Notre Dame has one of the most extensive university alumni club systems in the world. It can be a powerful network to help one become established in a city, find needed services/referrals, manager career development, and establish a social outlet. However, many individuals come away disappointed from their interactions with the local alumni club. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid repeating them.
Emailing the Club President with Your Needs: I have worked with many students and alumni who reach out to the club president with any and all requests. While smaller clubs may only list the club president’s contact information, most clubs have a list of officers and committee chair people. Instead of emailing the club president asking for job leads, why not reach out to the networking chair or young alumni/current student coordinator (depending which group you fall into)? Reaching out to the most appropriate person will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Think about it, would you email Fr. John Jenkins CSC (President of the University of Notre Dame) with a question about how to purchase hockey tickets?
In addition to emailing other officers outside the club president, be sure to establish a positive tone in your communications. “Can you pass along my resume to any appropriate club members? Thank you.”; polite but too passive. Why should the club officer do all the heavy lifting? Ask for help that would allow you to complete your intended task. “Are there any resources through the XYZ club that I could tap into or events I should participate to help me with my career search?” or “Are there any club members you would recommend I contact to help tap into the XYZ field?” You still make the ask, but communicate that you are willing to do the work to achieve your goal.
Show Up, Sit Down, Go Home: Ever attended a club event, know no one, muddle through by talking about the weather and latest university sports outcome, and then go home and complain that it was a waste of time? You spend two hours, have a couple of drinks, and come back to your home no closer to your intended goal.
If you truly want help in meeting people, why not reach out volunteer to help work the event? Club officers LOVE when a new member comes along and is willing to jump in and help out. “I saw from the club site that you are organizing next month’s networking night, as a new alum in the city I am looking to make connections and would welcome the opportunity to help out. Please let me know if you could use assistance in setting up for the event.”
People are more willing to help individuals from whom they have already received help. Have you ever moved a friend into an apartment? When the time comes to reciprocate, you are more willing to ask and your friend is more willing to say yes because you have shown your willingness to assist. Same holds true within organizations – help set up for a student send-off, check in people at the networking breakfast, organize the game watch – and club members will be more likely to reciprocate. You may have noticed from my example outreach text, I recommend offering to help at the beginning of the event as you will have uninterrupted time to chat with other club members prior to the event (people are still fresh, pre-event conversations could lead to referrals to attendees later on during the actual event, helps you ‘warm-up’ before approaching others at the event).
Be active in the club and its events – when fellow club members see you take an active role in their activities/programs, they will be more willing to reciprocate in helping you settle into a new city or new job.
I only talked to one person: Club events, even club networking events, will not get you a job. Instead, approach club events as a way to start a relationship and build a connection. No one likes to be cornered by a single individual for 2 hours talking about his/her job search; why not make a connection and then suggest a follow-up meeting, “I really have enjoyed talking with you and hearing your advice, would you be willing to take 15 minutes next week and grab a cup of coffee, I would like to ask you some more questions but don’t want to take too much of your time today?” Get a business card and follow-up within the next 48 hours to set a follow-up meeting.
It is important to be respectful of the tone of the event. Networking events will draw a crowd who are more open to talking about careers, whereas game watches and student send-offs are not time to go into 15 minute discussions about career fields. You can bring up the conversation, but at non-career oriented events, move onto the “let’s meet next week” idea quickly so as to keep with the tone of the event.
Tap into your local club, become active, and be willing to help out with their programming needs. As we read in the Prayer of St. Francis, “For it is in giving that we receive.”