An alumni network can be pivotal to a university or educational institution.
When somebody has spent a long time studying at a place of education like a school, college, or university, they inevitably build up a network of teachers and fellow students.
These people have likely helped on that student’s journey, or at the very least accompanied them.
So, doesn’t it seem strange that you might part ways when your studies are over, never to make use of those connections again?
An alumni network counters that idea, ensuring those bonds that were built—big or small—continue to have a place and purpose.
What is the purpose of an alumni network?
An alumni network keeps a person in contact with their fellow alums from a place of education.
These might be people who they came to know personally, but it’s likely that the outer reaches of their network are mutual connections or people that they never actually met.
This is the great thing about an alumni network: it’s a way to bridge the gaps between people who might not be familiar, but who share a significant thing in common.
This is one primary purpose of an alumni network.
Rather than hunting people down through social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn and needing to break the ice, it brings everyone to one place under the established context that they shared a place of study.
Another purpose of an alumni network is that it gives students a structured and organised way to preserve the relationships developed while studying. Previously, the only real way to stay in touch with fellow alumni (outside of social media) was to use a provided email account.
However, many institutions cancel these accounts once students have concluded their studies, so access to these contacts could suddenly be gone one day.
And it isn’t just about the first-hand contacts you lose, either.
Since we’re talking about a network, every contact you lose has more contacts behind them—people they could have introduced you to and further increased your own network of contacts.
Additionally, an alumni network keeps you close to people who could represent invaluable steps in your career and professional development. You may find a fellow alum is starting a project that needs somebody with your qualifications and skills. It could be that your tech start-up needs a coder or a marketer and that you’d like to give such a role to somebody who can represent the same university as you.
An alumni network makes this easier and simpler, and it gives you a platform to conduct this kind of networking without needing to track people down through social media.
It helps you reach the full potential of the community you were part of as a student, making your contacts into meaningful professional ones rather than acquaintances that fade away into the background.
How to build an alumni network
Without dedicated platforms specifically tailored with building networks in mind, setting up an alumni network would normally fall to social media platforms like Facebook. There are numerous issues with this.
Chief among them is that not everybody uses Facebook to maintain a professional network like this, and you might find that some people aren’t so open to such an idea.
With networks like Facebook being designed primarily for personal connection and keeping in touch with friends and family, blurring the line between personal and professional is something that some people can find unpalatable.
Another problem with using platforms not specifically designed for professional networks is that their systems and features won’t be as conducive as a modular platform built for alumni connections.
However, social media platforms outside of your network platform do have their uses. They’re the ideal place to draw information from, making the actual process of joining the network as effortless as possible for the alumni. Their (relevant) personal data can automatically furnish their profile, making it easy to join and start connecting with others.
It goes without saying that the way to build your alumni network up is to bring in more members, which may take time. Alumni may need to be shown the value of the network itself, which will get easier over time as it grows and there are already plenty of members making connections and attending events.
Not everyone in the alumni network needs to an alum yet, either. One fantastic way of both building your network and showing its efficacy is to invite prospective students in so that they might benefit from talking with current students and alumni.
This is especially useful for international students, who can connect with ambassadors—either open, voluntary positions or specifically chosen and managed ones—and experience a much smoother and more supported entry to the university.
Through such an entry point, the alumni network becomes a continuous source of support socially, academically, and through to the alum’s career path.
This makes the university a shining example of how students can be supported and welcomed into their academic careers, even in an unfamiliar place and under the pressure of high-level study.
How do I network with alumni?
Networking with alumni should be started earlier than later, and it’s often prudent to start contacting students before they graduate.
Many potential alumni are lost because the university’s efforts to network with them are either too little or too late. Bringing students into the network before their studies have concluded is a good way to grab their engagement early.
Networking with alumni should be done with the view to build strong bonds and keep providing value to your alumni, even when their time with the university as a student is done.
There’s a lot to be said for the personal touch, so keeping in direct contact with your alumni and inviting them to events and networking days is a great way to keep them involved, to impart value to the network itself, and to give alumni an active role in the university and to feel like they matter.
Find out what your alumni have been getting up to and use the network as a place to platform their efforts. If your alumni have gone on from their studies to start businesses, found charities, or something else worthy of showing off, these can be used to build a strong supportive spirit amongst members of an alumni network and to celebrate alumni achievements.
Additionally, it can be used as evidence of the university’s support, of the tools instilled in alumni and the strong educational foundation that allows such success to take place.
How do I run an alumni network?
Actually running an alumni network takes active participation and oversight. This could include:
– Ensuring new members feel welcome and have introductory resources that might direct them to admins or certain important threads
– Organising meet-ups, networking events, or reunions and taking feedback about how accessible these events might be
– Moderating discussions yourself or having moderators available to help resolve any issues within the group
– Having an ethos for the network and knowing what you intend for members to get out of it
Having the right platform on which to run an alumni network makes it much simpler. Sharing the responsibility with others can help lighten the load, especially if you focus on different areas according to your strengths. For instance, one of you might be better at arranging events while another concentrates on creating resources and being a social presence in discussions.
Certain alumni might make suitable ambassadors or assistants in running your network, either by helping with the day-to-day admin and helping members out with queries, or by helping with events. This gets alumni more directly involved with their network and builds a stronger overall bond between university and alum.
Once these events have taken place, don’t just trust that people go away feeling like they made good connections and got worth out of it. Follow up with participants in good time, gathering their feedback and learning of any pain points in the process that impacted their ability to network effectively and build connections.
Taking this feedback on board and applying it proves even further than you’re willing to hone the network and develop its benefits with its members at the forefront.
Building your alumni network with Aluminati
Aluminati specialises in alumni engagement software and solutions that help you build your community platform.
Born from a desire to get the most from those connections each of us build while we study, our products are tried and true tools for those who want to keep their professional bonds strong.
To find out more about our networking tools and the work we do, contact us today.