Friday, March 19, 2010

Get Excited About Online Networking: Alumni Careers Network

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

As this internship and full-time recruiting season forges ahead, don't let resume drops and interviews let you forget about one of the best tools to use during the job search: networking. In recognizing the importance of networking, professionally-focused social networking sites have sprouted up all across the internet and have been quickly gaining popularity. Networking not only has the potential to help you get more information about a specific position or organization, but it can really give an edge in interviews. With the creation of online networking it's never been easier to reach out and connect!

Along these lines, one resource that is available to all student and alumni at the University of Chicago is the Alumni Careers Network. The Alumni Careers Network is an on-line database of nearly 15,000 Chicago alumni who have volunteered to answer career-related questions and/or provide career-related mentoring and informational interviews to students and other alumni. To access the database, go to the Alumni Careers Network. and on the right hand side click on “search career profiles.” Then, log-in with your CNET ID and password after hitting the big red sign-in button.

How it works:
Alumni listed in the network have created profiles, which can be divided into two key categories: career contacts and mentors.

Career contacts share only their professional information on their profile, usually listing the organization in which they work for and their official title at that organization. By listing themselves as such, these alumni indicate that they would be open to questions regarding career development, organization culture, and specific job responsibilities. In addition, alumni will often be open to talking about the city in which they work, and may be able to refer you to other contacts. This can be particular useful if you are considering exploring a career overseas or in other far-away and exotic lands. Christophe, a member of the class of 2010, spent his third year abroad at the London School of Economics. During his internship search in London, he was able to use Alumni Careers Network to find alumni who could answer his questions about recruiting in finance abroad. Through networking he was able to get insight on the main differences between American and British work culture and information on how the recruiting process worked in London. Many of the alumni that he contacted were quite excited to hear from a student at their alma mater. In the end, Christophe worked in investment banking in London for his third-year summer internship.

Alumni who list themselves as mentors are willing to share more comprehensive information about their career experiences. They are also open to providing guidance and advice that will help potential mentees achieve success in their specific fields. Mentors can provide an independent and objective point of view on career development and professional goals in their chosen industries, and are a great resource if you're looking to form more of a one-to-one professional relationship with an alumni who is currently in the industry that you are interested in.

Some tips on how to make contact via the Alumni Careers Network:

1. Start with an introduction of who you are.
In the subject line, include something that would indicate that you got their information from Alumni Careers Network. Tell them a little about yourself: for instance, your year, your concentration, and what you hope to achieve professionally. Providing an introduction not only seems more personable, but will also give the alumnus a clearer idea of the context in which they should be addressing your questions. For instance, answers to questions might be very different depending on whether you're a third-year in the College or a graduate candidate in the Statistics department.

2. Ask meaningful questions.
Make sure that the questions you ask are career-related. While it might be fun to find out what someone's favorite color or favorite food is, these types of questions might just be a little too personal for the context in which you're establishing contact.

3. Maintain a professional tone.
While the alumni that you contact are likely not recruiters or interviewers, they are still giving you their time and effort to help you in some way, so it's important to make a good impression. Although the communication that you initiate is through email, this still means that this is your only shot at making a good first impression. Keep in mind that first impressions will, more often than not, set the tone of your chain of communication.

4. Don't forget to say 'Thank you'!
As always, gratitude is appreciated.

Do you have any successful networking stories, or tips to share with other students? Leave a comment below!

Special thanks to Lucy Liu, guest author of this week's blog post.


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