William and Mary alumni typically enjoy helping one another and students. Tapping into this wealth of experience and wisdom is one of the most effective strategies for your personal career development there is. The most effecient way to identify and contact alumni you want to talk to is to use LinkedIn.
Note: Alumni can be information resources for you—it is not appropriate to solicit them for funds or sales leads! The conversations you have with alumni are called 'informational interviews'.
Talk to alumni about their majors, about the internships they did, about the skills they think is important for you to pick up. Find out why their work is personally meaningful for them. Ask them where you should be looking for internships and jobs in their career fields. Stay in touch with the alumni you talk to!
Are you feeling too shy to approach a total stranger? We have information to get you started!
Still Hesitating to Contact an Alum?
Search the 'members' tab in the LinkedIn groups you've joined to send a message directly to individuals at no charge.
Remember, this alum ASKED to be put in this database because he or she WANTS to talk to you! Your initial contact will be through the Tribe Connections group on LinkedIn. Keep it brief and personalize it -- nobody likes to get something that looks like spam!:
Etiquette—Dos and Don'ts of Informational Interviewing
Remember that the goal is to have a real conversation with someone. If you can at all arrange a face-to-face meeting, that would be ideal. Failing that, a telephone conversation. You might wind up just exchanging emails through the Tribe Connections system initially.
Keep it light and breezy: "Thanks for talking to me last spring about xyz; I was able to xyz with the information." "I see that congress has xyz; how is that impacting your mission?" "I found this blog article, and thought you'd find it interesting." "I'm going to the xyz conference, will I be able to meet you there?"
Sample Informational Interview Questions
What preparation is necessary for entry level jobs in this field?
How important is graduate school in this field?
Could you recommend some courses that I should be taking now in preparation for a career in this field?
How does your education and experience relate to what you are doing now?
How did you get into this field and into this position? What are some alternative routes into the field? What kind of background, training, special programs or other learning experiences does one need to enter the field?
What professional journals, books, newspapers or publications do people in your field generally read? Are any professional associations particularly influential?
Is there any advice you would give someone just entering the field, maybe something that you wish someone had mentioned when you were starting?
What kind of "lifestyle" choices have you had to make? How many hours do you work in a typical week? Do you take work home at night?
Do you anticipate employment in this field to grow, decrease, or remain stable?
What are the opportunities for advancement? Is there a high turnover rate and if so, why?
What types of employers hire people in your line of work?
You mentioned that you made a transition into this field from another career path. How difficult was this?
What job choices are there within this field and to what types of other organizations can one move?
Describe how you spend your time during a typical work day/week.
What major satisfactions do you derive from working in this field?
What are some of the issues/problems that you must deal with in your work?
(If you are interested in the company the alumnus is working for) Could you tell me a little about the management style here? How are promotions decided? What does one need in order to be successful in this field?
Job Search Techniques
What strategies would you be using if you were in a job search for a position in this field?
Would you mind reviewing my resume and giving me feedback on it?
What types of questions should I expect when interviewing for a job in this field?
Could you give me the names of others who might tell me more about your field? May I say you suggested I contact them?