You probably have the number memorized by now. “Hello, I’m calling from the Alumni Relations Department at your alma mater…” Maybe you get emails and direct mail from your university reminding you where you came from, checking up on you and seeing if you have anything to contribute. It is easy to ignore these calls (especially if you have the number memorized!). You no longer attend this institution and have no doubt given them a great deal of your resources the first time around.
But there are other ways to give back to your college, university or any association that contributed to your education or professional development. Joining alumni groups, participating in events, and giving of your time and skills is not only a great way to give back to the community you came from but it can open some doors for you professionally as well.
Their Reputation is Your Reputation
It goes without saying that your school’s stature is part of your professional package. We work with clients who prefer to look at students from a certain kind of school, and many employers place a great deal of stake in candidates’ education. Giving back to your university, and specifically to the department that correlates to your chosen field, serves to better the school and people’s impression of it. Even if you won’t get to take classes with that famous marketing guru they just hired, it draws attention to your alma mater which might draw attention to the degree designation on your resume.
Expand Your Network
Most schools have some sort of digital alumni database as well as hubs in various cities. You can use LinkedIn to find other alumni in your field; try the Groups Directory and the LinkedIn Alumni tool. General good will, school spirit , and a desire to continue the legacy motivate former students to help others from their school. A connection over dorm life, rooting for the same football team and classes with that same quirky professor might garner you some influential meetings and opportunities.
Begin a Mentoring Relationship
Perhaps most importantly, being an involved alumnus is a great way to get connected to potential mentors and mentees. These kinds of long-term professional relationships can deeply impact your career and character. They often evolve from a shared connection and your alumni network might be the bridge to connect you to a senior professional you could never have gotten in touch with otherwise. You should also seize opportunities to connect with current students and recent grads on alumni panels and at career shadowing events. We stand to learn a lot from reverse mentoring as well. See here for more on the significance of a mentoring relationship in your career.
So, get out your school colors, grab a college pal and check out the alumni opportunities in your area. If nothing else, you can take a trip down memory lane and feel good about giving back to a place you care about.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.