Getting the Most From All of Your Alumni Networks

You might think that your only alumni network is from your school. But you have corporate alumni networks too. I bet you’ve worked for some great companies, or some large companies, or for some great managers, or with some great people. Those corporate alumni networks are just as valuable as your university alumni network.

So, how do you utilize that network? First, find that LinkedIn alumni network. Chances are good that one exists. If it doesn’t exist, create it. Now, join it. And, if it’s a school list, join that school list the day you graduate.

Join the List

I cannot emphasize this point enough. Your school alumni list does you no good if you do not join it. If you have attended the school for at least two years, join the list. If your school alumni are uptight and really want to know you’ve graduated, fine. But if you were really close to graduating, or you should have graduated, ask to join the list. Chances are good they will let you. The list does you no good if you don’t join it.

And, if you worked for a company that was a pioneer in its field, or a cool startup, or if the people who worked there shared some significant history, someone has created a mailing list. From that mailing list, likely someone started a LinkedIn list. Find it and get on that list. Joining the list doesn’t make you a “joiner” or an extrovert; it makes you a smart networker.

You need an “in” with people, and joining the lists provides you a warmer introduction. So join the list and don’t complain. I’m not asking you to call anyone. I’m asking you to send a request on LinkedIn and ask to join the list with evidence that should be in your profile.

How to Use the List

Once you are on the list, if you are a hiring manager, monitor the list for two things: people looking for work and people asking for help. If you are a candidate, monitor the list for open positions and people asking for help.

You’ll notice I said in both cases that you can monitor the list for people asking for help. You can also ask for help and see what happens. Whatever you do, do not involve this list in any multi-level marketing programs. Well, don’t do that if you want to get hired or hire anyone. The people on the list will remember. And their memories will not be kind to you.

You can do several things with the people on the list. Once you have established yourself as a helpful person, or at least, as someone who is not unhelpful, you can ask the people who are not your first-level connections to connect with you, increasing the number of your first-level connections. The more first-level connections you have on LinkedIn, and the more active you are on LinkedIn, the more likely you are to be noticed. LinkedIn will send your name out every week with your new activity to your first level network names, which helps increase your network activity. “Oh, Johanna connected with five more people last week. I wonder who those people were.” That activity leads people to think of you when it comes to networking, whether you are looking for candidates or jobs.

The more you offer help, the more questions you answer on LinkedIn, the more people will think of you, which will increase your reputation. This is a Good Thing.

I am not suggesting you spend all your time wandering around LinkedIn. I am suggesting that if you are a hiring manager, you devote a specific timebox each week to a specific alumni network or two. You decide how much time you think is worth spending. I’m thinking 10-20 minutes total.

For example, I worked with some very sharp people earlier in my career in several companies. I am also on several mailing lists. So now that I am the technical editor for the Agile Journal, I sent some pointed emails, asking for articles. (Not all those lists are on LinkedIn.) And, I realized that I was not linked with all of these nice people directly, so I am fixing that.

You can never tell how networking with those folks will pay off. It never hurts to be nice and helpful as long as it does not get in the way of your work.

Asking for help is a way to make personal contact with people on the list. You can ask for help about anything: a good plumber, a restaurant, a referral for a good swim program for your kids. And if you want to keep this just about work, ask for help with your hiring. Do consider being more human on school alumni lists. The more human you appear, the more people will want to help you.

Always end the post with your full name and all contact information, especially if you have a URL with a job posting. Make it easy for people to find you and discuss a job with you and link with you.

A Few Caveats for Hiring Managers

  • Keep postings to LinkedIn short and sweet and link to a URL by opening a new window. Include your contact information in your posting or offer to link with people in your LinkedIn post.
  • Keep your emails to mailing lists short and sweet. If you’ve already sent an email to your list with one job description, wait a few weeks to post it again, and tell the list you’re still looking.
  • With the job posting URL, keep everything on the web page. No one wants to have to download anything else.
  • Always include all of your contact information in the body of each posting. I know I said that. I mean it.

A Few Caveats for Candidates

  • Explain your qualifications in two-three sentences. Do not list everything that is so wonderful about you.
  • Offer to link directly with anyone in the group. After all, you are all in the group!
  • Thank people in the group in advance for their help.
  • If someone helps you specifically, thank that person off-group.
  • Make sure you have a smiling picture in your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t, you are unlikely to get help.

Your alumni networks may not pay off immediately. But your contributions might make a few more people think of you first—which is exactly what you want, whether you are a hiring manager or a candidate.

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