The Art of Befriending Your Alumni



The recruitment struggle is real. I remember sitting in an interview as the recruiter told me all about how easy it was for students from Ivy League Schools to get internship and job opportunities. That being said, he also mentioned how the company that I was interviewing for was extremely impressed by the drive, talent, and goal setting mindset offered by students from small, local schools. Deep down, I was thrilled to hear this. Since coming to STAC, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful students that will go on to do great things in their career. Unfortunately, for most, breaking into large companies can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Even though STAC doesn’t have a multitude of major companies waiting on bated breath to receive interns, there’s more than one way to get into a company, and that is through alumni.

The best thing about going to a small school is that successful alumni are not only helpful, but available. I have a friend that attends a large university. She has reached out to many alumni that only, at maximum, offered advice. Some alumni have been honest and have mentioned to her that many students have been reaching out to them concerning opportunities, which may make any individual attention difficult. Luckily, most of my alumni experiences have been extremely positive. I have met so many great people that truly want to see their younger peers succeed. It’s not too difficult to get a STAC alum to come back and speak with students about life post grad. Of course, reaching out to a seemingly complete stranger can be a bit odd, but having college in common is a great ice breaker for discussion.

The easiest way to get an the attention of a former STAC grad is by sending a message via Linkedin. Ask to connect, and in the message box, mention your affiliation with STAC and your interest in the job field/company that they are currently working in/for. Also, join the STAC alumni and business club groups to check out the members. Chances are, if a grad has joined the group, they are supportive and looking to offer students help. If you aren’t sure about reaching out to someone, perhaps have a chat with Mary Vota, Director of Experiential Learning, to assist you and offer advice on contacting people that seem to be beyond reach.

Some Don’ts when messaging alumni:

  1. Reach out purely for the purpose of gaining an internship. I suggest starting the conversation long before internship season. For example, say you are looking for a finance summer internship at BNY Mellon. Begin reaching out in December, keep the conversation going till mid January, then reach out again in March. When you reach out in March, make sure you have done some research about the position you are looking for. Mention to the alumnus/ae your interest in the position and why you would be a good fit. Ask them if they have any advice or could offer assistance when applying.
  2. Get upset if they don’t respond. Perhaps they may be busy, don’t check Linkedin, or just can’t provide assistance at the moment. Move on to another grad that might be able to help.
  3. Discuss negative topics. Everyone has a different outlook on life and the experiences they have had. I once randomly bumped into a STAC alum while shopping. They were thrilled to meet a student and had multiple questions about the current state of the school. Unfortunately, for the alum, their memory of STAC was not as positive as I would have hoped. They attended the school long before the commons was built, and remembered the school as very small and hindering. I heard the negative tone in their voice, but decided to turn things around by discussing the new advantages STAC has to offer. Quickly, their tone lifted and we were back on the road to a positive and successful conversation. Point is, keep conversations light and always end on a positive note.

Some Do’s

  1. Say thank you. One thank you can go a long way. Most successful STAC alum are busy commuting, working, and building their post grad lives. They could easily decide that they simply don’t have the additional time for more emails and distractions. Thank yous are  a sign of respect and gratitude for the other person’s time and attention.
  2. Keep in touch. Does the alumni you chatted with publically post an achievement on linkedin or share relevant articles? Try liking or commenting on their posts every once in awhile. We are psychologically built to gain satisfaction from people “liking” what we do and say. Just as you like and appreciate those who like your Insta selfie, professionals gain a sense of satisfaction from those who like their linkedin posts.
  3. Visit the career center at STAC. Chances are, Mrs. Mulhern has heard from alumni who are interested in helping students get a head. A chat with her might put you in contact with a solid connection.

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