Have you spent time reaching out to Whitman alumni online or at a Whitties Helping Whitties event? Did you initiate a conversation with a visiting alum while eating lunch in the Reid Center, get coffee while you were in your hometown or do an informational interview over the phone during the semester? The question then becomes something like…how do you stay connected to the Whittie doing biotech research that you met by the water dispenser at that Whitties Helping Whitties event?
The “meeting” aspect of networking is simply the first step. There are many ways to help you build long-lasting relationships with alumni that can influence and open up a variety of trajectories for your professional life. Below are 5 steps you can take now to solidify those initial introductions from this week’s events.
1. Send an email.
If you managed to get a business card from someone at a networking event, you’ll have their contact info handy. If you didn’t, use Whitman Connect to seek out the alumna/alumnus and send an email through the proprietary directory to the address they’ve shared with the college. This note should look something like, “It was so nice to meet you at the Whitties Helping Whitties event this week. I enjoyed hearing about the work you did with the Juvenile Justice Center while you were a student.” If you’d like to visit more, you can add, “I’d like to hear more about your professional trajectory from Juvenile Justice Center intern to Circuit Court Judge. Would you have time in the near future for a call to discuss further? I regularly have time on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons, if we can schedule something then.” Add a pleasant closing and you’re ready to send.
2. Connect on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is an excellent way to stay connected with someone over a longer period of time and to stay up-to-date on changes in their career. As a connection, you’ll pop up on their radar (and vice versa) when updates, anniversaries or new posts appear on your profile – which can signal a good time to send a new note. This is the simplest step and a must do for anyone that already has a profile. Don’t have a profile, yet? Not to worry, this excellent resource from our friends at LinkedIn will help you get one started.
3. Create “reconnect” appointments.
The balance between staying connected and becoming annoying is delicate. How often should I send an email? What do I say when I follow-up? How do I keep from bothering someone when I’m trying to stay connected? Once your initial follow-up note has gone out, if you’re not requesting a conversation in the near future, set a reminder on your calendar to “reconnect” in 3-4 months.
This is a good time to send an update on how that anthro class is going, check-in on a project they were working on or send along an article that you think would be of interest. If your follow-up initiated an interest in working at their organization, keep an eye on the organization’s careers page and send a note when you see relevant positions open up. If an internship is your goal, then ask if they have knowledge of a program or know anyone that has been an intern, perhaps they can introduce you to the program coordinator or a past intern.
4. Send a Thank You when it’s appropriate.
Don’t forget to send a thank you note after an informational interview, an introduction to someone in their network or anytime you receive information that proves helpful in your academic or professional pursuits. This is an oft-overlooked step that will make a significantly positive impression. A handwritten note is best, but an email will suffice if you’re pressed for time.
5. Make plans to meet-up at the next WHW event.
WHW – Walla Walla will take place February 11, 2020 on campus and the next Reunion Weekend event will be in September. Mark your calendar now and send them a follow-up invitation to see if they might be attending the reunion.
These steps will go a long way in helping you to maintain connection with Whitman alumni and other contacts you will make throughout your professional life. For more specific information, feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our staff through Handshake.