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Career Coach, Bethany Wallace

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January 2017

5 ways to connect with alumni at networking events

If you’re a college student or recent graduate, and you’re not connecting with alumni from your college or university (or alma mater) at networking events, you’re skipping over one of the most valuable networking resources available to you.

Alumni care about helping you. You already share something in common so you’ll find it easy to strike up conversation. And most of the time, your college or university hosts networking events on campus, in the community, or even virtual networking groups/chats online. There’s no reason to sit back and observe any longer. Here are five ways to start connecting with alumni.


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Don’t be intimidated by alumni.

Alumni often have earned impressive job titles, have years of experience under their belts, and have polished their soft skills. Don’t let those things intimidate you (or at least pretend you’re not intimidated when networking with alumni). Believe in your gut that alumni want the best for you. They do. Sure, they attend alumni events to network with other alumni. They also attend alumni networking events to network with college students and to give back, to share their experience, and to mentor others.

Spend more time talking to alumni than to your fellow students.

It’s easier to chat with other college students than to launch into your elevator pitch seven times while shaking hands with alumni. It’s also probably less lucrative in terms of ROI. You’ll invest the same amount of time at the networking event talking to other students as you will talking to alumni. Why not invest that time talking to professionals who may add long-term significant value to your current or future job search?

Connect with alumni online immediately following networking events.

During your job search, if you don’t apply for job openings within 72 hours after positions are posted, your chances of being considered drop considerably. The same goes for following up after networking events. Reach out to new connections within 24 hours after networking events if possible. Send an email or invitation to connect on social media. Personalize your greeting whenever possible because at networking events, alumni meet multiple people and may not remember every college student’s name or face.

Consider asking alumni for advice or to serve as mentors.

If you meet someone and make an immediate, genuine, strong connection, don’t be afraid to invite that person for coffee and visit about the possibility of mentorship. Finding a mentor is key in the early stages of your career, and workplace mentors are not the same as career mentors. How great would it be if you could identify a career mentor while still in college? Even if you’re not sure you want to ask someone to serve as your mentor, there’s no harm in asking someone for an informational interview or running a few questions by a person who has great bits of advice to share. Be sure to meet in neutral, public locations and to arrive on time, respecting the other person’s work schedule and/or personal time.

Follow up and say thank you.

No matter what, follow up and say thank you. There’s no act of kindness too small that you should ever brush it off. Always say thank you. The same goes for following up. If you’re timely, gracious, and grateful when networking, you will rarely fail to make and maintain genuine relationships.

If you need help building your networking skills, preparing an elevator pitch, or understanding the ins and outs of mentoring or informational interviews, reach out to me for a free consultation.

3 ways to do a branding check before a networking event

It’s the time of year when everyone’s searching for jobs, or at least it seems that way. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, and you have that unsettled, disgruntled feeling, or you’re a college student searching for your very first professional job or internship, you’re going to be attending career fairs, job fairs, or other networking events. You’ll be schmoozing with recruiters, hiring managers, colleagues, faculty members, and professionals in your chosen career field who may be able to hook you up with great job leads.

Don’t forget to properly prepare for these events. How can you do that? One important way is to perform a branding check.


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1. Check your online brand.
Don’t wait until after the event to Google yourself and start scrambling to remove undesirable links, photos, or documents. It may be too late at that point; your new professional friends may have beat you to the punch.

Don’t just remove undesirable content. Work to brand yourself in a positive light, too. You should do this regularly, and I won’t lie to you; it takes time and effort. It often takes days or weeks to tidy up your social media pages/profiles and to connect with great people online. Don’t wait until the day of a networking event to log in to your profiles and expect to drastically transform your online image.
2. Prepare a personal branding statement and elevator pitch.
Within 20-30 seconds, confidently and concisely describe who you are and where you’re heading in life. Don’t waste your new professional contacts’ time by rambling, hemming, and hawing during the networking event. You’re all there for the same reason–to build relationships and make connections. Be considerate of others’ times by preparing your spiel in advance. Prepare and practice your personal branding statement and elevator pitch by working with a career services expert if you’re a college student or with a career coach like me if you’ve already graduated from college.
3. Show your work; don’t just talk about it.
Do you have samples of your writing, artwork, graphic design projects, or research results? Don’t just blab about it at the networking event (although certainly brag about yourself and toot your own horn). Mention that you have links available to samples of your work on your LinkedIn profile, electronic portfolio, or blog site. Then follow up after the networking event and remember to send samples of your work to your new professional contacts.

It’s great to speak well of your accomplishments. It’s better to back up your claims with proof. This really brands you by creating a firm impression of who you are professionally in the minds of those who view your work.

blonde-1503202_1280Branding and networking are lifelong processes. If you need help getting started or improving your brand, reach out to me for help.

6 reference tips for your job search

It’s a new year, and you’ve probably already set goals, counted calories, or reevaluated your priorities. Whether you’re applying for graduate school or scholarships, considering making a major career move, or applying for job openings, take time to check out these six tips related to asking people to serve as job search references, creating your reference page, and maintaining positive relationships with your references.

  1. Ask before listing people as references.

The cardinal rule of reference letters and listing people as references on job applications is to ask for permission. This sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how many people simply list a few contacts on their job applications, assuming they’ll be glad to receive automated emails from companies and colleges. This is a major no-no and a great way to burn a bridge with someone who might otherwise be glad to serve as a reference.

Try to ask people to serve as references face-to-face. This gives you the chance to read their body language, observe facial expressions, and listen to their tone of voice. If you observe any hesitancy or negativity, don’t list the person as a reference. Ever.

2. Keep your references updated.

When you begin a job search, notify people who’ve agreed to serve as references. When you are up for a promotion, notify your references. Periodically ask your references for updates on their own job changes, too. Keep in touch with people who are helping you along in your career!

3. As much as it depends on you, remain on good terms with everyone.

The best way to ensure you receive glowing references from anyone a potential employer might call? Stay on good terms with everyone, including your supervisors and coworkers. Maintaining positive relationships is part of good networking–and strong networking skills will benefit you in your job search.

4. Remember that Google matters.

Did you know that about 94% of employers admit to searching for candidates online before inviting them in for face-to-face interviews? Let that haunt you while posting online late at night.

5. Brand yourself well online.

There’s more to branding on social media than locking down your scantily clad photos. Are you interacting with potential employers? Are you participating in Twitter chats related to your field of study? Have you joined groups for job seekers on LinkedIn? Do you follow companies of interest and pay attention to job openings? Do you make thoughtful comments in a timely manner? If it’s searchable, it may be found by potential employers. Be mindful of your interactions online at all times and be proactive in putting your best foot forward.

6. Create a strong reference list.

Maybe you didn’t have a great relationship with your last supervisor. Compensate on your reference list by listing other notable contacts. List supervisors in other departments who worked closely with you or cross-trained with you. List your boss’s boss if you had better rapport with him. Consider listing coworkers who have since been promoted. Understand that your former supervisor may still be contacted, and there is little you can do to control that. However, you can always do your part to create a strong impression by creating a strong reference list, a killer resume, and an impressive cover letter.

And when your future boss interviews you, you’ll nail it.

Need help managing your job search? Reach out to me for help. 

 

 

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