4 Benefits of Your Alumni Network
Published: September 15, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding
One of the nice things about the iSchool’s online community is that there are a lot of ways to connect. Besides class discussion posts and group projects, we have
- a Facebook group
- an eportfolio support Facebook group (it’s “secret,” so when you’re ready to join, ask someone you know – or a member of the first Facebook group – to invite you)
- a LinkedIn group
- a Yahoo group (you do need to sign up for a Yahoo account to join, but it’s worth it!)
- the wide world of Twitter
Want more social media accounts to follow? This post lists lots of interesting accounts for LIS students and professionals to investigate.
We also have active and welcoming student chapters of professional organizations:
- American Library Association (ALA) Student Chapter
- Special Libraries Association (SLA) Student Chapter
- Society of American Archivists (SAA) Student Chapter
- The Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) Student Chapter
In addition, I’ve seen announcements about local, in-person meetups, organized by both some of the above student chapters and sociable students and alumni. If there are more groups, please share! I’d love to know, and I’m sure your classmates would too.
Joining one of these groups early on in your iSchool days will let you meet and get to know fellow students in your potential area(s) of interest who will then graduate and become part of your alumni network.
Now, all of these opportunities are well and good, but I’m sure you’re really wondering, How can this information help me? Let me count the ways!
Career advice – Alumni have been where you are today. They can provide a wealth of information in terms of practical advice like courses they found most valuable and insider knowledge about potential employers. For instance, I recently asked an alumna about a nearby public library, and while she had nice things to say about the beautiful new building, her stories about the director were concerning enough for me to strike the library off my list. You may also be able to use alumni as a sounding board to help you make, or even just talk through, a career decision. Maybe you’re weighing a wonderful professional opportunity against its lack of benefits, for example. That’s a perfect time to reach out!
Professional expertise – At some point in our professional careers, we’re going to face a question or problem that we don’t know the solution to. Or maybe you’ve been tasked with finding the perfect artist to create a sculpture celebrating medical librarianship. If you’ve maintained your alumni network, you will know people who can answer your questions and recommend sculptors, or at least connect you with someone else who can (while, at the same time, commiserating about whatever annoyance “admin” is creating these days).
Job connections – Of course, I have to mention networking! Your active networks are likely to share job postings, the right names to address your cover letter to, and maybe even some interview tips. Alumni are also a good source for references – I’m sure you were a stellar group member at least once! Or maybe you interned, volunteered, or worked with someone who would be happy to sing your praises. Within the last couple of months, I’ve recommended someone for a job and passed along a dream job opportunity to someone else. Think of it as “paying it forward.”
Informational interviews – Library and archive folks are the nicest people and are often happy to do a brief (30-60 minute) informational interview; having the alumni connection only makes it more likely they will agree (basically, it makes you feel like less of a stranger and more like someone they want to help). An informational interview is not about getting a job, but rather the aim is to learn more about a company, industry trends, skills needed for a particular type of work, emerging opportunities, or more general career advice. Make sure you’re respectful, focused, and appreciative. Show up on time, with a list of questions, and a way to take notes. If you’re meeting somewhere like a coffee shop, buy this helpful person their drink (and snack. Cookies always help).
Have you benefited from the iSchool’s robust alumni network? Do you have other groups to recommend? Please share in the comments!