How to Network With Alumni

Since I occupy an odd niche on this spinning bit of rock, and I am very active in the alumni network of my alma mater (Brandeis), I have the opportunity and pleasure to hear from and meet a wide variety of students who hail from all over. Across the 10+ years I have been an alum and networker, as well as a scientist and consultant, I have started to notice that students everywhere have lost the arts of networking and professionalism, so this series is a set of tips for making the most of an alumni network.

Opening the Connection

When you consider contacting alumni, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before you even send the email.

First Contact

Get this straight: there is no such thing as a “casual” networking chat. No matter how informal the interaction, this is your chance to impress someone! You might get only one, and you might get only a few minutes in which to make a good impression, so make it count.

COME PREPARED

Any meeting in which there is no advanced planning and research is a waste of time. Here are some tips for making the most of meeting with alumni:

ALWAYS FOLLOW UP

I consider this the #1 differentiator between successful and unsuccessful networking. I have lost track of the number of times I have been in a position to give someone a job lead, contact, or suggestion, and never got the chance because the person didn’t follow up. Similarly, I hate to think of the number of opportunities that I have blown simply because I didn’t follow up. Whenever you meet someone, exchange contact information, and have any kind of meaningful exchange, send a follow up within 48 hours, and continue to follow up as appropriate. Most of the time, people don’t follow up because they don’t know what to say, so here are several outlines (doctor them up as needed):

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.