Think your university can’t help you once you graduate? Think again – your university alumni team can help with career advice, networking support, discounts and more.
I graduated with my BA in 2012, and with my MSc in 2016. Until eight weeks or so ago, when I started a new job working in alumni relations (not for either of the universities I studied at!) I’d had almost no contact with the alumni networks at either institution. If I’m completely honest, I never really thought about it. I got what I needed from University (a couple of degrees, a best friend, some really cringe-worthy early attempts at creative writing, a handful of life lessons, and some incredible memories) and that was that. But what I’ve realised recently is that alumni communities can be an incredible resource long after graduation.
The best thing is that it’s never too late to tap into this resource. Whether you graduated a month, a year, ten years or fifty years ago, the alumni team at your institution will be delighted to hear from you. Here are some ways you can get involved and benefit from this ongoing support, long after all-night essay crises, fancy dress bar-crawls and arguments about who finished the milk are distant memories.
Career Advice & Support at University
At a minimum, most universities will offer career support for anything from one to five years after graduation. At some institutions, you can access this support for life! So if you’re feeling a bit stuck, don’t know what your next move should be, or have realised you’re not on quite the right path – don’t stress! Just pick up the phone or send an email to your school’s careers advice service. If nothing else, you’ll get to talk through your issue with a supportive person who has been there and understands what it’s like. And very likely you’ll get some great advice that will help you think about your situation in a whole new way.
Even if you’ve technically aged out of the window to receive this support, reach out anyway! If your university’s service can’t help you directly, they’ll point you in the direction of someone who can.
University Networking Events
Whether it’s an informal drinks reception, Speed Networking, or a business breakfast, most universities host occasional networking events for their alumni. Sometimes these will be general admission and sometimes they will be segmented by subject area or year of graduation. They’re often free to attend, and sometimes you’ll even get free drinks or food.
“Networking” is a word that sends a shudder through many people, but it’s really not something to be afraid of. At its core, networking just means getting to know other people in a business context. If nothing else, hopefully you’ll have fun and have some interesting conversations. At best, networking events can open new doors, create connections which can really help your career, and introduce you to people who can help you on your way.
People like to help people they feel an affinity with, and if you’re alumni of the same school you already have something important in common! If someone is doing something you really admire, don’t be afraid to ask them about it. If you’d like their opinion on something, ask for it. People who are passionate about their work love to talk about it, and everybody likes to feel that they’ve helped someone.
If you’re shy or unsure how to open a conversation, try “what course did you study?” or “I’ve never been to one of these things before, do you know many people here?”
Special Events, Lectures & Classes
Universities’ educational work extends far beyond the traditional classroom learning of undergraduate degrees. Special events such as seminars, lecture series and panel discussions on a huge range of topics are all really common. At many schools, alumni will get free entry to these events, as well as invitations to occasional special events that aren’t open to the public. If you’re passionate about learning, go along to something that peaks your interest. Take notes and ask questions, or just sit and listen. Whether you’re interested in astrophysics, classical literature or ancient history, these types of events can give you the opportunity to learn from the top academics in your field.
In addition, if your university has part-time courses such as evening, adult education or lifelong learning programmes, there’s usually a discount for alumni. Have a look at what’s on – you might discover a new passion, revitalise an old hobby, or just gain something interesting to put on your CV.
University Library and Resource Access
Do you want to keep learning, long after you’ve graduated? At many universities, you can continue to use the library and other educational resources – journals, special collections and so on – once you become an alum. Check the rules on your institution’s website – you might need to register for an alumni library card, or they might only allow access at certain times (for example, not during the pre-exam season.) It’s worth signing up even if you think you might only use it very rarely. Library access is often free for alumni, or at least offers a limited amount of free borrows each year.
Don’t discount this perk even if you live far away from campus – increasingly, universities are including e-books and online editions of academic journals in their library catalogues, and you’ll need an account to get access to these.
Perks and Discounts
Perks and discounts available to alumni vary hugely depending on the university, and are often more beneficial if you’re staying in the same city after you graduate. They can include anything from cheaper gym membership to discounts at local bookshops, theatres and coffee shops. Your alumni network’s web page should list any perks available to you.
If you’re ever interested in further study, don’t forget one of the best alumni perks of all: at some universities, previous graduates can get a hefty discount on tuition fees for postgraduate courses!
If nothing else, staying in touch with your University’s alumni network can help you to stay connected with friends, course-mates and acquaintances from your University days. In today’s busy world it’s surprisingly easy to lose contact, despite being constantly plugged in to the internet. Make the effort to keep these connections alive – I promise you won’t regret it.