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Make an effort to connect with alumni

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Make an effort to connect with alumni

By Ashvini Malshe, Columnist

Putting in time and energy to engage with alumni will not only broaden your professional network, but it will also give you the opportunity to meet with Illini who understand what’s it’s like to be in your shoes.

Over winter break, I spent some time editing my LinkedIn profile. As I’m now looking for jobs, internships and the like, I decided to utilize my account as a sort of vehicle to look for employment, for connections and to really just get my name out there, if anything else.

I used the in-website search engine and looked up companies I was interested in working for. The website provides you with a public list of alumni from your university who work for that company.

Naturally I was curious, so I clicked on the list. There in my lap had fallen the contacts of people who epitomized the professional careers I was interested in pursuing. I was seeking wise advice and life guidance, so in that spirit, why not contact them? I figured it was worth a try.

I didn’t know whether or not they would answer, but I figured I had nothing to lose, so I took the plunge and cold-emailed — my version of cold-calling — all the people who I was most interested in connecting with.

To my surprise, some of whom I emailed answered, and were excited to talk to me.

After spending some time emailing back and forth with these individuals, I traveled across the country to meet with them.

I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with some outstanding Illini. They were poised, intelligent, thoughtful human beings and I was so taken with just how considerate they were to carve time out of their busy schedules for me.

They cared so much. And I suppose it was because they saw me as both a baby Illini they wanted to lead in the right direction and as someone who had potential. At least, that’s what I hope.

Also, they really seemed to empathize with me and the chapter of my life I’m in. This validation gave me the hope and faith I needed to stay sane and centered during senior year.

I plan on staying in contact with the people who I met. Not only did they encourage that I do so, but I want to do so. That point of connection between us, or the matter that we’re all Illini, forged the beginnings of meaningful, professional relationships.

Who knows what will come out of them, but that’s not what I’m focused on. If you choose to do the same, then focus on the individual and not the end result or what you could potentially get from the connection.

In all honesty, they probably knew I wanted to be hired where they work; I was honest with them about my intentions. Though, it’s the relationship-building that is the most vital part of networking. How you behave with alumni, how you carry yourself and what your conviction is like — I’ve noticed that those are the aspects that matter more in these types of relationships in the long run.

And it is exactly these relationships that’ll give you the fortitude to keep reaching your professional goals no matter the obstacle.

Ashvini is a senior in LAS. 

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