Part of my procrastination of life's goals was to go through a bunch of academic programs–4 universities, 3 degrees and a fellowship. One of the unintended consequences of my scholarly digressions was to get connected to different groups of former students called alumni. Btw, alumni, Latin for "pupils nourished" is a distinctly American concept. International universities rarely kept track of their former students and certainly did not solicit them for financial support until recently. For example, Oxford, founded in about 1200, formalized its alumni society in 2006. Harvard established its Alumn Club in 1840. The word alumni is plural. Singular is alumnus, (unisex or male) or alumna (female, the unpopular plural alumnae), we say slangishly alums, or some say grads. Just do not use alumni when referring to yourself–"I am an alumni of XXX college."–unless you are schizo. 🙂 In Texas, they are always different aren't they, they say "ex-students". The definition of an alum is wide and varied. Mere attendance gives the individual, certainly the alumni association and that institution the ability to take credit for their achievements. Like all great ideas have many parents, all famous, successful, and certainly wealthy former students are claimed as "alumni".
I have been blessed to have a number of alumni networks that engage and fulfill me. Without them, I am not sure I would be as successful today.
In one of my former careers, I ran the alumni association at UCLA and served on national and international alumni governing organizations. With more than 2500 colleges and universities in the US, there are a lot of alumni! But I am notrecommending you attend more uncomfortable reunions!
This concept of alumni is not just restricted to post-secondary education. You have been recruited into and have shared life experiences with many groups. Nearly 300 larger corporations have formed alumni associations for their former employees to stay connected. Search corporate alumni groups Deloitte has a particularly strong one for example. Why you ask? Branding, recruitment, business referral, all through a trusted network. Does your former employer have an alumni group? Does your future employer have one, and do you know people in it?
Most of us stay in touch with a select crew from a former world of work or other experiences. These are informal and very effective alumni networks. You belong but may not be connected to, many alumni groups. Again, because of my career changes, I have 7 former employee such groups. The advantage of career changes! Like always, the questions is: Why aren't you connected to them? I know you are busy, I know you have less time and more choices and obligations. But these are people you know and share a common experience. Be careful.Trying to reconnect with these alumni groups only when you are desperate is tantamount to reconnecting with former dates from a previous era when you are lonely. Bad form, always smells of self-serving motives, and in the end not a long term solution.
If you have been following along, the strongest network opportunities are always among people you know or knew. Common experiences are powerful platforms for connecting and sharing.
Make a list of your alumni groups:
- Colleges and universities
- Fraternities, sororities, honor societies
- Kids' play groups, PTAs, club athletic teams
- Internships, fellowships
- Volunteer and community service groups
- Faith based affiliations
Join as a member or reach out and reconnect. Do these groups have Facebook pages, Linked-in groups? Who do you know or remember? E-mail them, call them and connect.
Try not to be so focused on your current need and let the serendipity of connecting with a trusted group take you new places and opportunities.
The great thing is you have a base from which you can start a conversation. You immediately have questions or experiences that you can share to drive the connection.
Alumni networks can be powerful and meaningful sources of identity and community. Yes, and also provide some new leads on jobs or sales prospects, but that is always secondary.
Want to broaden and deepen your network and your opportunities? Think alumni.
It is amazing who you know, who you have lost touch with.
Reconnect with your past and advance your future.
Thanks for reading. John
2 thoughts on “Alumni Networks—-Familiar and Influential Resources”
John – As a serial alumni director, I certainly concur. I would add one type of alumni group to the 7 types you have listed: high school. Although public high schools generally don’t have formal alumni organizations (or staff resources dedicated to the purpose), online networks make it easy to find and communicate with actual friends from our most formative years. Thanks for the post!
Thanks Andy, you would know! I counsel against going that far back when some of your best and well known connetcions are right in front of you. Please visit Andy’s blog http://www.alumnifutures.com/