Dear Mentor:

Do alumni networks help my career?

I have just completed my undergraduate (Bachelors degree) program from Oklahoma State University in Computer Science. I feel really happy that I have got a job in Silicon Valley (San Jose) with a software development company. I am really excited about it and will be moving to that area in August.

I am determined to succeed professionally and do really well. I have heard that Alumni Associations can be a good source of networking for career success. Can you please elaborate on this? Also, I would like to know where and how I can begin establishing the network, provided of course it is a worthwhile effort.

Jace, California bound, USA

Dear Jace:

Congratulations!!! We look forward to having you as our good neighbor. As you know, iMahal is a rapidly growing company. So keep us in mind the next time you are looking for a demanding but rewarding position with a small but successful company. Perhaps, we can have a closer and more substantial professional relationship.

We agree with your understanding of the value of networking. Networking with others for professional success is a prudent move. Networking can open the doors and offer professional opportunities that may not be readily visible or accessible to you otherwise. However, it is your own skills, experience and capabilities, and what you can contribute to the situation that would seal the deal, so to speak. No doubt, networking is an essential tool for crafting your very own path to your success.

As indicated in your letter, networking is a deliberate effort. One can not establish an effective “network” overnight. It takes years, and it is a never ending activity in the lives of successful professionals. Over time, it becomes second nature. Your day-to-day activities continue to enrich your network of valuable professional contacts. Highly successful professionals are also exceptional networkers.

Alumni from your school, or your school Alumni Association are a rich source for building your network, for the simple reason that students from your school, former or current, share an important bond. Generally speaking, fellow alumni tend to be more approachable, more receptive, and more helpful than total strangers.

Most schools in the US and their Alumni Associations maintain information, with varying degrees of success, with up-to-date data on alumni, and you can see who resides in the geographic area of interest, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, California in your case. These lists are often not as complete as one would like, but the school needs cooperation from the alumni to update the lists.

You can contact the alumni in your area. You can also ask them if some group(s) of alumni get together on a periodic or an ad hoc basis, and if they do, you can easily get invited to such occasions. In many instances, formal local chapters of alumni associations exist in major metropolitan areas of the US. In such cases, initiating contact with the alumni becomes easier. If none of this exists in the Bay Area for your alma mater, don’t be afraid to initiate an informal group of alumni initially, and then depending on your success, you can start a local chapter. Schools are generally very helpful in supporting local chapters of the Alumni Associations.

We recommend that you use the OSU Alumni Association website to find an alumni chapter near you.

Good luck with your new job Jace, and good luck networking.

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