Your Very Best Professional Contacts

They are out there. They are well placed in industry. They have never met you before. Yet they are ready and willing to help you find your first job.

Who are they? Alumni—probably the most underutilized contacts a college grad can have, yet also the most valuable. Why alumni? Because they meet all of the key criteria for becoming a top-notch network contact. They are often working in professional-level positions with employers you would have an interest in (especially if they graduated in the same degree program). They have knowledge about your background since they graduated from the same college. And they are willing to help you in your job search. A recent survey showed that more than 90 percent of active alums are willing to help new grads from their alma mater.

So the key is to find active alums. Where? The Alumni Office. Your Career Center might also have a listing of alumni who are willing to work with new grads, but don't limit yourself to that listing. Most Alumni Offices have the basic search capabilities to locate alums far above the abbreviated listing that may exist in the Career Center. Make sure you take the time to use this valuable resource.

Alumni have a bond with you that can help you to succeed in finding a great job.

First, search for alums who are working in your chosen field. Next, search for alums who are working at any specific companies you have targeted, regardless of position. Next, search for alums that are in your targeted geographical area. You might get some grumbling from the administrative person in the Alumni Office responsible for doing these searches, but push until you get all the information you need. If you are not getting any results, remind this person that you will be an alum in just a few months and that you would have a lot more interest in becoming a contributing alum if you were actually making some money. If the person still fails to get the point and remains unwilling to help, ask to speak with the Director of Alumni Affairs, who will almost always see to it that you get the information you need.

What to do with these names once you get them? Contact each and every one by phone and then follow up by e-mail. Set up face-to-face meetings whenever possible. Bring these alums into your circle of contacts and make it personal! If there are local chapters of the Alumni Association in the city or area you are targeting, find out when their meetings are taking place and ask if you can attend. This is networking paradise! Help them to get to know you (the only "unknown" in the entire equation) so that they can help you more effectively. You will be amazed at the positive results.