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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Connecting College Students with Alumni: A Classroom Networking Project

This image lists the seven steps of the classroom project for networking with former students of a Business Spanish class, which are also listed in the blog post.
Look below to click on the links from the slide above.

By Ann Abbott 

On Friday I will give two talks. One is a noon-hour workshop on service learning, and the other is a quick description of a classroom project for our School's Share Fair. Here's what I will share in the second talk.

Connecting Students with Alumni: A Classroom Networking Project

Making the transition from language student to working professional can be a difficult and mysterious process to our current students. In my Business Spanish course, students work on a networking project that connects them to former students who were in their seats just a few years ago but are now in the working world. I will share the specific steps and resources I use for this activity—from researching alumni LinkedIn profiles to writing a “cold” networking email. This activity can be adapted to any language and any course.  On their end-of-the-semester course evaluations, several students listed this project as one of their favorite components of the course.

1. Research alumni.

I am connected to many former students through LinkedIn. I assign each current student in my class one of my former students to research through LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc.

2. Prepare pitch.

If you Google "Cómo preparar un pitch," you will see lots of videos and posts, and they all concentrate on how to pitch your business idea to get funding. Instead, this is the formula I like to present to students to pitch any idea: 1) Define the problem (and why it matters). 2) Describe the current solutions (and why they are insufficient). 3) Explain your idea and why it solves the problem (better, cheaper, faster, etc.). So in my class, each student has to "pitch" the alum who they researched to all the others in the class as one of the three people we should contact. For example, 1) We want to find jobs abroad, but we don't know how to do that; 2) You can go to the Career Center, but you won't find specific names of alums you can contact; 3) This person lives and works in Europe, so we should contact her/him for advice.

3. Vote.

After listening to all the pitches, students in the class vote for the three alumni we should reach out.

4. Form three teams.

Once we have identified the three alumni we want to contact, I re-arrange the students into three teams, one per alum.

5. Review etiquette of networking emails.

I ask students to read all the resources listed in this blog post: "Helping Students Sharpen their Networking Messages."

6. Write, edit, send email message to the alumni.

It might surprise you how much you need to help students edit and reshape their messages. Give yourself plenty of time to give feedback and edit before they send. They should also include you in their message. I also alert my former students ahead of time that they will receive a message from my students. I let them know that I totally understand if they do not have time to respond!

7. Share results: 1, 2, 3.

This is the fun part! If or when students receive replies from the alums, then you can share with all the other students. I share them on my blog, but whatever your mechanism, I suggest archiving the responses so that you can share them with future students. You can also use them as you promote your course and program to potential students.


Students appreciated this project.

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