November 26, 2018
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Q. Networking seems really awkward to me, even though I know it’s important. What’s the etiquette for reaching out to alumni?
— Carolyn Ten Eyck ’18, Bulletin intern and an English major and music minor from the Boston area
A. Networking is hugely important, which is something I didn’t learn until my 30s. I would recommend that you start building your network right now. The people you go to college with, if you stay in touch with them, they’re going to be hugely influential in the kinds of opportunities that come your way. Stay in touch with them.
In terms of reaching out to alumni, you absolutely need to do that. Post-grad, you should be on LinkedIn. Make sure that you have a really nice, professional page, and when you reach out to alumni through it, always include a personal note — something like: “I so admire your website,” or, “You look like you do really interesting work” — and add a note about why you want to connect with them. Always mention that you’re a Kenyon alum — that’s super important. My Kenyon connections serve up great opportunities for me all the time, so make it personal when you reach out. Tell me that you would like to pick my brain for 10 minutes. Make it easy for me to say yes. And if I do I say yes, you should get back to me right away. So, pay attention to your email.
If you schedule a phone call, be prepared. Do some research on the person you are meeting and have some questions ready. If it’s an in-person meeting, don’t meet them halfway. Go to them. Be personable, and don’t forget to say thank you — that’s huge. And don’t only rely on virtual connections. We old people love to help younger people, so don’t be afraid to come over and meet face-to-face when possible.
When you’re starting your network right after college, it’s really important to join things. Get involved with a charity. Get involved in intramural sports or clubs. Attend events. These are great ways to expand who you know. Make time to have coffee with people, and be interesting and interested. People may not remember what you say to them, but they’ll always remember how they feel when they’re with you. Always ask yourself, am I leaving a positive wake after every encounter with somebody?
Mary Abbajay ’86 is the president and founder of Careerstone Group, LLC, Washington, D.C., and author of “Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss.”