Photo Credit: ADTeasdale via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ADTeasdale via Compfight cc

If you went to university or college, you have a built-in network ready for you to access:  fellow and sister alumni.

One reason to access an alum is to gain more information about an employer, to see if you, too, would like working at that company.  At the same time, you can learn how your fellow/sister alum got their job at that company.  Their story can give you ideas and strategies to use in your own job search.

You can find alums by searching LinkedIn in 3 ways:

  • In the My Network tab, there is a sub-tab called Find Alumni.  That tab contains information about alumni, including where they work.
  • Look for employers where you want to work, and see who you are connected to.  Some of them may be alumni.  You may have a connection in common (2nd degree connection), be a 3rd degree connection, or be in a group with them.
  • When you look at jobs, there is a feature that shows how many alums work at a particular company.  Usually it’s big companies, but sometimes smaller ones will have alumni.

linkedin alumni function

When you click on “See all” LinkedIn will open a page that looks like this:

linkedin alumni function2

Remember, on LinkedIn, your chances of linking with alums is increased when you join your school’s alumni groups.

Chances are you won’t know the alum.  So be respectful and realistic in your ask.  Here’s a suggested script for your InMail, Message, or email message:

Dear so and so,

I’m reaching out because I’m also a [college] alum, and you are working at one of my dream employers! I just applied for a job as xxx at [employer name], and am hoping you might be willing to talk with me a bit about [employer name], what it’s like working there, and how you used your [college name] experience to help you land the job. Would you be able to give me 20 minutes of your valuable time? I would so appreciate it. I can talk anytime Monday morning, Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday mid-day [or another 2-3 hour chunk of time].

Thank you so much in advance!

Best, 

your name

The blue type indicates a way to mention that you applied for a job at the person’s employer.  If you didn’t apply, just eliminate those blue words and use the rest of the message.

I recommend this approach for a few reasons.

  • First, the person doesn’t know you.  Don’t ask him/her to flag your resume to the hiring manager. Instead, let her get to know you a bit, and then she might be willing to flag your resume. Using the college or university connection for information-gathering is a more appropriate use of the connection. Then, you could actually learn something from them about how they translated their college experience into working for this kind of company.
  • Suggest chunks of time for the person to choose from for meeting with you – that kind of suggestion almost “forces” them to set a time or propose other times.
  • I advise asking for 20 minutes of their time because 20 minutes is a long enough time to get something substantive, and yet not a huge imposition on the other person’s time.

If you use LinkedIn, the person can look at your profile.  If you send an email, attach your resume to the communication.  This gives the person some background on you and shows that you are prepared to network.