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Leverage Your Alumni Network

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By Jordie Kern @JordieKern

The quickest way to a job is to build a massive network of people who can help make introductions, provide references, and steer you in the right direction.  95% of all job-seekers get hired as a result of networking, compared to only 5% who get hired after responding to want ads.

One of the first places you should look to develop you network is your college’s alumni.

Most schools provide access to an online directory featuring contact information for all former students including name, email, graduation year, employer, title, hometown, work address, and work phone.  It’s an extremely valuable resource that you should definitely use.

If you can’t get online access, visit or phone your college’s career office.  Most counselors are more than happy to connect you to alumni.  After all, your college has a very strong interest in making sure you get hired quickly — unemployed grads are terrible PR for the school.

You can easily find alumni on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Just remember, once you connect with an alumnus, you goal should be a face-to-face meeting.  If that’s not possible, ask if he would be willing to video chat on Skype.  If not, speak on the phone.  Use email only as a last resort.  Email is impersonal and it’s difficult to build a meaningful relationship with it.

When introducing yourself to an alumnus — and for that matter any other person who you want to help you — avoid saying something like, “Hi. I’m graduating soon and was wondering if you could help me get a job.”  Never say that…it’s bound to fail.  The good news is that almost every one of your competitors will use that approach, so you can easily separate yourself from the pack with a more professional introduction.

Reach out to as many alumni as you can including ones who work in your target field, who live in your target cities, and who hold prestigious jobs. You never know who can help you so don’t discriminate at this early stage.

The strategy I highly recommend is to arrange Informational Interviews.  We have lots of great videos at 1DegreeHire.com that describe why Informational Interviews are so powerful.  If you take this approach, you’ll find that most people will be more than happy to help you.  It makes them feel good knowing that they’re having a positive influence on a recent grad starting his or her career.

The ultimate goal is to get the alumnus to like you so he takes you under his wing.  How do you do that?  By asking for advice and suggestions, taking a genuine interest in his career, showing gratitude, making him feel important and appreciated.

Build your relationship through shared experiences. It’s so important to find that common ground. Discuss classes or professors you might have shared, Greek life, athletics, or even bars you might have attended.   It’s a good idea to Google the alumnus first and dig up any discussion topics you can find from his college days.

I’m partial to an old-fashioned hand-written note that you follow up with a phone call.  Say something like, “I got your name from the co-op office here at UW.  I’m considering a career in web development when I graduate next year and would love an opportunity to speak with you for a few minutes to learn more about your experience working in this industry and hear any suggestions you may have for me.  I can meet you anytime next week that is convenient for you.  Just tell me when and where.  Thank you so much for helping this eager, hard working, and determined college student.  I really appreciate it!  P.S.  Enclosed is an old Daily Cardinal article on the computer science award you won in 1989…I thought you’d get a kick out of seeing it again!”  Now, don’t you feel a note like that is bound to get a positive response?

So reach out to your school’s alumni network and start building your network today.

Jordie Kern is Co-Founder of 1 Degree Hire.  Click Here for his complete bio, and follow him on Twitter @JordieKern

To access a FREE, 3 Part Video Series from 1 Degree Hire, enter your name and e-mail Here.

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