Whether it’s your University classmates or the colleagues you trained with at your first firm, we all have an alumni network.
Your alumni network is an immense network of professional contacts – all with whom you already have one thing in common. That one thing could be a University that you attended, a previous employer or perhaps you took an evening study course together. How you are connected doesn’t really matter. The fact that you have a connection gives you the right to reach out to someone and make contact. After all, people tend to be more receptive to contact from someone from within their network.
LinkedIn is a useful tool for reaching out to and connecting with your alumni. You can search by University or by Employer and connect / re-connect with former colleagues. LinkedIn features some useful filters which can help you to find some of your old contacts by location, firm, etc. You can even set up a dedicated online group for your alumni network using the “Groups” page on LinkedIn. Members of your Group can post messages, updates and communicate easily.
Online tools are great but there is no substitute for meeting up with your contacts, in person. If there is an annual alumni event then try to attend it every now and then, in order to maintain your network. If not, perhaps you can create an annual alumni networking event. It might be as simple as booking a private area in a bar and sending an email invitation to your alumni network.
Another great way to tap into your alumni network is to share your professional expertise. You could create a business blog or even offer to give a talk. If your alumni network has a common interest such as say, business start-ups, you could put together a panel of speakers who provide insights to your group. It makes a lot of sense to invest in cultivating your alumni network yet many business people don’t make the time to do so. You could gain a real competitive advantage by taking the time to re-connect with your alumni.