In this turbulent economic climate, making connections with people in the workforce is more important than ever. For students at college, meeting professionals in the real world may seem daunting and difficult. However, networking with alumni from your college is one of the easiest and most effective methods to establish strong professional relationships.
How should you go about finding alumni in your field of interest? The first step is to contact your university’s Career Center. The Career Center should be able to put you in contact with both recent graduates and other alumni. Because Career Center employees often work closely with alumni, they will be able to point you to friendly people who have expressed interest in helping current undergraduates.
Another effective way to get information about alumni in your field is to speak with your academic advisor or a professor who is knowledgeable about your field of interest. Faculty members often maintain contact with former students and are usually enthusiastic to connect current students to past ones.
What do you do once you have obtained contact information for an alum? A good way to begin a relationship is to contact the alum for an informational interview. An informational interview is a conversation with a professional in which you ask questions about his or her career. Informational interviews function to both inform the interviewer about a particular career path and to establish a contact between the student interviewer and the professional. Usually, it is best to e-mail the alum first to gauge his or her interest in participating in an informational interview. Informational interviews can be held in person or over the phone, depending on your proximity to the alum.
In order to make a positive impression and create a lasting relationship, you must prepare for your informational interview. The first step is to research the alum’s job. Where does he or she work? Could you envision yourself working in a similar setting? Why or why not? Imagine that you’re interviewing for the alum’s job. What questions and concerns would you have if you were offered the job?
Remember; never ask for a job or an internship during an informational interview. Informational interviews are designed to give you insight into the world of work and to perhaps form connections with a professional, not to promote yourself to an employer.
Though asking for a job or internship is rude, it is not rude to tell the alum that you are currently searching for jobs or internships in the field. If the alum suggests that you e-mail him or her your resume, by all means, do it! If the alum does not offer to circulate your resume, he or she can probably offer great interviewing advice for your field.
Always follow up an informational interview with a handwritten thank-you note. Writing a handwritten note is more professional than sending an e-mail, and you can include your business card in the note. This way, your professional contact will have something tangible with which to remember you!
Find additional informational interviewing tips at Lawrence University’s website: