“The connections and networks I have built with alumni helped me hone my networking and communication skills, helped me gain experience in the legal field, provided contacts for my SIP research, and helped me stand apart from other college graduates through the depth and breadth of my experiences.” –
~ English major ‘15
“Connecting with alumni has strongly shaped my career goals and support network both professionally and personally.”
~ Biology major ‘15
Most K alumni are friendly, helpful, and eager to answer questions you might have about different professions, industries, cities, or what it’s like to be a K graduate in the world outside of Kalamazoo. Here’s how alumni can help you:
- Helpful Advice – Have questions about a particular job or career field? Talk to alumni about their job to see if it’s right for you! Ask questions about employers, cities, job responsibilities, and how K helped prepare them.
- Jobs and Internships – Alumni are great resources for researching and finding job or internship opportunities. They can offer information, ideas, advice, and maybe even names of other people to contact. However — and this is the cardinal rule — Don’t Ask Alumni For A Job! It puts them in an awkward spot if they can’t deliver and, furthermore, if they get inundated they are less likely to help other students.
When contacting alumni, pay special attention to etiquette:
- View an email as you would a cover letter; it’s a professional contact.
- Check spelling and grammar.
- Choose a professional tone rather than informality.
- Tailor each and every email you send. Never send the same email to multiple alumni.
- Use a subject line something like “Current K student seeking career information.”
- Do your research first. Know something about the field or company so you can be thoughtful about the type of questions you ask. Be sure you are not asking a question that could easily be found on your own. Alumni are very busy, so be respectful of their time.
- Be transparent when contacting more than one person within one organization. Here are a few recommendations on how to do that:
- “Hi Alum A, I’d love to talk to you about XYZ. I’ve also contacted Alum B and Alum C and am waiting to hear back from them.”
- “Hi Alum A, I’d love to talk to you about XYZ. I’ve already spoken to Alum B about this but would like to get an alternative perspective.”
- “Hi Alum A, Alum B, and Alum C, I’d love to talk to you about XYZ.” (This is transparent and allows these alums to decide who should respond.)
- Do not miss appointments or phone calls.
- Do not delay in returning calls or emails.
- Always follow-up to share what has happened as a result of your interactions with them.
Making the Contact
Now that you’re clear on networking etiquette, you’re ready to contact alumni to ask if they are willing to answer a few of your questions via e-mail or partake in a telephone informational interview.
Prepare for this opportunity by researching the field or organization and compiling a list of your questions.
If you are interested in a phone interview or in just asking a few questions by email, ask if this is okay and wait for a response.
Remember, alumni are typically very busy with work and other obligations. Realize you may need to try more than once to contact them and that they may not respond at all. Allow a minimum of one week between your initial contact and a second attempt.
It is important to be concise yet complete in your email: many people automatically delete lengthy messages or those with suspicious subject headers. Tell the alum who you are, where you located her email address, and why you would like an informational interview. Proofread before sending.
If you and the alum decide to proceed using email, make sure you ask what you want to know but do not overwhelm your contact.
For phone interviews, be sure to call precisely at the agreed upon time and ask your relevant questions in an attentive, interested, and professional manner. Remember to verify time zones if contacting someone in a different time zone. Phone interviews typically last for 15-30 minutes.
Send a thank-you note within 24 hours of the interview or reception of the answers to your e-mailed questions. U.S. mail or e-mail are both appropriate.
Follow up with your contact if she expressed interest in your search or asked to be kept informed of your career progress.