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 distant—college.

Most college students limit their job search to the Career Center of 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 campus
  • Seeking a job in a major 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

Don't limit yourself to the resources of your college alone.

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 both private and public colleges will usually be more than happy to help you, remember that your tax dollars (or at least those of your parents) have gone to finance the state colleges. You have a 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 debt" 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 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 the employer listings, the jobs bulletin board, the on-campus recruiting schedule, and the employer research library, including the use of CDs and electronic 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 people are often overworked and underpaid, so it's possible you may not get much personal time unless you are a full-time 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 Mobil 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 the contact person 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 the top candidate for the position. This is a high-probability method of scoring an initial interview.
  • Check out the jobs bulletin board
    Most colleges maintain a jobs bulletin board, listing those employers that are coming to campus in the upcoming weeks as well as information on various other job opportunities. The bulletin board is often in the Career Center, but not always. Sometimes it will be in a "commons" area where students frequently pass by. Or on their Web site. Call ahead to find out the location. These are real live entry level jobs that someone will get. Why not you?
  • Contact the jobs hotline
    Some colleges maintain a phone number that is used for updating students on job availability. Simply call the campus operator and ask for the number. Then call as often as it is updated—usually weekly. You will get valuable information about new employers that are coming to campus. Also, many employers that are not able to make it to campus but still have an interest are often listed on the jobs bulletin board or the job hotline.
  • 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 the jobs bulletin board, files full of employer information, and access to computers with employer and job searching capabilities.

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 CDs and online database information 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.