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Updated Oct 24, 2023

Can Your Alma Mater Help You Land a Job?

Your college network may be instrumental in your future career.

Isaiah Atkins
Written By: Isaiah AtkinsBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Have you given your alma mater much thought since graduation? If you haven’t, you may be missing out on a vital career resource in your job search.  

Hiring managers often give strong weight to a candidate’s education when making hiring decisions. In a survey by Intelligent, 84% of hiring managers said where a candidate went to school matters, and 71% of hiring managers are more likely to move forward with a candidate from a top-tier school, with 61% believing these candidates would make better employees. These effects are likely amplified for people who went to the same school as the hiring manager.

We’ll look at ways to leverage your alma mater to find a job and set yourself up for career success. 

Did You Know?Did you know
The best jobs you can get with your college major vary by industry, your interests and specific openings in various fields. Additionally, many career paths require advanced degrees and training.

How to leverage your alma mater to land a job

Leveraging your alma mater to find a job is particularly valuable when you’re trying to find a job with limited work experience.

“Alumni networks … are powerful and willing communities that can create jobs and internships and increase the marketplace value of their institutions’ degrees,” said Andrew Margie, co-founder and CEO of Alumnifire. 

Although most alums you connect with probably aren’t directly involved in the hiring process, they’re likely well positioned to help you find opportunities by opening doors within their organizations.

“Informational interviews are a great way to … explore different industries and companies without the administrative hurdles and pressures of a formal interview,” Margie said. You may even leave with an internal champion or mentor as a result.”

Here are some job search tips that involve leveraging your alma mater. 

1. Network with other former students. 

Job searching in the digital age offers many ways to connect with people who graduated from your school. Many professionals list their educational backgrounds on their LinkedIn profiles, making it easy to find fellow graduates of your school. 

Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, advised using LinkedIn’s advanced search function to find people from your college who work in your field or have the job you want. You can also Google potential connections to find these fellow graduates and then reach out to start a conversation.

“Ask for 10 minutes of a person’s time, not an hour, and do it over the phone,” Augustine advised. “A 10-minute phone call is a lot easier for that person to say yes to than, ‘Let’s meet for coffee,’ especially if you don’t know [them].”

TipTip
You can use your alumni network for business success beyond finding a job. Your alumni network can also help you find new clients and form strategic partnerships.

2. Get involved with alumni events.

College is like a campus-wide, years-long networking event where you can build fruitful relationships that benefit you in the long term. You can tap back into this network every time you attend alumni events. There are likely many alumni activities that can connect you with someone who might hire you down the line. 

3. Stay in touch with faculty from your college.

Many professors are still active in their industries while teaching classes. Maintaining strong relationships with your professors long after you’ve graduated can prove beneficial in the long run because they likely have connections across your field. 

Engaging genuinely and meaningfully with the content they post on LinkedIn and other social sites can be a great starting point for keeping in touch. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Interested in a college professor job? Many college professors thrive on mentoring students and watching them grow, but low pay and heavy workloads are challenging aspects.

4. Utilize your alma mater’s career services.

Colleges want their alums to succeed after graduation, so they typically offer services to increase graduates’ chances of finding a job in their industry. Most universities have a vast network of alumni they can connect you with for career development. They also may provide more basic services, such as helping you create a great resume and cover letter so you can put your best foot forward. 

TipTip
If you're an entrepreneurial college grad, consider low-cost business ideas you can start immediately after graduation, including content creation, graphic design and social media consultation.

Tips for featuring your college on your resume

Informing an employer that you went to a top-ranking school can be enough to get your foot in the door. But without professional experience to include on your resume, you’ll need to lean more heavily on your education to prove you can do the job. 

Here are some ways to showcase your college experience on your resume:

  • Detail your courses. Your coursework is the primary way to show employers you have the expertise needed to excel in the position you’re seeking.
  • Describe extracurricular activities. Extracurriculars (particularly those closely related to your field) show that you have the necessary skills and that you’ve applied them in real-world situations.
  • Include references. If you’ve built relationships with professors or other faculty at your college, use them as references to show you’re ready for the job. Be sure to ask their permission first. Even if you’re sure they’d recommend you, getting their permission is an essential formality.
  • Avoid unflattering information. Although lying on your resume is unacceptable, you can exclude negative information as long as you don’t outright fabricate anything. For example, you can consider excluding your GPA unless it’s 3.5 or above. You’re not lying; you’re just leaving something off the page.
Did You Know?Did you know
Most recruiters spend only five to seven seconds reviewing a resume. Keep your resume as concise as possible to make the best impression.

What should schools be doing?

Although job seekers must be willing to put in the effort to network, colleges and universities also have a role to play in connecting their alumni. Margie noted that many schools are strapped for time and resources and struggle to expand alumni engagement beyond fundraising and on-campus efforts. However, networking platforms and technology give these schools additional leverage.

Here are some ways schools can help alums:

  • Communicate consistently with alums. Michael Ellison, president of Corporate Insight, said schools must use various communication methods, such as email and social media, to reach alumni at all stages of their careers. 
  • Offer programs to help alums. Schools also can offer graduates frequent networking events, mentoring programs and fee-based career coaching from professional agencies.
  • Incorporate virtual alumni services. Augustine emphasized the importance of offering virtual options for alumni services. “Not everyone lives close to a major city or to their alma mater,” Augustine said. “Schools should offer Twitter chats, webinar [and other] resources to develop [graduates’] skill sets and help them become stronger candidates.”
  • Develop relationships with alums. Ellison advised schools to develop strong relationships with alumni so they’ll know when graduates are between or looking for jobs. This is the ideal time to market career services and for colleges to show alumni they’re serious about investing in and helping current and former students. “It is one thing to earn a degree, but it is a different kind of effort to develop a career,” Ellison said. “Colleges and universities have an opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of their alumni if they assemble the right programs and communication efforts.”

Set yourself up for career success

The people you met in college can bring opportunities your way today. Applying for jobs with a hiring manager who went to your school can be an especially smart tactic. Maintaining long-lasting relationships with fellow alums is a great place to start if you want the best chances of landing a good job after graduation.

Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Isaiah Atkins
Written By: Isaiah AtkinsBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Isaiah Atkins is a marketing and SEO consultant who is adept at using email campaigns, keyword research and other tools to help brands build strong online awareness. He assists clients with content management, effective communication strategies and audience engagement. This has translated into business advertisements, press releases and in-depth, research-heavy topical guides designed to move readers through the sales funnel. At Business News Daily, Atkins has provided entrepreneurs with actionable guidance on landing page conversion, ROI, business expansion and more, while also advising on business ideas and workplace management. A writer at heart, he is working on his first novel.
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