What is an alumni network?
Whether formally established or not, many schools, colleges and universities have their own alumni networks made up of individuals working around the world who all graduated from that institution. Alumni meet at events, promote their school, volunteer and help existing students follow them into often lucrative, successful career paths, all brought together by their shared experiences in education.
How do alumni networks help students?
This commonality can form invaluable connections between people operating in all industries and help existing students or recent graduates looking to make their way in those niches. It can often be a real challenge cutting through the noise and getting your foot in the door at a renowned company or in a competitive industry but using an alumni network can give students and graduates the edge when it comes to taking the next exciting steps in their careers.
Alumni networks can provide opportunities, references, advice, coaching and mentoring, all of which provides students and graduates with unique insights that can help them shape their own vocational decisions and, ultimately, land a great job and build their career.
How to use an alumni network
Now you know what an alumni network is and how they can benefit students, what’s next? We’ve put together a list of five top tips for how to leverage your alumni networks:
1. Connect or reconnect with your school
Whether it’s before you leave school or after you’ve graduated, connect or reconnect with your institution. Many schools, colleges and universities have official alumni associations, groups or networks that allow you to sign up to receive benefits, regular communication and support after you’ve finished attending.
Many schools or universities have some form of alumni section on their website where you can sign up to email mailing lists or alumni magazine subscriptions, while others will have active groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook that you can use as networking tools. Connect with your school on whichever platforms you use to stay up to date and start to use the alumni network to your advantage
2. Reach out to alumni
For students, our top alumni networking tip would be to reach out to relevant alumni from your school, college or university and find out everything you need to know about the career or industry they’ve moved into. Use the aforementioned alumni networks on social media platforms like LinkedIn to find out what professions graduates from your courses or qualifications move into.
Get in touch with them and suggest a phone call, video call or meeting over a coffee, with the purpose of gathering information. It’s important to emphasise that this doesn’t need to be done with a particular job offer in mind; rather, it’s a chance to find out first-hand whether an industry or career path is really for you. Put together a list of questions in advance to help you find out what their role is like, how they got into their profession in the first place, and what tips they would give a student wanting to move into this area. Not only will this help you prepare for life after school or university, but it gets you acquainted with someone who might be looking to recruit in the future.
3. Build genuine connections and stay in touch
This leads on nicely to our next tip, which is to build genuine connections. Look to build relationships with the alumni you network with, finding common ground about your shared school or university experience and other areas of your lives. Don’t just get in touch when a specific role comes up, but instead take a genuine interest in learning from alumni and maintaining that connection with an ever-growing group of likeminded people who will be able to help you with opportunities and advice when the time comes.
4. Attend alumni events
One benefit of being involved in alumni networks is the opportunity to go to exclusive events, both in person and virtually, that will be attended by alumni that could provide a stepping stone to a great career, promotion or opportunity. Be selective and strategic about the types of events you want to attend and the kinds of people you want to meet. You might have made a list of valuable individuals you want to network with in a particular field beforehand and, as when reaching out to alumni online, be sure to have your questions ready.
5. Volunteer for your school
Don’t forget to give something back when you’re an alumnus yourself. Schools, colleges and universities are always grateful when former students offer their time and expertise to help out the next generation of pupils.
You could offer to give a talk or lecture about the career path you’ve taken, the roles you’ve ended up in and how your time at your school influenced these. You could also offer to mentor students, providing them with the chance to ask you questions and gain insight from your own experience. Interview practice for students is another thing that schools are often looking for volunteers to assist with.
Whatever it is you do with your hours, volunteering is a fantastic way to reaffirm connections with your school, college, or university. You never know, one of the students you help or mentor might even go on to become a vital business connection in years to come.
There you have it, our top alumni networking ideas and tips to help you leverage your alumni network, build relationships and secure the very best career opportunities. To find out more about our incredible alumni at Nord Anglia Education, visit our alumni page.