At Texas A&M University, and we call our alumni Former Students.  Once an Aggie; always an Aggie.  The impact of our Former Student Association has with its fellow members in the job search is something I cannot begin to put into words.  Let’s face it, Aggies want to hire Aggies.  I’ll bet many of your alumni associations are similar. 

Whether you are about to graduate and looking to begin your career or have already graduated and back in the job market, have you must list your alumni association as a source for networking prospects?  

People who have graduated from your school are familiar with your education.  They have a good feel for the values you have learned while in college.  You might also find alumni from your school very interested in mentoring you through your job search.

Your school’s alumni association or, in my case, the Association of Former Students is an organization of great networking contacts, hiring managers and people who need to hire talent.  If your school does not have a directory of your former students, two online resources I would highly recommend you use include LinkedIn and CareerShift.  Both offer advanced search capabilities to find exactly the right people who fit specific profiles. 

The first step in networking is to start with people you know.  Your university’s alumni association is one of the strongest resources you have at your disposal.  Wayne Gretsky said it best, “You lose 100% of the shots you never take.”

I have a standing rule when it comes to cover letters, and I just broke it.  Can you guess what that rule might be?  Never start a cover letter with the word “I”.  A cover letter is not about you or “I” in this case. A cover letter is all about the employer and addressing how you are the best candidate for particular positions and career paths.  

After finishing the first draft of your cover letter, print the letter then take a red pen to circle the number of times you wrote the word “I”.  You will be surprised the number of times that word is written.  For the reader, that word jumps off the page.  I call these the “I” letters as opposed to cover letters.

The purpose of a cover letter is to connect your qualifications to an employer’s needs.  Make the letter be all about the employer and how you are the best candidate to meet their needs.  A cover letter is your marketing pitch to a potential employer.  Address the qualifications an employer requires and/or prefers and prove why you should receive that coveted interview.  

Cover letters that do not focus on the reader will be ignored and tossed aside every time.  Make sure your letter is read and interest the reader.  The letter is about them, not you.