The Other Alma Mater Technique

Not interested in the employers that are coming to your campus? Not getting anywhere with the ones you have met with? Running out of options? Your next-best resource is often no farther away than the halls of a nearby—or even a distant—college or university.

Most college students limit their job search to the college they are attending. Maybe it seems disloyal or even unethical to seek out the resources of another college. I assure you it is not. If you fall into one of the following categories, the Other Alma Mater Technique may be right for you:

  • Seeking a geographical area outside of the immediate locale of your college, especially if "home" is in another part of the country
  • Attending a small or medium-sized school with a limited number of employers coming to your campus
  • Seeking a job in a major or field not currently offered by your college
  • Wanting to interview with employers in your focus area that your school is not able to attract due to size, location, school reputation, or any of a variety of reasons

The Other Alma Mater Technique merely involves "adopting" another college—or colleges—as your own when it comes to your job search. There is nothing disloyal or unethical about it. While many private and public colleges may be willing to assist you, remember that your tax dollars (or at least those of your parents) have gone to finance the state-funded colleges and universities. You have a basic public right to access the information by virtue of taxes paid to fund the system. Most information is considered public information anyway, so there is no need to feel like you are robbing a bank when you ask for information from other schools.

First, you need to choose the school or schools. State schools are best, not only because of the "tax dollars" issue, but also because they tend to draw a wide variety of employers both locally and nationally. And you are less likely to run into the elitist attitude that exists at some private schools. Unlike state schools, the private schools have no actual obligation to provide you with any information.

Your best choice is to choose a state school that is centrally located in the geographical area in which you are interested. It doesn't have to be "State U," although the premier state university is usually the largest and has access to the largest number of employers. You might consider contacting both "State U" and some of the smaller regional branches of the state university system.

Once you have chosen which schools to contact, there are several ways to begin drawing upon their resources. Following are some of the best:

Call the Career Center at the other school directly

Make a call to the Career Center and explain your situation. Ask if you can access the office's employer information files. Many colleges will give you full access short of including you in on-campus interviewing and career/placement counseling. This can include access to employer listings and the job board, possibly including the on-campus recruiting schedule and use of online databases. Some have even allowed outsiders to fill the open on-campus interview slots on a standby basis, especially if you are attending the small private college across town and have taken the time to establish a personal relationship. Better yet, take a night course at that college, which can often ensure access to the full range of career assistance available. Remember that many placement professionals are often overworked and underpaid, so it's possible you may not get much personal time unless you are a student at the school. Don't become discouraged. Just change to a "low-impact strategy" by adopting one of the following approaches.

Attend the job fair

This is by far the easiest way to tap into the employer pipeline. Large state schools are often not restrictive in their job fairs. Take note that the largest schools may have several different job fairs, each with its own focus, each with a specific set of majors and disciplines in mind. So if you are an Engineering major, you would not want to attend the Education Job Fair. Keep in mind that your "nonresident" status might initially throw the corporate recruiters for a loop, since they assume that everyone is from that college. Just explain that several employers at the job fair had not yet visited your school and you wanted to meet with them. You will stand out from the crowd just for your tenacity in seeking them out. These are excellent contacts since you automatically have a point of differentiation from the rest of the herd. If you present yourself well, the odds are in your favor that you will be the one who is noticed above the rest.

Ask for a copy of the on-campus interviewing schedule

Try to get a copy of the on-campus interviewing schedule for the current semester and the previous semester. Why the previous semester? Because both listings contain employers that are hiring at the entry level. The fact that an employer was on campus four months ago makes them almost as valid as the employer that was there last month. If possible, you will need to find out what positions the employers were recruiting. If ExxonMobil was on campus to interview Chemical Engineering majors and you are an Accounting major, it is only a secondary contact. The best contacts are with employers that are actively recruiting in your area of interest. Contact each one of the employers, informing them that you are aware that the employer was recruiting at "State University" for _____, that you are a _____, that the employer did not recruit at your school, and that you would certainly appreciate an opportunity to meet personally to explain why you feel you are a top candidate for the position. This is a high-probability method of scoring an initial interview.

Check out the jobs database

Most colleges maintain an online jobs database, listing those employers that are coming to campus in the upcoming weeks as well as information on various other job opportunities. This is a particularly useful resource because you can access it without visiting the college. Be aware that in order to see all the available content you may need to request password access from the career center. These are real live entry level jobs that will be filled by someone. Why not you?

Drop by in person

Often the best way is to just stop in at the Career Center and browse. If the other alma mater happens to be three thousand miles away, you may need to wait until your planned visit to the area, but it will always be a productive visit. This is where you will find all of the physical resources available. If the career center is open to helping you, schedule an appointment with a counselor for personalized assistance.

In addition, you may find the library research resources of another college superior to those of your own. This is especially the case with large state schools which have access to the more expensive online database subscriptions that can be prohibitively expensive for smaller schools. If you do find something on the shelves that you really want to take home for further reading, find out if your own college library has an interlibrary loan agreement with that library. Many do, and it can give you access to important materials not otherwise available at your own library.

The Other Alma Mater Technique will broaden your job search horizons to include employers and resources previously out of reach. Use it to your full advantage to locate and contact hiring employers and contacts.