Alumni Career Services for Schools

Last week a young alumna called me asking for help. She was looking to make a career change, and was hoping I could provide some networking resources.

We chatted for a while. She outlined the field she was interested in, showed me her resume, and described her future plans. In turn, I gave her the names of some people from our School community who I thought she should speak to (alumni, faculty, parents). I directed her to our LinkedIn group, and gave her some networking tips. At the end of our conversation, I also suggested make use of her university alumni connections, and explore their career services.

She remarked that she had tried, but found her university services lacking.

This led me to the following thought(s): do independent schools in general offer alumni career services? If not, why not? Is the assumption that a university or college alma mater will be the more likely place for a graduate to turn, and therefore it isn’t worth it to run full-fledged career services? While many alumni would think immediately of their university for alumni career networking, I wonder how many would also think of their high school connections.

I plan to explore this in a future post, and am using this one as fodder for conversation, feedback and resources. Give me your two cents in the comments. Thanks!

Three Ways to Make Social Networks Work for You

How can you get the most from social networks? There’s a lot more to it than posting photos and status updates.

Tune in to the Conversation
People are talking about you behind your back. Its up to you to find out if it’s good, bad, or otherwise. Search sites like Twitter for your brand, school or group and get a sense of what’s being said in real time (for example, here’s what people are saying about Trident Layers gum on Twitter). The conversations you tune in on will help you judge how current communications initiatives and goals are being received, and help you adapt your approach accordingly. If there is no conversation…then you have another problem on your hands.

Use Your Audience as a Resource
Your fans already have a vested interest – they know your brand and product best. Solicit them for feedback and get new ideas and advice. Sites like My Starbucks Idea and Vitamin Water’s Facebook presence are examples of the ways you can solicit feedback and participation from your biggest fans and advocates.

Research Key Players
Sites like LinkedIn give you a direct channel to connect to and learn more about people. These could be individuals you don’t know yet but want to, or people you’ll be interacting with in the future. LinkedIn can give you valuable information: who you know in common, professional and educational background, groups and interests. These points of reference can be very helpful in a fundraising meeting, job interview, or on a sales call.

LinkedIn Group Management: Are You Using the Tools?

LinkedIn group managers can take advantage of several tools and services to make their groups more valuable for members. I’ve already discussed the pros and cons of a closed LinkedIn group in this space. After you’ve decided on that, you have a few more things to think about. Here are my recommendations/thoughts:

Use the Subgroups. Members of your group can opt in to a subgroup of your main group. This might be a good way to serve members from a particular geographic area, those who have specific interests or needs, or those sharing a common background. If your main, larger group is a closed one, you may choose to allow members of the larger group to join the subgroup without manager approval, or to have a group manager approve each request.

Enable Discussions, News and Jobs. What good is a group without discussions? Enabling this feature allows group members to converse amongst themselves. Giving up control of the conversation can be a scary prospect for some, but it’s the name of the game when it comes to social media. The News option allows group members to post links to news articles AND gives you the opportunity to drop in your organization’s RSS feed. The Jobs board gives group members a forum for finding new hires; enabling this feature means you could help a group member find a job.

Create an Automated Greeting for New Members. When someone new joins your group, they get an email welcoming them. As group manager, you can customize that message with instructions, links and all sorts of information. Make sure you’ve taken full advantage of a communications piece that will go out to every single member as they join.

As always, make sure to put some thought in to the relevance of these tools to your audience. For example, there might be a case where subgroups just aren’t necessary, because your main group is already small in size. Don’t use the tools just because they’re there; think critically about what benefit they’ll have for you and for your group members and then proceed.

Group Request Spam: Some Examples

I manage a closed university alumni group on LinkedIn. Therefore I am privy to all of the…”creative” explanations from individuals who feel they are entitled to be a member of said group. I’ve been collecting these explanations for some time now; a few of them are below. These were all sent to me via LinkedIn messaging:

“I would love the opportunity to join this group – I am a Group Sales Manager at the [a hotel chain] and it could be a great professional and personal benefit to you/your group, I and my company to get to know each other and maybe work together. The [hotels] have meeting space both indoor and outdoor for group bookings, along with over 380 guest rooms for group and or individual reservations.”

—–

“Hi there,

I’m fresh graduate [note: not a graduate from the university in question] and I’m Cisco (CCNA) certified. Please contact me I need other’s experience advice and I’m searching Job.
Thank you for considering me”

—–

“Hi I hope you are fine and doing good.. your group.. good..
thanks,,
[company url]”

This is but a very small subset of the constant stream of messages, all from people with no affiliation with the university, wanting to establish a connection. While keeping a closed group means more work, it also means that you close the door to spammers. People like the ones above never get a chance to post a message about selling hotel conference room space on your discussion board, in your news items, or contact members of the group directly about it.

Maintaining the barrier between your group members and spammers is part of what makes “group.. good..”

Open Group, Closed Group: Pros and Cons

When you create a new group on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, you are presented with several options. Other than choosing things like the group administrators and adding a logo, you can choose to make the group open or closed. In other words: anyone can join your group OR group membership is up for approval. There are pros and cons to each, and the answer depends on what the group is intended to accomplish, the resources you have available, and what makes the most sense for your audience. Let’s review:

Open Group

Pros: Open groups don’t require a staff member or volunteer to approve individual requests to join. A potential member need only click the “add me to this group” link and they’re in.

There are fewer barriers to entry for this type of group. Additionally, you have the potential benefit of many more points of view and input from a wide variety of users.

Depending on the purpose of the group, open membership may be a good fit; if the group is meant to discuss a general topic or casts a wide net over a certain subject, open membership may be the best option.

Cons: Open groups can easily swell in size and become unwieldy. These types of groups can be magnets for people who want to join as many groups as possible, but don’t necessarily have useful points of view or information to share (read: salespeople and spammers). Once they clutter discussion boards and dominate conversations, your group may be rendered useless, and legitimate members will abandon ship.

You can make the decision later to convert your open group to a closed one, but once “undesirables” are in, closing the gates behind them won’t do much good.

Closed Group

Pros: Closed groups require a trusted individual (generally a staff member or a volunteer) to approve individual membership requests.

Closed groups provide members with a sense of legitimacy: they know that the people in the group have gone through an approval process. A good example of a type of group that can benefit from closed membership is an alumni group. It provides assurance to members that everyone in the group “belongs.”

Closed groups also keep a damper on spammers – those who rack up group memberships with the intent to sell products won’t make it through the sieve (unless they happen to have a legitimate reason to be a member of the group, of course).

Cons: Maintaining a closed group requires granular management. Someone (staff, volunteer or otherwise) has to make sure that each member request is legit…and that eats up time. It also adds an additional hoop to jump through, which may be a turn off to potential group members; someone who has to wait too long in membership purgatory may grow frustrated and withdraw their request.

What did I miss? Share your experience with closed and open groups in the comments.