By Emily Moss, Mission-Driven Marketing Leader, Writer, Speaker
How Do You Define “Alumni?”
First thing’s first: Your “alumni community” doesn’t necessarily have to be folks you went to college or grad school with. Think bigger! Think broader! The simple idea behind “alumni communities” is using shared experience to start or strengthen relationships.
Are you on a summer camp alumni mailing list? Do you have an online community that you participate in? Did you attend a non-traditional educational program, like a coding bootcamp? Are you a member of a professional network like…ahem… FindSpark? Those count as alumni communities too, and the benefits still apply.
It’s Who You Know
They say it isn’t what you know, but who you know, right? Alumni communities can be great sources for leads when you’re looking for a job. Simply putting yourself on your community’s radar can lead to introductions and interviews.
Xander Peterson is an alumni of Dev Bootcamp, an immersive 18-week coding school with an active alumni community of over 2,700 people who work in the tech industry. He’s now a software engineer at Roostify and described how the program’s alumni community facilitated a quick job search.
“The Dev Bootcamp alumni network was a tremendous help in my job hunt. I landed my first software developer job at a startup thanks to someone from my class. She had attended Dev Bootcamp in a different city and had just returned to the Bay Area.” After his new alumni contact got hired, she referred Xander into another open position.
Create a Community For Yourself
People embarking on new careers often need to rebuild their professional networks to align with their new goals. Coding bootcamp grads (who are often career-changers), recent college grads, or people returning to workforce after a break, need an efficient way to connect with a wide range of new contacts.
Juhi Laungani, now a Media Operations Coordinator, struggled with the social aspect of job searching after college. “I was extremely stressed out and no job that I applied to gave me a chance to prove myself, as I didn’t have enough experience.” She joined FindSpark and became a fellow for the Hustle Summit, through which she found a job.
“I simply made a friend through the fellowship program who mentioned the company name to me and got me curious enough to go and check it out. If it weren’t for joining a network like FindSpark, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to meet new people and be exposed to a larger portion of the job market.”
Stay On Top of Trends
In addition to old-fashioned referrals and introductions, alumni communities are invaluable for staying on top of the trends in your industry. Susie O’Brien is also an alumni of Dev Bootcamp and she’s now a software engineer at Narrative Science. She relies on Dev Bootcamp’s alumni groups (Facebook and the chat service Slack) for advice.
“The thing I like most about the Dev Bootcamp alumni network is keeping informed on what other alumni are learning or working on. The world of programming is so vast, [so] it’s good to keep tabs on what trends are happening in the tech world and what other career paths fellow DBCers have followed, and how they got there.” Check out other alumni stories like Susie’s.
If you’re new to the workforce, like many new college grads, or new to a field, like coding bootcamp grads, connecting with mentors can be invaluable for career growth. But finding a mentor, one with whom you you get along and who is invested in your success, is hard!
Colleges, coding bootcamps like Dev Bootcamp, and other non-traditional institutions like accelerators often provide mentors for their students, or introduce them to leaders in the field. Challin Meink is now the Marketing and Communications Director at TechNexus, but when she worked at a startup that participated in the TechStars accelerator program, she was connected to several mentors.
“One mentor in particular has become my individual marketing mentor. I meet with her at least quarterly to share updates, challenges, successes and I’m happy to say we’ve grown quite close. She’s truly my trusted advisor.”
Nurturing these communities takes time and effort. You have to go to events, participate in online conversations, and follow up when there’s an opportunity. But compared to other activities that help your career, like cold outreach to folks you don’t know, or sending resumes blindly into the abyss, investing in shared networks can give you much better results.
And don’t forget to think creatively about “alumni communities.” As Challin said of TechStars, “While it isn’t a ‘formal’ alumni organization, it’s certainly a network that has given me great perspective at every stage of my career.” And isn’t that worth a lot?