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Career Advice

3 Tips To Land A Job At Your Alma Mater

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

September 24, 2012

Fifteen universities are among the employers SimplyHired lists with the most job openings in September. They have thousands of openings, and the institutions run the gamut from Harvard University to Miami Dade College, and the University of Washington in Seattle.

Higher education is hot as a place to work, ranking right up there with health care. Yet if you want to work for your alma mater, you need more than season tickets to football or hockey to land a job. Even your 4.0 GPA won't necessarily open the door.

"Working at a university really represents something great" so it's often a highly competitive hiring process, said Amy Longhi, assistant director at the University of Michigan Career Center.

"A former student who has some insider knowledge - that's interesting and it can be compelling" but to really be effective, that history must be backed with current research and relevance. Here are three suggestions on how to take aim at your alma mater in your job search:


1. Do Your Homework.  You know a lot about the university, yet you may not understand how they hire professional staff, adjunct professors or even temps. Figure out how the university's hierarchy works and its priorities. "Understand the structure, the opportunities," said Longhi. Look for areas that are growing or needs that are unmet. Then consider which niches seem right for your skills. Set goals for what departments or specific jobs you'd really like; this makes your outreach and search much more targeted - and this is especially important if you went to a sprawling university.

2. Re-Connect on Campus.  Yes, you need to create or recreate a network at the university. Go see some of your favorite professors or advisors of organizations you led a decade ago. Join an advisory board or volunteer to help with student services. Use LinkedIn or Facebook to find "someone who knows someone" in the area you've targeted. If you are hundreds of miles away from campus, start with the alumni organization nearest you. Then make your visits at homecoming or at another event and start counting to track the connections you’re building. Longhi told of an alumnus who wanted to work in Career Services, after a long career in another field. He started by volunteering and helping students; then he landed a part-time job and now he works full-time there.

3. Push Open the Door, Passionately.  Barely one in five candidates send a letter along with their online application, and they miss an important chance to tell more of their story, Longhi said. They can use the letter to explain why they feel so eager to join the university, and how they're planning to relocate to that college town soon. Michigan easily may hear from 200 applicants for one job, said Longhi. So the candidate whose resume is forwarded by the head of alumni relations could go to the top of the heap. Ditto for the one who has two professors dropping notes of praise for their former student. Show your passion and go beyond the online application, she said.

Similar to a college football game, you need to keep advancing the ball – in this case, ‘you’ as an exceptional hire - toward the goal post. And if you have a packed cheering section, you may even set yourself apart from the pack and win the game.