Today’s post is going to be a lengthier one than usual, because I wanted to create a complete and comprehensive guide on the topic of how to leverage alumni in the job search – oh, and there’s a video tutorial too! Let’s dive right in.
3 ways alumni can help you during a job search
Let’s kick off by sharing a few tactical ways alumni can help you out.
#1 – Informational interviews
Informational interviews or meetings are a great way to get advice from someone who is doing something cool or interesting that you want to learn more about.
You might decide to have an informational interview with someone who had your same major and has now gone on to work at a really great company that you’d love to work for. You might reach out to someone who has had an interesting or unique career path.
Informational interviews or meetings are a great way to form connections, learn about a company or career path, and get great advice on how to break in. However, you are asking for someone to take significant time out of their day and that’s why total strangers aren’t always likely to respond to your request.
Alumni are much more willing to give back to someone who is already a part of their community.
#2 – Following up on a job application
If you’re job searching right now, I’m sure you can relate to this scenario: you came across a job, you were super excited because it seemed like a great fit, you applied, and now you’re waiting, wondering if anyone is even looking at your application or if it’s sitting in a black hole somewhere.
An alum of your school may be able to help you fish that application out of that black hole and highlight it to the correct person internally. That’s exactly what you want!
I’ve talked a lot about cold emails on this site and alumni are a great group to send them to.
#3 – Learning about different career paths based on what you studied
Another great way your alumni community may be useful is to help you brainstorm potential career paths. If you studied communications and you’re not sure what your first or next career move should be, check out what others are doing with that same major (don’t worry, I’m going to show you exactly how in a moment) to get ideas.
How to find alumni with awesome career paths
If you’re sold on these 3 ways you can leverage your alumni network in a job search, you’re probably now wondering how you actually access this information.
While many universities have robust and up-to-date alumni directories, my top place to look is on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has an incredible alumni feature that is so easy to use and I’m excited to walk you through it in this quick video.
As you can see, LinkedIn can be a great way to browse different alumni and see what they’re up to. Unless you pay for LinkedIn premium (in which case you can send an inMail) or are connected to them, the next big question is how to figure out their email addresses to reach out.
How to find alumni contact information
This brings us to the next part of this guide. There are 3 ways you can find alumni contact information:
#1 – Cross-reference the database provided by your school
Like we talked about, some universities actually provide contact information through a private database, only accessable if you went to school there. If you have access to that, there’s your answer. Take the list of names you’ve gathered to target and start looking up email addresses. Viola!
#2 – Send LinkedIn inMail
As you know if you’re a long time reader, I am not a fan of connecting with strangers on LinkedIn. However, sending them a message is a totally different story and I’m all for it. However, if you’re not actually connected to a person on LinkedIn you either have to be a member of a common group of have inMail credits.
#3 – Do a bit of detective work and find out their email
Last but not least, most people’s emails are actually pretty easy to find so you can reach out directly. Here are my steps to do this:
- Run a simple Google search with the person’s first and last name and company name. This surprisingly works for me about 50% of the time – scary!
- Look on the company’s website to see if you can find any other email addresses. I often find that there is a press contact listed on company press releases. If you know one email address, you know them all.
- Leverage sites like email-format.com or other email finders. Even if you do get it wrong, the worst thing that happens is that it bounces back and then you know you didn’t get through.
How to reach out
Last but not least, let’s talk about what to say when you actually reach out to these people. Of course the template below will need to be adjusted based on what you’re asking for and on your own personal narrative.
Remember that you always want to:
- Personalize and sound human – no one wants to help out a robot!
- Explain why you chose to reach out to them
- Show that you’ve done a bit of research (without getting too creepy)
- Have a concrete ask – help them help you!
Here’s a template you can use:
I hope you don’t mind me reaching out but I came across your information [on LinkedIn / in the X alumni database] and I was excited to connect.
Short elevator pitch which sets the stage for why you’re reaching out
I am a [X professional / recent graduate of X university / etc. – give your one line pitch here] and I am currently [explain why you’re reaching out – i.e. looking for new opportunities in the X field / learning as much as I can about a career in X].
Why you targeted them
I noticed that you’ve [what about their background interests you – i.e. been working at [company], which is a place I have long admired or been working in the [field] industry, one that I’ve been thinking a lot about myself].
I recently applied to an X role at [company] and wanted to see if you had any advice for me or would be willing to highlight my interest to the correct person internally.
I wanted to see if you’d be open to meeting with me or having a quick call so I can learn more about your background, what it’s like to work at [company], and get any advice about breaking in to the [field] industry. I can make myself available around your schedule.
Thanks so much for your help and advice!
Wrap up + free download
So there it is – everything you need to know about leveraging alumni in a job search. I promise that this can be very effective and open lots of new doors. If you’re ready to get moving, you can also download the free worksheet below which will help you to create your alumni target list and summarize some of the key tips from this post.
Good luck and I’d love to hear your success stories! Jaime