Don't Underestimate Your Alumni Network

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Are you involved in your college's alumni network? You should be.

When networking with your fellow alumni, you're talking to people who speak the same language as you: You all understand the work it took to make you a member. You have built-in loyalty to your school and your peers. Whether on a local or national level, the alumni network will support you throughout your entire working life. And there's an inherent, pre-screened talent pool you can tap into, whether you're looking to find a job or fill one.

An alumni association is "the single most important facility to enable students to get jobs and for companies to recruit successfully," says Eric Mokover, associate dean, career initiatives, at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. "Alumni have a real emotional connection to the school and therefore are going to work harder in a place where they know what the quality's about."

That sense of connection makes some alumni efforts verge on the heroic, Mokover says. One Anderson alumnus, a managing director in capital markets at Citigroup, returned from a trip to London to hold a mentoring session in Los Angeles with a small group of students. Only when that was done did he return to his office in New York.

Another graduate, a managing director at Morgan Stanley, "drops everything she's doing to coach students," Mokover says. A third, a managing director in private equity funds on the investment-banking side, "will go through walls for our students to try to help them."

Old School Ties that Bind

Career-services professionals at other schools see similar dedication. "We have a huge number of job openings from alumni who want to hire other alumni," says Barb Hewitt, senior associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania. "There's a natural connection. It's an easy sorting mechanism at the start."

The best part of tapping into an alumni network may be "no more cold calls," suggests , Pat deMasters of the University of California - Berkeley's Haas School of Business. When a student or recent graduate reaches out, "you automatically have something in common, so they're therefore more willing to help you."

As at many schools, Haas alumni are included in career fairs and student workshops on interviewing, resume writing and other job-search techniques. Online resources offer a treasure trove of career-research opportunities. Directed job-search teams conduct conference calls facilitated by graduate MBA coaches. And, like most schools, nationwide chapters hold local social and professional events that can help break the ice.

The bottom line: Don't overlook your alumni network. Jon Howell, a Harvard MBA who's developed a network of some 300 contacts through the Harvard Business School Association of Orange County, Calif., says recent graduates "get so caught up in what they're doing, they think they don't need a network." But through alumni groupos, "all you need to do is just show up to have access to senior management in your community," he says.

There's one caveat: Don't take alumni help for granted. "Be thankful for your alumni," says Mokover. "Treat them well." Then one day you'll be able to return the favor.

Are you involved on your alumni network? Has it been effective? Let us know by posting a comment below.

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