Looking for a new direction in your job search this summer? Attempting to expand your personal network after graduation? Struggling with career decisions? Been-there-done-that career advice and mentorship may be closer and easier than you thought.
When was the last time you tapped your alumni network?
From job search tips and professional networking to information interviews, alumni can provide critical feedback. Before you reach out through LinkedIn, alumni directories and local networking events, however; remember that first impressions count among alumni, too. So carefully prepare for the conversations to come.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
1. How Did [Your Institution] Help Find Your First Position After Graduation?
Was it the coursework, or perhaps an internship, that made the difference? A career advisor or professor? This question helps you get at the potential employment value of your academic program from a working professional.
2. If Hiring, What Would You Look for from New Graduates from [Your Institution]?
This question is another way to ask about the strengths of your academic program and your school, as well as gain insight into the current needs of employers hiring in your field of interest.
3. What Worked Best When Answering Questions About Our Education?
Especially relevant to students in programs that are delivered completely online or non-traditional methods, past graduates may be able to provide some insight about how their employers, and the industry in general, perceive the value of their education. Views are changing as more academic programs integrate technology and web-based resources, but you may still encounter questions about your learning experience.
4. If You Could Do It All Over Again, What Would You Do Differently?
This question is included in Penn State’s list of informational interview questions, and it seems particularly useful when talking with alumni. Are there opportunities or services available through your school that they wish they had taken advantage of, but didn’t?
5. What Do I Need to Self-Learn to be Competitive?
No single curriculum provides everything that you’ll need to be successful in your first or next job. Where were the gaps? Based on their experiences, what do alumni recommend you self-learn? Be sure to ask follow-up questions related to recommended MOOCs, professional development and continuing education activities.
6. Who Else Should I Talk to?
Alumni may be able to refer you to other alumni and additional connections within the industry. They may also be able to recommend leaders in the field and organizations that you should follow via social media. Ask about active alumni groups on LinkedIn – another great source for career information and networking.
7. May I Keep in Touch With You and Let You Know My Progress?
While some alumni will be interested in adding you to their network, don’t make the assumption this is always the case. This question from MIT’s Alumni Association may seem simple, but it allows you to clearly address the issue and set the stage for future contact and questions.
Remember that all forms of relationship building, including professional networking with alumni, take time; and not all alumni will be open to talking with you. And be sure to check with your school’s Career Center and Alumni Office for guidance on identifying and communicating with past graduates; they may even be able to recommend specific people to contact based on your interests and location.
As Kaplan University’s alumni team reminds us, “graduation is just the beginning …”So add alumni to your job search, networking and career development strategies. Then be 100% prepared for every conversation!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at OnlineCollege!
About the Author: Melissa Venable, PhD is an Education Writer for OnlineCollege.org. Melissa’s background includes work in higher education – private, public, and for-profit – as an instructional designer and curriculum developer. Melissa is also an experienced instructor, academic advisor and career counselor. She is actively involved in research related to online education and the support of online students. Her work has been published in The Career Development Quarterly, TechTrends, the Journal of Computing in Higher Education. Follow Melissa on Twitter!