My friends and I were in your shoes just a year ago.
We learned just how daunting the idea of networking and landing interviews was, so we started writing an entire ebook about simplifying the process using innovative techniques that are sure to get you noticed. We decided to quit wasting time applying with, “To Whom It May Concern,” and started taking some risks, getting in front of the people who matter. Before we knew it, we had landed jobs, spending only a fraction of the time and effort on the hunt.
For more reasons than one, the job market for college students and recent graduates appears more daunting than ever. Between record unemployment rates and steep competition, it’s easy to believe your job prospects are over before even getting started, but let me assure you that things will be all right.
As a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh (2011), I remember all too well what this was like. While my peers panicked, I reminded myself of one principle that put me at ease: Corporations are nothing more than a group of people with a common goal. Key word here, “people.”
So when the time came to start the job search, my anxious friends polished their résumés and moved like bees to pollinate every website they could with an application. They were applying blindly to every job they found, and to no one’s surprise, they heard nothing back. This process is overused and broken, which is why I’m going to show you how to use your alumni network so that you don’t waste your valuable time.
You might be thinking, “But I have awesome grades, solid extracurriculars, and a killer smile which will definitely give me a leg up on the competition; the alumni network is nothing special.” News flash: Everyone you’re competing against has awesome everything, so what sets you apart? The answer is the age-old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and that couldn’t be more true.
The alumni networks at all schools consist of former university graduates who registered for the network because they WANT to be there. They want to speak to, connect with, and lend a helping hand to current students and fellow alum. Think about it. Has anyone ever taken an interest in anything you do; maybe a hobby of yours? Of course you’re happy to talk about it. Same situation here, where alumni are in most cases more than willing to speak about their job.
If you’re not sold yet, here are a few of the benefits of reaching out to alumni:
• They have something in common with you: the same school.
• They work in every industry, at every type of company. Whatever your interest may be, you will find a connection.
• They represent all levels of experience from entry level to CEO/founder.
The list goes on and on.
Now here comes the fun part—putting yourself out there. We recommend you follow these steps:
1. Map: Make a list of contacts you want to reach out to by company, industry, or career level.
2. Contact: Draft a letter which you can tailor to each alumni you contact.
3. Meet: Schedule a meeting. This can be a phone call, Skype session, face to face coffee—whatever you do, you need to take as many meetings as possible.
4. Close: Secure action of support from alumni to help you in whatever you need.
To put everything in context, this exact process landed me an internship at a Fortune 500 company. Working through my alumni network, I found alumni that worked in the industry and company I was trying to break into. After several conversations learning the details needed to stand out, I had the leg up that I needed, secured the internship, and ultimately I received a full-time offer. I haven’t looked back since!
Joshua Siva, is the Co-Founder of Own The Job Market (www.ownthejobmarket.com), a project focused on demystifying the process of getting a job. The core of this venture is a book called “The Job Market: It’s not the supply, but the way you’re demanding,” which is being authored alongside two friends and fellow entrepreneurs. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently working for GlaxoSmithKline in Philadelphia, PA.