Learning From and Connecting With Alumni

Learn LinkedIn

Tell Your Story

  • Create a basic resume, and submit it to VMock for instant feedback.
  • Build out your profile with this checklist, adding items from your resume.

Build your connections (tips here) – start with family/friends

  • Add past/present supervisors
  • Add classmates
  • Add professors
  • Add CCPD Staff that you’ve met
  • Join Kalamazoo College Alumni Association on LinkedIn

Find alumni doing cool things

Make a choice. Do you plan to reach out to alumni on your own? Or would you prefer Career Coach assistance?

Reach out to alumni on your own

Don’t: Ask the alum for a job!

Do:

  • Use an appropriate Subject Line for your email. Examples include (but are not limited to):
  • Propose an agenda topic with 3-5 bulleted talking points.
  • Customize your agenda for each alum.
  • Keep it short. People can learn more about you by checking out your profile on LinkedIn, and you can always provide more information later in the conversation.
  • Write a thank you note within 24 hours of your conversation
  • A good first message should have a friendly but professional tone and accomplish three things:
    • Let the person know who you are
    • Explain why you got in touch
    • Outline what kind of guidance you’re looking for, i.e.: “I would love to talk to learn more about your background and experience. Here are a few items I’d specifically like to discuss on a call:

Example:

Hi Felicia, my name is Brienne, and I’m currently a junior studying anthropology/sociology at Kalamazoo College. I noticed that you’ve worked for a digital marketing agency for the last few years, so I’d love to chat about your experiences. Do you have time for a twenty-minute phone call? I’m starting to look for summer internships in the Chicago area and would appreciate any advice! If you have time for a call, I’d love to chat with you in particular about these topics:

  • How do I make myself more marketable?
  • What skills should I be developing now to be successful in a marketing internship?
  • Who else do you think I should speak to in the industry?

Thank you in advance,

Brienne

Career Coach Alumni Connections
  1. Meet with Coach
  2. Narrow down specific alumni that already have relationships with the College
  3. Get a warm e-greeting/introduction from a CCPD staff member
  4. You (student) are expected to follow up on your own, be professional, etc.

Questions to Ask Alumni

Not sure what questions to ask to get the conversation going? Here are several examples, which should be modified from “this industry” to the specific alum’s industry or their job function:

  • Always end with “Who else do you recommend I connect with? and send a thank you within 24 hours of your conversation.
  • How did you build your career in this industry?
  • What drew you to this industry, and what has kept you there?
  • What does the future look like for this industry?
  • What are some other job opportunities in this industry I should consider?
  • What else should I be doing to prepare for a career in this industry?
  • What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways?
  • How important is my major/degree to any given career?
  • What can I do to make myself more marketable?
  • What do you wish you knew at my age?
  • What keeps you motivated?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • How do you manage a work-life balance while being successful?
  • How do you spend most of your time? 
  • How and why did you decide to pursue this career?
  • How did you get to this point in your career?
  • Where do you see your career path headed?
  • What else should I be learning to make myself more marketable?
  • What is a typical day on the job like in your role or field?
  • What do you like most and least about your job?
  • What qualities or personal characteristics make someone a good fit for this career?
  • How do I prepare for an interview in your career sector?
  • When and how often should I follow up with an employer after interviewing?
  • Do you have any tips for negotiating salary and benefits for jobs in this industry?
  • Do you have advice on how to improve my resume/cover letter?
  • How do I answer questions about gaps in my resume?
  • How do I make myself more marketable?

 Questions for Alumni in a city you might move to:

  • How did you move to a new city and make it?
  • Is this a good city for seeking a job in your industry?
  • What do you love about living in your city? What don’t you love?
  • What other sort of activities should I be involved in while living in your city?
  • Do you have any housing or apartment recommendations?

Graduate School Research Questions

  • Should I go to graduate school? How did you decide? What are the pros and cons?
  • What schools and programs did you consider?
  • How are students typically funded in graduate school?
  • What are the financial benefits for earning a graduate degree?
  • Do you have advice on studying for graduate school entrance exams?
  • Should I work before going to graduate school?
  • Where do graduates of this school/program typically end up?
  • What was the biggest challenge adjusting to graduate school?
  • How did you manage other responsibilities (career, family, health, etc.) while attending graduate school?
  • What do you wish you knew before attending graduate school?

Questions for Entrepreneurs: 

  • What was your inspiration and how did you get started?
  • How did you get your first customer?
  • What’s one thing you wish you knew at my stage?
  • What has been your most rewarding accomplishment? Biggest failure?
  • Who else do you recommend I connect with?
  • I’d love the opportunity to share 5 minutes about my venture and get your feedback on the following questions:
    • What do you think of the idea?
    • What would you suggest I do differently?

Initial Outreach for a Job Shadow/Externship (sample)

Hi Marc, I’m reaching out because [[ ADD REASON FOR REACHING OUT ]]. I would love to talk to learn more about your background and experience. Here are a few items I’d specifically like to discuss on a call:

I’d like to inquire about the possibility of observing you at [[ ORGANIZATION ]] for a job shadow during the week of [[ DATES ]].

Through a job shadow, I seek to understand the following:

– How my education, experiences, and skill set could be an asset in this field.

– Whether this field is a good professional fit for me.

– Current challenges and opportunities within the field.

– Day-to-day tasks and responsibilities typical to your work.

– [[ ADD ADDITIONAL LEARNING GOALS ]]

As background, [[ DESCRIBE ACADEMIC AND/OR EXTRA CURRICULAR EXPERIENCES AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO EXPLORE THEIR INDUSTRY ]]. I hope we can connect to discuss a possible job shadow. If we decide it is a good fit and if you are able to accommodate me during my availability, I can arrange my own travel and housing in the area. I look forward to hearing from you, and I appreciate your time and consideration.

Thank you in advance!

Prepping for an Informational Interview

Whether you are participating in our official “Hornet Huddles” program, or you are simply meeting a professional contact for an informational interview, here are some things to keep in mind.