We’ve all been warned of the imperatives of networking when it comes to getting a job. They say it’s all about who you know. In fact, it is estimated that 60-80% of jobs are obtained through personal connections. This reality has attracted many to join their school’s alumni association. These associations have traditionally been the main resource for those attempting to track down contact information of fellow graduates. That is, before the Internet and social networking sites put the power of finding people in the hands of every individual. This has become somewhat of a threat to alumni associations.
Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving at Carnegie University, Andrew Shaindlin, summarizes that alumni are organizing without alumni organizations. Yet he is confident that alumni associations can make the transition to having a less authoritative, more participatory role. This simply means that associations will now equally contribute to online discussion by utilizing accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter rather that trying to compete with them via exclusive online alumni software packages. Many are even taking advantage of offering their own YouTube channels and iTunes listening for alumni to access faculty lectures and various performances. Alumni associations also schedule face to face social events around town for those still living in the city they graduated in and looking to exchange business cards. Yet, membership in alumni associations carries benefits beyond social networking.
Alumni associations work with affinity partners, through which alumni can receive a whole range of discounts. Given that there are thousands of universities, each with their own association, the benefits vary. If you have a list of universities you are considering, maybe a Google search of their alumni membership benefits could tip the decision for you. Many schools offer graduates continued access to career services and learning through workshops or lectures. Some provide great discounts at restaurants, hotels, travel, car rental, banking services, and some have even worked out discounts with local gas and electric companies for cheaper utilities. Most have partnerships extending some form of insurance package to alumni ranging from home owners, automobile, short and long term health, travel and disability insurance. Some of the more impressive benefits available include Yale University‘s alumni association offering access to a digital archive (JSTOR) of more than one thousand academic journals and one million primary resources, and the University of Kentucky‘s offering membership in the University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union. Perhaps one of the longest lists of discounts is offered from the My Carolina Alumni Association for graduates of the University of South Carolina boasting many local restaurants, newspapers, magazines, shops, and even discounts on utilizing the university’s conference center, gym and classes at Carolina’s Wine and Beverage Institute.
Keep in mind that alumni associations are not simply a fountain of benefits to graduates. There is a great philanthropic aspect. Associations promote the philosophy of giving back and encourage graduates toward volunteering both money and time. Preferably graduates will possess great affection for their alma mater and provide support. Associations act as middle men, bridging a continuing relationship between the University and its graduates. For those who are inclined to participate, adding a schools alumni association to the list of research items may be something to consider.
3. http://www.aya.yale.edu/content/online-learning-resources, http://www.ukalumni.net/s/1052/index-no-right.aspx?sid=1052&gid=1&pgid=305