated during your career transition.
Your degree is not the end of learning. Alumni groups and associations offer access to career and professional development programs, often at reduced cost. Even if you are between opportunities, there is value in continuing to improve your knowledge and marketable skills.
When recruiters or hiring managers ask you what you have been doing in between, you can focus the conversation on how you are continuing to develop. This is a positive mindset that will set you apart from those who are not investing in their growth.
There is power in tapping into those who have gone before you; those who have experienced similar career challenges, and those who can offer encouragement.
Stay Connected & Resilient
To the classes of 2020 and 2021: this has not been a normal year, and the following year may be more of the same. However, your hard work earning your degree will not be devalued because of these circumstances. Nothing can take away from all you have gained; you will always be connected to your alma mater. Your contributions do not have to end with your commencement. Alumni groups exist to support you wherever you are in your career journey.
Congratulations are still in order for all recent graduates. Celebrate your success as you develop that all important resiliency!
Steve Graham built a successful career on years of experience in marketing, human resources, talent development, and sales management. In addition to serving as a Marketing and HR leader, he is a certified coach dedicated to helping people find their path. His coaching specialization is focused on leadership development, executive and career coaching. He enjoys working with new managers, adult learners in college programs, and recent college graduates (undergrad and graduate level).