Joining Your Alumni Association Can Help Your Career—Here’s How

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You can still smell the crisp autumn air, hear the hustle and bustle of hundreds of simultaneous coffee-fueled conversations, and see the ivy-covered brick buildings surrounding your quad. It feels like just yesterday that you were on campus, ensconced in your student life.

And yet now here you are in a totally different world. You’re in a brand-new city and state, and you’re finally a full-blown adult (let’s just ignore the pile of pizza boxes and mountain of PBR cans in your kitchen for the moment, shall we?). But even though your life is full of cool grown-up experiences, you still sometimes long to return to the comfort and familiarity of college.

Have you ever felt a little nostalgic for your alma mater? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Guest writer Adam Levenson was experiencing a bit of a post-college culture shock when he first moved to Washington, D.C. Here’s how joining the alumni association helped him find new friends, new purpose, and even a new job.

Adam Levenson

For some, graduating college is an exciting time. Four years of hard work finally pay off with a dream job, a cool new city to explore, and no more all-nighters. For me, things got off to a rocky start. I didn’t have a job, my friends had moved away, and I felt genuinely dumbfounded about where the last four years of my life had gone.

A few months later, I decided to move to Washington, D.C., where my job prospects were highest. Getting acquainted with the city took time, and even after finding a job, it didn’t feel quite like home. That was until I decided to join my regional alumni club. The decision changed my life in more ways than I could have imagined. Here are the four main benefits I’ve discovered since getting involved with my alumni association.

1. You can stay connected with campus

The transition to life after college comes with many challenges. One of those challenges is leaving the place you have called home for the previous four years. I loved everything about my school: from the beautiful tree-lined walk that stretched from one end to the next and the never-ending array of extracurricular activities to the mind-expanding lectures.

Having to give that all up just didn’t seem fair.

After joining my alumni club, I realized that I didn’t have to. Within my first month as a member, a professor visited and delivered a guest lecture. Soon after, a representative from the alumni relations office previewed the events taking place at homecoming.

Certain things like eating at my favorite campus restaurants or hanging out at the same bars couldn’t be replicated in my new city, but I was able to find people to talk to about those experiences. My alumni club became my home away from campus.

2. It helps you network in a large, competitive city

Like many cities, D.C. is a competitive place. Tons of young people move here each year in pursuit of a handful of coveted positions in government, consulting firms, and non-profits. I realized that as a newcomer, it was vital for me to build a strong network if I ever wanted to stand a chance of getting ahead.

My alumni club made networking easy. Each month it holds a happy hour, and at these events I often meet some extraordinary people. For example, I met a former ambassador who spoke to me about his transition from the private sector to public service. At another event, I met the current owner of major professional sports team. This likely wouldn’t have happened in any other setting. Alumni club events make it easy to strike up a conversation with successful professionals—and they’re much more willing to offer career advice than if you met them in another setting.

3. You gain access to leadership roles…

As a senior in college, I served on the executive board for a number of organizations on campus. I loved having the opportunity to lead others and help the clubs grow. Graduating, however, knocked me to the bottom of the totem pole. I started an entry-level job and was no longer in the position to make decisions.

My alumni club turned out to be the outlet I needed. A few months after joining my alumni club, I decided to attend one of their monthly planning meetings. They needed someone to plan a happy hour and, longing for an opportunity to spearhead a project, I volunteered.

Before I knew it, I became the head of public relations for the club where I jump-started the group’s Twitter presence.

  • … and job opportunities!

My experience managing the alumni club PR team proved invaluable. It actually helped me land my current job as community manager for MPA@UNC, the online MPA program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During my second-round interview, for example, I mentioned that I managed my alumni club’s social media accounts and website. I sent my interviewers links to those accounts, and a few days later I received a phone call to set up a final round interview.

Alumni clubs help their members carry the bonds and shared experiences of their college careers into their post-graduation lives. Many universities have their own alumni relations and development offices. Search your school’s website for information on what club is closest to you, how to join, and a list of upcoming events. If this proves difficult, you can always give your alma mater a call for more information. Wherever you are, get back in touch with your school, and consider joining your alumni association. I did, and I couldn’t be happier.

Adam Levenson is the community manager for MPA@UNC, the UNC School of Government’s online MPA program and the vice president of the Penn Club of DC, the alumni association for DC-based graduates of the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter at @mradamlevenson.

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