I’m graduating this weekend (MBA Marketing and Communications). I should be happy instead I’m worried. I picked this particular program at this particular school for its outstanding alumni connections, but how am I supposed to benefit from that when the other 149 people graduating with me have the same plan? It feels like we’re all fighting over the same small piece of the pie. Do alumni associations really help you connect to the right people and jobs or did I just waste an awful lot of time and money getting this degree?
Dear John F.,
Congratulations on the graduation. And stop listening to all the negative media and viral commentary from your friends. Boring and counter-productive. Great search technique will almost always trump market conditions. The "other 149 people" are going to do most of this all wrong, and you're going to learn how to do it right.
Alumni associations are among what I think of as the gold standards of networking. It's your club. There's automatic affinity to fellow alums, particularly in schools that have a relatively close-knit community. Accessing alums from your school will yield much better networking results than with strangers (but don't write that latter option off entirely, either).
Add in great networking technique (I'll suggest my own book - In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work - as a resource and blueprint in this area), and a high-touch approach to alums, and you'll build many options. Keep in mind that it's a bit of heavy lifting and doesn't happen quickly, which is, of course what you'd prefer. (That's why people turn to ads and recruiters so much, despite the terrible odds for success via those techniques.) It's a matter of building relationships over a period of time, and nurturing them - or as corporate recruiters might say, "keeping them warm."
To find answers to your questions on job search and career transition, get your copy of In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work