Applying to summer opportunities is arguably one of the most stressful, taxing experiences of a college student’s career. What is the first step? Which city is best for me? Which city is best for the industry that I would like to enter? How do I make connections with people in the field? All of these questions, and the plethora of others, can quickly overwhelm and lead to stagnation. Connecting with alumnus/a before applying to a position can alleviate some of these stressors and avoid such stagnation. Here are steps to follow in order to speak with alumni who can offer career guidance and tips for the application process.
1 – Determine the city, or cities, that both appeal to you and are relevant to the industry that you would like to enter. For me, this meant either New York City or Boston—personally, because I am from the Northeast and miss it during the school year, and professionally, because these cities offer a multitude of marketing and sales opportunities.
2 – Research companies that share a culture similar to yours and that will fulfill your career goals. Glassdoor, Instagram, Twitter, and the company’s homepage, can illuminate the culture of the company and provide insight into employees work ethic and success. I desired a company with an intense work ethic yet a healthy balance of self-care. By scouring the Internet, I determined which companies in New York City and Boston aligned with these desires.
3 – Exploit DCAN and LinkedIn to determine alumni who work in or around your ideal cities. In the search bar on LinkedIn’s homepage, search the company. Then, filter the search by selecting “1st” and “2nd.” Scroll down to “Schools” and select “Davidson College,” or whichever school by which you would like to filter. Either message the alumnus/a through LinkedIn or use college resources to figure out his or her email address.
4 – Send a respectful, inquisitive message/email in which you ask if they would have any time to discuss their career and future steps that you could take to enter the industry. For example, below is the email that I drafted and sent:
My name is Kate McNaughton and I am a xxx at Davidson College with an interest in the financial services industry. I came across your profile on LinkedIn and decided to reach out. I am eager to learn about your experiences and the steps you might recommend a Davidson student take to break into the industry. It’s always fascinating to learn how Davidson graduates are able to apply their liberal arts education to a more traditional, business-focused setting.
I recognize that you are extremely busy, thus I appreciate any time you may be able to offer for a phone conversation in the next few weeks. Undoubtedly, my schedule is more flexible than yours, so please let me know when works for you and I can finagle mine. Thank you!
All my best,
Davidson College ‘18
5 – Engage in either a phone or Skype conversation. Do not start the conversation by demanding information on internships offered by the company. Naturally progress into this part of the conversation. Typically, if the conversation were not going well, I could pick up on the cues. In these cases, neither the alumnus/a nor I would venture into internship territory.
6 – More than likely, even if the interview goes splendidly well, it will be necessary to apply through pre-set channels. Hopefully, though, the alumnus/a will recommend the recruiters to pay attention to your resume and application materials. In my experience, if I connected with an alumnus/a before applying to a position, chances drastically increased that I would make it to the first round.
Connecting with alumni is a smart way to alleviate stress and avoid unproductive stagnation. These individuals feel a bond with students at their alma mater, thus they would like to help in any possible way. But remember, alumni will likely only help if you are respectful and seem genuinely interested in their career path and industry.