In the fall of 2020, nearly 16 million students were enrolled in undergraduate programs across the U.S., according to EducationData.org. As millions prepare to graduate this spring, many will be considering where they'd like to land a job.
If you're among these forthcoming graduates, or even graduated recently, one resource to consider in figuring out your next career moves is the alumni network at your school. These networks are typically full of professionals in an array of fields, and many of them could be happy to share insights and maybe even help get your foot in the door.
"I've been able to network and make connections" using alumni networks, says Angelina Darrisaw, a career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach. "I've had folks share work ― I'm a business owner, so, work opportunities that have led to paying gigs."
Some schools have their own internal online networks to help current students and previous graduates connect.
"Boston University has something that we call BU Connects," says Jeff Murphy, director of alumni career engagement at BU, "where we make it very easy for alumni, students, faculty and staff to raise their hand and say that they're willing to help out other people in their career search and goals."
BU Connects is essentially a social network. Students and graduates sign up, and include details of what kind of help they're interested in giving or what kind of help they're looking for. Once in, they have access to a directory of others in the network, various groups within it, and a jobs board.
These online communities "are developed around the idea of career connections," says Murphy. Look up your school's alumni career center and see if they have a similar network in place.
LinkedIn is a great place to connect with alumni.
The site lets colleges and universities create pages for themselves "where you can actually browse through alumni," says Murphy, adding that, "you can sort through them either by keyword or just by where they live, where they work, what they do." It's one way to find alumni who could be relevant for your career.
"Sometimes people want to recruit from their specific college," says Darrisaw. And they may be looking for job candidates on LinkedIn.
Whether you want to reach out to other alumni on the site or you want alumni to be able to find you, make sure to include your alma mater on your LinkedIn profile. You don't have to include the years you were there, says Darrisaw, but make sure people know you are affiliated.
Whether online or in person, alumni associations also provide plenty of opportunities for graduates to connect face-to-face. "Outside of Boston, our number two and three cities are New York and LA," says Murphy. "We have tons of events happening there all the time. Many of them are specifically about networking."
Events can range from virtual coffee sessions to in-person seminars. "If there's something you want to get involved in and you don't have connections or a network there, then that might be the event you want to go to," says Darrisaw.
Video by Courtney Stith
The best way to keep abreast of these events is to make sure your school's alumni association has your most up-to-date contact information. Ultimately, says Murphy, when it comes to tapping into the potential of your alumni network, you have "got to make sure that your school knows how to get in touch with you."
However you decide to take advantage of alumni resources, know that former graduates are likely keen to help.
"When we survey our alumni," says Murphy, "they overwhelmingly tell us that one of the No. 1 things that they want to do to remain engaged with the university is help students with their careers."
The article "How to Tap Into Your Alumni Network to Find Jobs and Paying Gigs″ was originally published on Grow (CNBC + Acorns).