Some day we’ll reminisce on our four years as university students with extreme pride and affection for our alma maters. “The best four years of our lives” will seem like a distant dream, bonding us with other graduates who walked down the same halls, greens and side streets as we. A certain breed comes and leaves, diploma in hand, from each university, uniquely tied together by what sets your school apart from the others. Don’t be alarmed if other graduates of your beloved alma mater become instant friends, whether they graduated 50 years before or after you. Commonality spurs camaraderie after all.
The instant connection I’ve felt to other Ohio University graduates is unexplainable. A certain college pride-ignited chemistry offsets a positive interaction with fellow Bobcats. Whether meeting in a city, town, professional setting, or simply via a personal message sent in cyberspace, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly alum are willing to respond to my questions, as well as help out any way they can.
I have used LinkedIn, as well as the advice of fellow college students and advisors, to take that first step and initiate conversation. Introducing yourself to someone online becomes much less scary when you have a commonality, such as a mutual friend or student org. For example, my sorority advisor suggested I message a former student of hers to gather information about a study abroad program I was applying for. So find that common ground and build upon it. By starting the message with the acknowledgement of our connection first, and then proceeding to politely asking her about herself will exhibit a response much more likely than an alum getting a message from a random graduate – although I wouldn’t rule out this option either.
I have messaged alum to whom I have no direct connection, aside from attending my college. These alum will likely be working at a company I’m interested in, have my same major, interest, etc. I generally have received positive responses from these indirectly connected graduates, as well as their help and encouragement. Over my years of trial and error online networking, I have managed to start and develop relationships with many former graduates to whom I can now reach out to for help. Many have critiqued and edited my resume, cover letters and introductory emails, as well as shared their wise words as someone who has “been there, done that.”
Sometimes shocked myself by the kindness and generosity of former OU students, I tried to reason why someone would be kind enough to help me, someone they have never met face to face, solely on the basis that they had attended the same school. Their kindness, for which I will be forever grateful, makes much more sense after attempting to put myself in their shoes. I imagined what I, as a career woman, would do if approached by a fellow OU student. Remembering what it was like to be in need of some – any – guidance, I too would happily respond, offering to do everything in my power to help. While not all alum are going to be as receptive as I hope to be some day, you never know unless you take a risk and send an initial message. The worst that can happen? No response. So what…that my friend is far less harmful than not trying to reach out at all; therefore, doing nothing to propel your career.
So what are you waiting for? Build those alumni relationships and start networking. Keep dreaming, keep achieving and don’t let fear hold you back. – Catherine