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Making the Most of Your Alma Mater’s Alumnae/i Directory: Book-Job Boot Camp, Week 3, Day 3

Random example of a small college.

If you went to a big school, it’s probably happened before: you see someone on the street wearing a Tar Heel hat; you high-five. You’re at your cousin’s baby shower and another guest mentions she went to UMich, too; you spend the rest of the party talking about professors and buildings and bars.

And if you went to a small school and you run into someone who went there too, that person is, basically and instantly, your new best friend. This is the principal upon which alumni networks are based:

Random example of a large university.

When you meet someone who went to your university and feels that their school obviously produces the most competent, intelligent, and well-rounded young adults in the entire United States, they want to help you out.

The fact of the matter, though, is that each alumnae network is different from another, and some are very different. I’ve heard of dismal disappointment and of triumphant success, all centered around the activity of reaching out to fellow alumnae/i. One more reason to treat this venture, like any other networking, as a low-risk but long-term investment. Here are 5 ways to get the best out of your old college try:

  1. Make sure your alum network profile is as complete and up-to-date as it can be. This isn’t a recipe for magically get the perfect connections knocking on your door, but it makes it much easier for them to understand where you’re coming from and who you are if you start approaching them.
  2. Have a specific question or point of interest–other than your career–with which to approach the people who come up when you search “Publishing” on the alum website. Research their company and connect it to things you’re curious about, or don’t understand. Like we said before, networking well means getting people to share their stories with you.
  3. Try to reach out to the widest age-range possible. This can be an excellent place to seek mentorship, and everyone needs mentorship from different generational points of view. At the very least, attempt connection with someone who started his or her professional life not long ago, and so is familiar with the job climate and system you’re facing, in addition to a person who has a few book-biz decades under their belt and offers a long-range perspective.
  4. Be aware of the different results different alum groups may produce. It might be harder to get a response from an enormous school’s network, given the difficulty of feeling attached to tens of thousands of other graduates. Then again, maybe your mondo-uni is good at lasting school spirit, and you’ll get ready responses from hoards of people. Nor should you hitch all your wagons to the conviction that your small college’s network will automatically yield eager responses from everyone you write to. Your alumni connection is one arrow among many in your networking quiver.
  5. Lastly–and most importantly–you’re very likely an alum of more than just college. Maybe your high school maintains a rich network of graduates. Was there a summer camp you basically lived at every summer til you went away to college? And your synagogue’s youth group? Most of these won’t have the fancy digital platforms that colleges do, but the people who’ve stuck around–counselors, board members, admin assistants (especially admin assistants)–are bound to have their own internal networks mapped out. Some of your fellow alumnae/i they keep tabs on might just have book-biz connections that are just what you’re looking for.

In sum: be creative, don’t bank on one certain outcome, and don’t limit your networks to those requiring a username and password. (Actually, that could be the moral of this whole week…)

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