How Can Students Make Effective Use Of Alumni Networks?
Study Tips, Graduate jobs
February 09, 2021
For students looking to gain a coveted internship, training programme, or even a job after graduation, making use of alumni networks is one of the most effective steps to advance their career. An alumni network allows graduates to stay connected, and offers a learning opportunity for current students. University alumni can offer vast experience and advice to current students, and networks of past graduates can be tapped into to reap valuable career gains.
Here are some of the ways you can benefit from alumni networks both at university and beyond.
Many alumni are more than happy to help out current university students by offering advice and mentorship. Whether it’s looking over your CV, giving advice on how to improve your cover letter, or just a friendly chat about your aspirations, it’s definitely worthwhile getting to know past graduates from your university. Some universities offer specific mentorship programmes - you can try asking your academic mentor or career service for support.
If there isn’t a formal mechanism in place, don’t worry. Your university will likely offer alumni directories which will have the contact details of alumni who are willing to help out current students through mentorship. For example, Imperial College London offers an alumni mentoring scheme to support the professional development of current students and the University of Glasgow even has a dedicated alumni networking platform known as The Network.
Work shadowing opportunities are a chance for students to find out more about an industry or firm, network, and learn more about life after university. Some universities offer students the chance to shadow alumni hosts. Current students are matched with previous graduates who allow you to observe a typical day (or sometimes longer) in their place of work. Students could also reach out to alumni via their university’s alumni directory or career service to request the opportunity to shadow a past graduate.
Shadowing is a great way of demonstrating your motivations and passion for the sector when applying to graduate programmes after university, and to help you understand the requirements and responsibilities of a certain role or sector.
Most universities have their own career hub, where alumni and employers post internships, graduate training programmes, and other exciting opportunities for current students. Often alumni may recruit from their alma mater and offer roles exclusively for students of that university. These tend to be advertised throughout the course of the year so now is the perfect time to take a look at your university’s career portal. Many career services are also available to students for a number of years after they have graduated, so it’s never too late to make use of this opportunity!
LinkedIn is one of the best platforms to connect with past graduates from your university who are working in your desired industry or location. Many universities have their own official LinkedIn pages, where current students can gain access to a wide network of alumni. Don’t be afraid to reach out to previous alumni - they were in your position once! Make sure to include your name, degree, future aspirations, as well as any questions you may have.
Often alumni are happy to arrange a phone call to offer advice to current students. If you’re lucky enough to be offered a phone call make sure to prepare a list of questions to ask. What societies were they involved in at university? Did they have an internship with a local firm or an on-campus job? Were they a research assistant for a professor? You can also ask for an introduction to any contacts they may have in your field of interest. Remember to stay in touch with anyone you network with, they will appreciate seeing your successes.
Although COVID-19 has changed how alumni events are delivered, there are still many opportunities to network with past graduates from your university, even virtually. Departments and societies often host alumni speakers to present seminars, panel discussions, and career insight sessions. Ask your department if there are any upcoming events you can attend, or you can even be proactive and organise one yourself by contacting the alumni in your department’s directory.
Attending these events allows you to gain a greater insight into the different industries you may be interested in, and gives you a platform to ask direct questions to alumni. Participating in discussions at these events allows you to introduce yourself to alumni and other like-minded students in a similar position to you.
So what are you waiting for? Go and tap into your university’s alumni network! And remember to thank those who helped you on your path to success.
Written by Anu Jain
Anu Jain is a freelance writer and a final year student at the London School of Economics and Political Science
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