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Professional Networking: The Power of Alma Mater
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Professional Networking: The Power of Alma Mater - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Power of Alma Mater

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Power of Alma Mater

Nearly every college or university has one, although its name varies from one institution to the next: an alumni association. Its coordinators, often called Alumni Engagement Directors or Alumni Relations Specialists, put together special events designed to foster ongoing relationships between schools and their graduates.

Of course, the long game is to get some of your money, but part of the strategy is a genuine interest in nurturing a community with a sense of identity, an us-ness that makes alumni proud of where they came from. Some alumni groups stick closely to home, while others reach across the country and around the world to help its grads feel included and special.

This sense of community is beneficial to the school and to its alumni. As an example, you often see successful coaches leave professional teams or major college teams in order to return to the schools where they played, even if it means a loss of status or a drop in salary. Alma mater is a huge draw for many of us.

The benefit to alumni can be directly in services offered, such as priority seating at sporting events, the use of alumni clubhouses or school-owned residences for vacation lodging, special travel deals, and job search assistance. But even alumni associations not so well endowed offer the power of school pride. Networking events (also called mixers or meet-and-greets) provide an opportunity to strengthen members’ professional networks, often in areas where it can be valuable to know someone who comes from where you come from.

Some of the events are inexpensive or close to free, such as tailgate mixers in the parking lot before football games, or special seating at basketball games for alumni only. Others can be pricey, offering catered meals or wine pairings with celebrated chefs. They all come with two very important built-in filters: everyone there has something in common with you, and everyone is there to meet fellow grads.

Although a common alma mater is usually not enough all by itself to get your foot in the door, it can be the differentiating factor that gives hirers a reason for a second look. For this reason, you don’t want to attend alumni events on a mission to get hired. You’ll be greeted with about the same enthusiasm as the guy using the event to get people on board a multi-level marketing scheme. Rather, attend these events with a genuine desire to connect. Perhaps the meetings will lead immediately to new opportunities, but more likely your dividends are somewhere down the road.

These ties can especially be valuable in cities away from your university or away from your hometown. We can all use some connectivity with people who share some of our culture.

It’s easy to be skeptical of these alumni gatherings, but hey. The school was good for you, and the others who show up must also have had positive experiences, or they wouldn’t be there. Embrace your identity as a grad, and make the effort to expand your network.


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Professional Networking: The Power of Alma Mater - Executive Leadership Articles

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