NETWORKING WITH THE ALUMNI
An often overlooked networking resource is your college alumni association. Atlanta has a rich alumni culture with representation from Colleges and Universities across the country. There are even a few local Schools with a big following. It is on full display every Saturday during Football season. Just try to get a table at a local sports bar. Not easy to do. I was reminded of this fact after attending an Alumni dinner this week, hosted by two Business Development Managers from my Alma Mater’s College of Business. These folks were in town on other business and because they are good networkers, they reached out to a number of local alums. They offered an invitation to dinner with an update of activities at the College. Who could resist?
These events have a tendency to attract the same people and this dinner was no exception. There were, however, a few new faces, including four alums who had not attended the College of Business. After a little small talk and a cocktail or two, the ten of us took our seats and proceeded to order our meals. It was a cozy affair that included two young couples, three more-mature alums, and the protégé of one of my peers, Bill, a retired AT&T Executive. Also in attendance was the Chapter President, a current AT&T Manager and his fiancé.
After the waiter left with our orders, the senior Business Development Manager formally welcomed us and invited each of us to introduce ourselves. Since I was immediately to her left, I was the first with my brief bio. I was followed by a young lady who turned out to be an account executive with Career Builder. Next was Bill, followed by a College of Engineering alum, the junior Business Development Manager, the married couple, and finally the Chapter President and his fiancé. It was a very interesting group which gave us a lot to talk about. I learned that the AE with Career Builder was calling on many of my clients; that Bill is active in volunteer work helping Military Veterans find jobs; that the young married couple across the table from me are looking to open their own business; and that the Chapter President and his fiancé were leaving for the weekend to begin planning their August wedding. Bill lives near me, so we agreed to get together to explore some mutual interests, especially in connection with helping Military Veterans with their job search skills.
The next day, I fired off my thank you notes and sent invitations to become connected on LinkedIn. Bill and I scheduled a luncheon meeting next week. I am confident that the other attendees have been active in a similar way since that dinner.
Many people are a bit surprised when I speak to the value of participation in one’s alumni association to further their networking goals. It just doesn’t register on their priority list. But think about it. The most difficult part of any networking event is establishing a connection with someone. Can you really think of a networking venue with as powerful an immediate connection? When you attend an alumni event, you are with people who shared the same college experience. The hard part is done. You already have the connection. I have made some very good friendships which transcend alumni functions.
Having learned the value of my association with the alumni association I have become a passionate advocate, especially to young alums and recent graduates working to build their careers. In a major city like Atlanta, seeking out your College Alumni Association should be the first thing you do when moving into the area. So, to broaden your networking reach give strong consideration to your college alumni association. Its value cannot be underestimated.
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Jim Weber, President
New Century Dynamics Executive Search