While it may seem crazy to start thinking about life as an alum while you’re still in the middle of your student days, you can begin laying the groundwork now to be a truly effective alum – both in terms of what you give, and what you get!
1. Start with students: start now to strengthen your connections with about-to-graduate second-years. Find out who will be in your city this summer, who’s going into your industry, and who shares your interests. Ensure you keep those ties strong by connecting via LinkedIn, putting them on your list of people to update, and catching up in person now and then if possible.
2. Other on-campus options: making personal connections with professors, academic centers, and other offices will allow you to have more long-lasting ties to your program; after all, students are only on campus for two years, whereas these folks will be around for much longer!
3. Check the cynicism: sometimes alumni are hesitant to remain very connected to their alma maters because they fear they will be constantly asked for money. This won’t be the case – what’s more, most schools keep entirely separate offices for Development (the money-asking people) and Alumni Relations (the event-planning, connection-making people). Don’t let your assumption that the school just wants your cash keep you from taking advantage of all they have to offer alumni.
4. Learn how alumni groups work early: get in touch with the alumni chapter in the city where you will be interning this summer. Getting to know the people who run this organization will give you a built-in network (both social and professional) if and when you return there after graduating; it will also give you an idea of what opportunities are available to interested and engaged alumni.
5. Consider formal alumni roles you might assume: as you get to know that local alumni chapter, find out about how you might get involved going forward. Whether it’s volunteering to help at that local level, conducting interviews for incoming students, recruiting for interns and new hires, or serving on alumni boards back on campus, there are many ways for you to give back to your school – and to get a great deal of positive personal branding in return!