The relationship with the Alumni is prepared from the beginning of the study cycle. A student who is happy and helped during his or her studies will later become a powerful representative of the school, who will in turn enjoy helping new students!
In any case, it is important to be careful not to "lose" the student when he or she graduates and leaves the institution. To do this, it is necessary to continue to communicate with them. But beware, their status changes, and so do their needs. This is why it is important to send them only targeted content that is likely to interest them: career or business opportunities, information on the development of your institution, invitations to symposiums or conferences, etc.
Above all, don't send them any unwanted content: chances are they will have absolutely no interest in knowing that lecture theatre 408 will be closed for a month for building work! While avoiding this pitfall seems like common sense, many institutions continue to send this type of information to their entire database instead of targeting their current students. As a result, alumni lose interest and may even become annoyed, so the effect is the opposite of what was intended.
On the contrary, talk to them to put them forward, treat them with great care. For example, talking frequently about the success of your Alumni on the institution's platform, via an article or a blog post, guarantees positive repercussions. Indeed, you show them your interest by communicating about them, and you benefit from a snowball effect: they will show the article to their friends and colleagues, they will arouse the interest of your current students who will in turn share the communication, and this will benefit you.
For more information, please visit our page on the essential tools to develop your alumni network.
Nelly Couderc, Head of Careers and Partnerships and animator of the Sciences-Po Bordeaux network, was kind enough to share with AlumnForce some tips on how to make students understand the interest of the network, how to address Alumni and encourage them to be active on the network, as well as some examples of animation to set up in order to make your network live.
How do you prepare your students to become active Alumni?
We launched our platform in June 2012 and now have a network of over 10,000 alumni! This is managed in partnership by the school and the alumni association. The aim is to get students used to the platform and to make them understand its value. This practice must become a reflex for them! To achieve this, we have put in place several practices.
First, IEP students have access to the network for free. To force them to go to our platform and get familiar with its use, we found a trick! We have integrated the online internship agreement module on our Alumni network and each student must necessarily go there in order to obtain the sesame for his internship. At the same time, we have chosen to propose job and internship offers only on our platform: students and graduates who want to benefit from help for their careers must therefore go to our network.
How do you reach out to students and make them receptive to this awareness raising process?
Email campaigns, social networking campaigns, messages in the lecture hall, integration of events and appointments into the schedule... it is necessary to support its communications and to repeat the same messages regularly. This is the only way to be sure that the whole community will have access to them, especially at a time when information circulates very quickly and the attention that our students give us is limited in time!
My second recommendation is to always give priority to face-to-face contact: meeting students (and alumni), when possible, will always be more beneficial and will allow you to build a real relationship. It is important to be transparent and to establish a relationship of trust! We have made it a point of honour to be close to our students.
Another option for schools and universities could be to assign this awareness-raising mission to Master's degree directors: by virtue of their status, the fact that they teach courses, and their frequent appearance in front of students, they are ideal ambassadors to convey messages.
How do you reach out to Alumni and get them involved in the life of the network?
We regularly invite our Alumni to career meetings where they present their mission and interview students to give them advice. Students can of course also leave CVs and applications with them and ask them questions.
Alumni are thus put forward and are generally delighted to come and share and exchange with current students. The students are very sensitive to this approach: they are present and come for the occasion, especially since the IEP tries as much as possible to fit these presentations into unoccupied slots.
In addition, all the initiatives carried out by the Alumni Association are an opportunity to promote the tool. Once again, it is the physical meetings that are extended into the virtual world.
What should you absolutely avoid doing when communicating with an Alumni?
One of the pitfalls to be avoided is acting opportunistically with alumni. It is inconceivable to consider not talking to an alumnus for several years and then coming back to him or her and asking for a financial contribution or asking him or her to come and speak to the students! The relationship with the alumni is built and maintained: it is therefore necessary to keep regular contact with them. Generally speaking, they will be very happy to hear from their institution. At SciencesPo Bordeaux, for example, we have decided to systematically send the IEP magazine to all alumni in order to maintain this link between us.
Photo by Laurent Wangermez - Sciences Po Bordeaux campus
Ultimately, reaching out to your Alumni and connecting them with your students is essential and will help you to set a dynamic in your network! However, you need to address them in an effective way, to capture their attention and arouse their interest. Treat them in the best possible way, they will know how to repay you and will participate in the influence of your institution!