If you’re an experienced professional, you might only think of your alma mater during a reunion year or when a fundraising pitch comes in the mail. If you’re a recent graduate, you might have used your university career services during campus recruiting, but since you’re ineligible for that now you fall out of touch. However, your alma mater can be helpful to your job search and career management long after you have graduated While offerings vary by school, here are six ways your university can still help your career – whether you graduated one year or one decade (or more) ago:
1 – Networking contacts
You should join your university alumni group on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social platforms so you can meet people online. But some universities also maintain a separate contact database of alumni from the social platforms, and to the extent there are additional contacts there or expanded information for these alumni, you expand your network of jobs leads and research sources. In addition to alumni, don’t forget to add professors, career services staff, and research assistants to your network.
2 – Networking events
While directories are great for finding individuals, there’s also value and efficiency to attending group events where you can meet multiple people at once. University-sponsored events enhance any online and 1:1 networking you already do. Live events might be organized around a subject, rather than by class year, so you can meet people you might not have thought of or realize is a helpful connection.
3 – Market information
Networking is helpful to hear about trends, learn about companies and get insight into different roles and careers. You can also use your university to research published market information. Target the university library or the Career Services office, both of which may be accessible online. For example if you’re researching salary, see if Career Services collects alumni statistics or subscribes to compensation research. If you’re exploring different careers, your university library might have a large collection of business publication back issues which you can peruse for ideas. At several universities I have worked, they owned a site license to fee-based career information publishers such as Vault and Wetfeet, and allowed visiting alums to access that information for free.
4 – Job postings
In addition to market information, live job postings might be collected by the university, most likely in Career Services, but also potentially with your academic major or specialty. When I was recruiting for a specialized data science role, I called into a university with a top program in that field, and the department that granted that specific master’s degree kept a targeted list of job opportunities for its alumni. While you’re networking with alumni, proactively ask what services they’re using in case there is a list of job postings you can subscribe to.
5 – Job search training
In addition to job postings, your university might offer training to help your job search. Webinars, live workshops or even 1:1 coaching is sometimes available from the Career Services or Alumni Affairs offices. See if your Career Services office reviews resume, conducts mock interviews or offers salary negotiation help.
6 – Leadership training
If you’re not looking for a job, there might be general professional development or leadership training that can help you advance or grow your skills. More and more universities are offering executive education and conferences that are rigorous but not as time-intensive or expensive as a degree program. If you’re looking for free options, see if your university allows you to audit classes. While you won’t get credit or a certification of completion, you still get the benefit of the learning. Your newfound knowledge will come in handy with all the networking you’ll be doing at alumni events!
As you can see, there are multiple ways your university can still help your job search and career, even after you have already graduated. If you are no longer in the same geographic area as your alma mater, see what services and support they offer online. Depending on how extensive the live offerings are, it might be worth a trip back to school to take advantage of these. Consider the trip back to your university as another career investment, much like professional membership dues, conferences, business publications, or your coffee budget for networking meetings.
This post originally appears in my Forbes column.