How to reach out to alumni
Get responses from your alumni network with these tips.
I’ve written before about how valuable your university network can be. Alumni can be your secret career weapon, especially when you’re just starting out. After all, before you have any real-life professional contacts, you’ve got a whole network of folks associated with your school. And let’s be real – they probably all remember how tough it was starting out.
Here’s where we put the pedal to the metal – there are some special tricks to connecting with alumni, and scoring that elusive informational interview.
(You’ve got this!)
Do your research.
If you’ve found somebody from your school you admire, it’s important to do your homework before you reach out. Did your contact sing in glee club? Participate in the Greek system? Are they known for their stellar research? You should know a little bit about them before reaching out.
A quick Google search should turn up important information on your (hopeful) new friend. It can also help you generate incisive questions to ask them. Have they worked at a company you’re interested in, or been a part of well-known projects? Ask them questions about their specific experience – it’ll show you care.
Establish your point of connection right off the bat!
When you send that cold email, don’t hold back from establishing your shared alumni status. Send the email from your school address! Immediately disclose that your a fellow-alum, and that’s why you’re reaching out.
Use what you learned in step one! If you two have obvious shared experiences (chess club, anyone?) mention it. People love to connect with folks they can relate to personally. Don’t hold back valuable info that can help you build rapport!
Establish the parameters of the conversation.
Be very clear what you’re asking for – a 15 minute phone call? A brief email correspondence? A 30 minute meetup near their office? By keeping your request clear and time constrained, you show respect for their busy schedule.
By making your request clear and straightforward, you convey that you value their expertise, and their time. After all, nobody wants to sign up for a meandering, unfocused career therapy session.
Thank them for their time.
If you’re contacting an alum who graduated many years ago, don’t give them a reason to mutter “Kids these days.”
Make sure to give thanks in advance for their consideration. After all, they’re taking time out of their day to read your email! Even if they’re not able to help you out, you’ve already asked something of them. By showing your gratitude upfront, you’ll be more likely to get a “Yes, certainly!”
Pulling it all together…
Here’s an example of how all these tips might look when you pull them together:
I’m a fellow University of Michigan grad and marketer, and I found your profile on BrightCrowd. It looks like we’re both from NYC, too!
I’m thinking of leaving my agency to go freelance. Since you’ve also made that leap, I’d love to hear a little about what resources and strategies you found helpful.
Could we schedule a quick 15 minute call sometime that’s convenient for you? My lunch hour is open all next week.
Thanks so much, I really appreciate your consideration. (Go Blue!)
And remember – if you get the interview, be sure to show up on time and prepared! And review these tips on how to make the most out of your new connection.
FURTHER READING: Zoe’s post on mentorship!