Until a few years ago, Chuck Megivern of Burlington, Vt., had spent his entire career as an engineer for the same Fortune 500 company. But when the firm began laying off employees in 2009, Megivern decided it was time to move on. He just wasn’t sure how. “I was 33 years out of school," he says. "Things had changed a lot since then in terms of the way you go about getting a job.”
So Megivern turned to his alma mater, Lehigh University, which hooked him up with a webinar and materials on finding a job, interviewing, networking, developing his resumé as well as hours of one-on-one coaching. It worked: Megivern landed a job as a software engineer at Dealer.com within a few months.
Colleges are increasingly offering their alums — even those who graduated 25 or more years ago — this type of career assistance. If you’re looking for work, you’ll want to check in with your alumni office to see what services it offers.
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“Almost every school now does something and in the past two years, there have been a lot of new initiatives, such as LinkedIn groups for alumni and webinars,” says Carol Ross, a Denver career coach who consults with colleges about alumni career offerings.
In addition to helping alumni, the universities can boost their reputations and potential endowments from grateful grads. They know that long-term unemployment rates are higher for Americans 55 and older than for any other age group and that more than half of older, unemployed workers have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. “A lot of schools are very sensitive to this situation,” says Ross.
Here are six ways colleges are helping alumni land jobs:
1. E-Newsletters, Email Blasts and Websites
Be sure to read your alumni newsletter and sign up for your college’s email blasts to alum; both may contain job listings and career advice.
Northwestern’s quarterly alumni e-newsletter, for example, often highlights the school’s upcoming job fairs and career assistance resources for alumni, with information about where to learn more about them online.
Many colleges also carve out areas of their websites for alumni, with links to job-hunting articles, career aptitude tests, job listings and referrals to local career counselors.
To find out what your school offers online and via email, visit the career services and alumni sections of its site or call the alumni office, Ross advises.
2. Webinars, Podcasts and Teleseminars
A number of colleges now offer webinars, podcasts and teleseminars for grads of all ages covering topics from writing a resumé and improving interview skills to charting a new career path. These programs are particularly beneficial because you can take advantage of them no matter where you live.
3. One-On-One Counseling Sessions
“Almost all universities have at least one career counselor devoted to alumni who can provide career coaching for free or a nominal fee,” Ross says. One-on-one counseling sessions may be particularly helpful for older alumni who have specific questions that generic webinars and events might not be able to answer, Ross says. The counseling sessions are typically over the phone, via Skype or in person.
Baylor University, for example, provides resumé critiques and career guidance for alumni. At Western New England University, career counselors can help facilitate informational interviews with alumni in relevant fields, says Wil Lemire, the school’s director of career services.
4. Events and Workshops
Many colleges stage career events for alumni, including job fairs, panel discussions and networking events, says Judy Goggin, vice president of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit devoted to helping people pursue second careers that benefit humanity.
Some schools now even hold career events during on-campus alumni reunions. The business school at the University of California at Berkeley, for example, has offered career-related presentations at its reunions including “How to Use LinkedIn and Other Social Media to Further Your Career” and “Age as an Asset,” says John Morel, associate director of the school’s MBA Career Management Group.
5. LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn groups for alumni have become very popular lately, says Nicole Williams, a career coach and the connection director for LinkedIn. At Northwestern, for example, there is now a LinkedIn group for all alumni, as well as 20 LinkedIn subgroups based on geography, industry and other factors.
For the most part, LinkedIn alumni groups are used for networking. “People often hire others who share something in common with them, such as where they went to college,” says Williams. Many colleges also use their LinkedIn groups to provide information about upcoming career events and webinars and available resources.
To find out if your school has an alumni LinkedIn group, search for the name of your alma mater on LinkedIn.
Once you join the group, “don’t immediately start asking about job openings,” says Williams. Instead, “develop relationships with the people in the group first.” You can do this by participating in the LinkedIn group’s online conversations, asking questions or offering up information when other members have questions. You might also find some of your fellow alums posting jobs to the group.
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6. Discounted Classes
Some schools cut their in-person and online tuition for alumni. That can be beneficial if you want to pursue a graduate degree or an undergraduate degree in a new field to become a stronger job candidate.
Graduates of the Illinois Institute of Technology and Midwest College of Engineering pursuing an advanced degree from those schools, for instance, get one free credit hour for each semester of enrollment. Alumni from the University of New Haven can see their tuition shaved by up to $400 for each graduate course. When you're looking for work, any way you can pinch some pennies can be a big help.