On my very first day in graduate school, I went to an 8-hour weekly class (yes, really– 8) that had a total of two professors and ten students. One of the professors spent the first two hours talking about the elite network of peers that we were going to be working alongside for the next two years and how we were going to build relationships that would last the rest of our professional careers.
Sadly, even though I ended up founding an international networking organization, I have never passed a business referral to, or received a referral from, one of my high-level fellow classmates. After graduation we all spread out to chase our professional goals and didn’t keep in touch.
Keep in mind that I was working on my doctorate in the early 1980s and I finished it in ’93, well before social networks were available to help people keep in touch. Fortunately, the internet now offers a multitude of options to help you reconnect with old school friends and convert those past relationships into current relationships, and perhaps useful connections for your business.
I offer three networking suggestions that can help you effectively connect with your former classmates before a reunion or in between class reunions.
- Contact your school’s alumni services department
Alumni departments really want to find out what is going on with the students who have graduated there. Colleges and universities have created networking affinity groups and other opportunities to help students keep their relationship with each other as well as with their universities. You can share news about your business that may catch the eye of your fellow graduates.
Because I reconnected with the universities that I went to and shared my story, I got published in the alumni magazines, was recognized as an Alumni of the Year, and was asked to speak at two commencements.
- Reconnect on Social Media
LinkedIn is the largest business only platform and you are likely to find many of your former classmates there. A complete LinkedIn profile includes your educational background in addition to your professional experiences.
Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with family and friends online. I hear many stories about how people have reconnected with classmates and childhood friends they have not seen in years. I even had an alumni party at my house because I started connecting with old classmates on Facebook.
- Gently Seek Referrals
I think social media is best used as a brand-building tool. However, you can use it to turn followers and connections into sales IF you do it tactfully.
Write an occasional post on your pages asking your contacts if they know of someone who might be a potential customer for your business. You can also occasionally mention a special deal or announce a special event that your business is having and encourage others to “like” and “share” your posts with the people in their networks.
Remember that the VCP Process® always applies – Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. Before you start asking for referrals, you must be at credibility with people. And you build credibility by building relationships. If you are constantly using hard sales tactics with your social media network, they will drop you or unfriend you.
You Don’t Have to Wait
You don’t have to wait for a reunion to connect with your former classmates.
Do these three things:
Contact your school’s alumni services.
Reconnect using social media.
Eventually seek referrals, doing so tactfully and gently.
After reading this, I encourage you to connect with a former classmate in the next week by using one of the options above.
Then come back and leave a comment about your experience or post it on my social media. I’d love to hear your classmate connection story!