I love working for a career center that not only teaches students how to network, but also gives them the resources to do so. When our alumni relations office introduced the EverTrue-powered Bucknell Alumni App to the alumni community, we immediately made it available to students as well. Of course there is education that goes along with handing over access to this powerful directory, but it is gratifying to know that we are helping students become self-sustaining adults in charge of their own futures—which is exactly the mission of the our Career Development Center!
One of the most frequent questions we hear is, “What’s the difference between the app and LinkedIn?” Although there are similarities, we like to emphasize that the Alumni App enhances and expands on the already-mighty LinkedIn. Here are just two of the features our career center encourages students to use:
- Search Filters: EverTrue worked with us to create some great search filters that you don’t typically see, such as Greek life, sports, and “career volunteer” (which is our way of noting an alum’s willingness to offer career advice). Of course, you can find ways to search some of these fields in LinkedIn—but it’s harder to do and the results aren’t as accurate. The filters in the app pull from our massive database, which contains information that may not be in LinkedIn. (For example, perhaps an alum created a LinkedIn profile 20 years after college and didn’t feel like listing the sport they played or the Greek association they belonged to.) The information is great for a current student hoping to develop a relationship with an alum and eager to learn about what’s out there after Bucknell. What better place to start than a shared experience in an organization?
- Professionals to Know: If students have synced their LinkedIn accounts to the app, they can view suggested alumni to talk to based on their LinkedIn profile information. What I love is that this brings professionals to students based on current interests. It takes a lot of the fumbling guesswork out of finding people to connect with and is a great springboard for students looking to build their networks.
But access to the app does not come without our biggest piece of advice: Don’t make a mistake that will harm your professional reputation! We ask students to remember that it is a privilege to belong to this online Bucknell community. This means treating all members with respect, professionalism, and courtesy. And if we haven’t sufficiently overwhelmed the student yet, we like to give some general networking tips for reaching out to alumni (or any professional) effectively on the app:
- Let the alum get to know you before you ask for something. Many professionals are going to be thinking about their reputations in their workplace. While they can provide contacts, advice, and even opportunities, they are putting themselves at risk by doing so for someone they don’t know—therefore, make sure to establish a relationship before asking for help.
- Consider asking for an informational interview. It is a low risk and enjoyable way to get to know someone, as well as to learn more about an industry and/or employer.
- Do your homework before approaching alumni. They will expect you to know something about their industry and/or employer.
- Target your interactions. Don’t send bulk emails—they can be spotted from miles away. Craft personalized messages that explain why you’re reaching out to the alum and what you hope to gain from speaking with them.
The alumni app is still relatively new to students—it was introduced over the summer—so this past fall semester was our first foray into exploring its features and promoting it to our community. We’re excited to continue to share the benefits of the app and to hear about the successes of students who use it!
As Assistant Director of the Bucknell University Career Development Center, Megan Wolleben is responsible for the marketing and communications of the office, including the department’s social media presence. She is the co-chair for EACE’s Technology Committee and co-author of the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) “Career Counselor’s Guide to Social Media.” Megan earned her B.A. and Master’s in Communication from Fordham University.