Contacting Alumni: Best Practices

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Making Contact with Alumni

The initial contact should be by the method the alumni prefers, if indicated. If not, you can use any method you feel comfortable with; just be sure your communications are professional and non-intrusive. Proof your written communications and evaluate the impression you will make. Also, be considerate of time zone differences and time of day (esp. evening) when contacting alums.

Introduce yourself as a Thayer/Dartmouth student (or alum) and indicate how you were referred to them. Explain why you have choosen to contact them and what you are interested in learning more about. Arrange a method of communicating that is most convenient for the person assisting you. If you would like to arrange a phone call, suggesting several times/days that work for you, may be most effective.

We recommend that you do not include a resume in the first correspondence. If an alum is interested in reviewing your resume they will ask for it.

Questions to Ask

(from Dartmouth Career Network)

For Career Exploration Inquiries

For Job Search Inquiries

For Graduate School Inquiries

Tips for Informational Interviews

Don't Make This Mistake

The Dartmouth; April 4, 2002

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my concern regarding current Dartmouth students who are soliciting my help in procuring an internship. I am a member of the Class of 1995 and am listed in the Dartmouth alumni network as someone who would be willing to assist students in their search for summer or off-term positions. I am a New York-qualified attorney working at a large U.K. law firm in London. I was initially very eager to assist Dartmouth students, yet my enthusiasm is rapidly waning following recent events.

I received the first email from a Dartmouth student approximately six months ago—a very polite well-written email to which I was happy to respond. I gave this student my work and home phone numbers with the suggestion that he call when convenient so we could discuss his internship goals. About a week later, I received a call from this young man at 2:00 a.m. London time asking if he was disturbing me and if now was a good time to talk. After I explained that it was 2:00 a.m. and I was rather exhausted after a long day at work, he promised to call back at another time. I heard neither an apology nor from him again.

More recently, I have received two more email solicitations for assistance. I draw your attention to the text of one of them:

"Hello. I found your name from [sic] the Dartmouth College alumni network. I am currently a Junior [sic] at Dartmouth. I am looking for an internship in law or related fields in government beginning in the Spring of 2002 in Great Britain. Enclosed you will find my resume. I would appreciate it if you could give me the name of someone I could contact [sic] regarding this."

This student appears neither enthusiastic nor professional. He has given his summer plans little if any thought. I am happy to help an eager, intelligent student, but he does not appear to me to be either. Furthermore, while he uses the word "appreciate," this is not the overall tone of the email. It is not my job to help him—he is asking a favor and ought to recognize this.

I have only graduated seven years ago (and always cringe when people say this), but "back in my days" my friends and I spent days poring over letters that we planned to send out seeking internships or internship advice. We puzzled over the best way to address someone, the most opportune way to introduce ourselves, the most convincing arguments about why we were the ideal candidates and why our internship choices were in line with our overall career/life plans (at the time). We grammar-checked and spell-checked, and only when we were certain that we had reached what we defined as perfection would we send out our letters.

This pride and humbleness appears to have been lost. I am sure I am not alone in my disappointment at the caliber of Dartmouth students I have come across recently. Students need to be made aware of how to properly approach future employers and alumni contacts. The Office of Career Services should be working towards this end. Such emails as the one referenced above reflect poorly on the student, the Office of Career Services and Dartmouth as a whole. Please educate your students about professional standards. The professional world will not put up with their relaxed approach, and nor should you.

Deborah Smith '95

London, England

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