Connecting with Alums as Part of Your Job Search by Jonathan Copulsky ’75
Senior Partner and Global Insights Leader, Deloitte
I still remember the challenges of finding my first business job 36 years ago. My undergraduate degree in history, followed by stints in not-for-profits and teaching did little, in the eyes of employers, to qualify me for that first business job, my MBA from the nation’s top business school notwithstanding.
As a senior partner in one of the world’s largest professional services firms, I often receive mails from students and alums, indicating an interest in learning more about consulting, my career, and specific opportunities at my firm. Given my own experience, I invariably make the time to respond to these emails, including scheduling live conversations (generally over the phone) with my email correspondents. I’m reasonably confident that most other alums from my alma mater feel and act exactly the same way.
Having participated in dozens of such conversations over the years, I feel qualified to suggest how you can make the conversation productive for you and the alum:
- Do your research beforehand about the alum, the alum’s career path, his/her firm, and career paths for graduating and recently graduated students. Don’t waste valuable time asking questions that you can easily answer with thorough research beforehand.
- Don’t ask an alum to talk about or compare ourselves to competitors. Most of us have not worked at competitors.
- Don’t be disingenuous or coy when it comes to your intentions. If you’re interested in understanding how to secure an interview, then make that known. That’s a different intention from learning about why the alum made the career choices that he or she did.
- Help the alum understand everything that s/he can about you by sending a well-crafted resume and thoughtful note explaining the topics that you would like to explore.
- Little things matter. Spell the alum’s name correctly, don’t assume that the alum would like his/her name shortened, spell and grammar check your correspondence, get the name of the alum’s firm right, show up on time for your call, respond to emails quickly, and promptly follow up on next steps, including a courteous and thoughtful thank you note.
- Offer your help, even if you don’t know the form that your help may take. You may be surprised.
- Tailor your questions to the alum’s situation. An alum who graduated two years ago should be the target of a different set of questions than one who graduated twenty-five years ago. If you talk to multiple alums at the same firm, start with the most junior and work your way up the food chain.
- Write down and organize your questions in advance. You may only get one bite at the apple. Don’t rely on your ability to extemporaneously come up with thoughtful and original questions.
Good luck and happy hunting.