It still stands today that when it comes to career success, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. This occurs as a function of influence, which provides a symbiotic exchange of value by leveraging the resources you have on hand. Learning to create influence networks as a professional is key to building success.
Influence networks created with established professionals and leaders could lead to several benefits, including informational interviews, assistance when making a career change, finding the right candidate for your company, and access to exclusive job postings and free resources. With a strong alumni network, you can create a true community and meaningful relationships that can also provide you access to experts and mentors within your career field. The many benefits is probably the reason why 98% of Fortune 500 companies have some form of an alumni program as well as the fact that alumni typically maintain a strong sense of loyalty to their previous employees.
In fact, colleges and corporations both invest in strong alumni networks with a wide variety of goals. For one, investing in lifelong relationships leads to measurable benefits, like a 2.8 times increase in revenue per employee and a six times increase in employee attractiveness. Strong relationships can lead to a 4.5 times increase in product innovation as well. Organizations that leverage an alumni network can also save money on recruitment and retention efforts while making them more effective.
There are some differences in the primary goals of college versus corporate alumni networks. For colleges, these networks are primarily helpful for fundraising. On the other hand, corporate alumni networks are great for gaining access to a beneficial labor pool, driver referrals or boomerang hires, boost business development, increase sales, and better connect mentors and mentees. Some of the top corporations with the strongest alumni networks are P&G, HSBC, Accenture, McKinsey, Citi, Microsoft, Nestle, and LinkedIn.
Furthermore, alumni networks give advantages for funding for businesses and schools. Businesses that actively engage alumni see an increase of up to 44% in net new business. An engaged alumni delivers a 10% increase in brand sentiment. Compared to average customers, alumni as brand advocates are worth at least five times more to companies.
Alumni networks can also impact investing opportunities as well. Investors are more likely to invest in startups created by founders that came from their own alma mater, and founders who went to schools with large alumni networks are able to raise more capital compared to other entrepreneurs. It has been shown that the size of an alumni network is possibly the most important factor in early stage financing for a startup, even more so than the quality of school and shared geography, as alumni networks allow investors to access more robust information about startups. A deep study of VC Investments over a 19-year period found that in one third of investments, the founder and investor attended the same college or university.
There are several things that can be done to leverage an alumni network properly. You can give an update to your alumni magazine’s class notes column if you launched a startup, changed careers, or changed your last name due to a recent marriage. You can also volunteer for a committee role so you can reconnect with classmates, or you can share your professional expertise during alumni events. It’s essential for professionals to think of their network members as relationships that should be maintained and nourished so that assistance will be given when the time comes.
Business professionals can network to form the essential channels of communication, negotiation, and collaboration. Leveraging a professional network can improve upward mobility in your profession and possibly even increase opportunities available to you. Other benefits can include discounts for sports games, bike rentals, fitness centers, museums, financial services, travel, insurance, airfare, and classes to support continuing education.
Both colleges and corporations need to refine their strategy to maintain a strong and engaged alumni network. Some proven strategies include creating an alumni-centered strategy that offers clear benefits to members, regularly updating the main database, and serving the needs of alumni living all over the world. Institutions of higher education can further motivate alumni to get in touch by sharing exciting campus news, spotlighting alumni accomplishments, and providing networking opportunities. It’s clearly necessary for alma maters to motivate alumni network members to engage with the network to keep it active and strong.
Influence networks in business and higher education are undeniably invaluable resources for building social capital and discovering valuable opportunities that can be beneficial in the future, so the earlier university students build good networking habits the better.
Written by Brian Wallace.
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