Author: Lavie Margolin, Career Coach
You graduated college and have been working successfully for several years. You have submitted your personal and professional accomplishments to the alumni newsletter of your college and even cut a check a time or two. As an alumni, your Alma mater should be one of your most helpful resources when you are in a state of transition. It often isn’t. Here is why: Our expectations for our Alma mater and their expectations of us are often misaligned.
The public face of the college for alumni is alumni relations. Their purpose is to grow the school’s endowment by raising money from alumni. Any additional activities conducted by the college (networking events, family events, guest speakers) are to keep you engaged in order to give more money.
Your purpose for staying in touch with the college is to see old classmates, attend informative events, help the next generation to succeed and be connected with a large institution’s vast network of contacts. It isn’t hard to imagine that the institution would help you when you are in need of assistance. How can we better engage our networks when we need help?
1) Speak in an appealing language: A couple of years ago, I attended an alumni networking event. I was immediately asked by a development officer of the college what I did for a living, when informed that I ran my own business, her interest was immediately piqued. I purposely left it unclear whether I made a few thousand dollars on the side or was making Uncle Scrooge money. I was able to gain a commitment to a speaking event at the school to promote my latest projects. If I had said that I worked in the not for profit world (at the time) and had a consulting business on the side, I think I would have received a less helpful response.
2) Be specific as to what you want: Can you help me by connecting me with your network? is not a clear request. Who do you want to speak with and why? Help someone understand what you want exactly and it will be easier for them to connect you.
3) Go to the top: You are an alumni of the college. If you are ignored, keep going to the next step until you get some attention. Ignored by the development assistant, go to the head of alumni affairs. Ignored by the head of alumni affairs, email the president. Maintain professionalism in your correspondence in your emails as you move your way up the rank. If you come across as an angry troublemaker, they will be looking to get you out of their hair more than help you.
4) Give back (without diminishing your bank account): Access the alumni network by volunteering at local events in the area. Offer your expertise such as speaking at an upcoming event. You will be visible and it will be easier to connect with fellow alumni.
5) Keep Alumni Affairs engaged: If you are in the position, give a (very) modest donation to show you are serious about the college’s success. Follow up with a phone call or request a meeting. Explain how you’d love to give more and will once you are in a better position career wise. Make it clear how they can help you get there and what you can do once you do.
Keep these strategies in mind as you reconnect with your alma mater. With the right approach, you’ll be back to proudly wearing your college sweatshirt in no time!
About the Author: Lavie Margolin is a New York-based Career Coach and the author of Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers. To learn more, go to Lavie’s website, Lion Cub Job Search:www.Lioncubjobsearch.com