Brunel University’s “ALERT (Alumni Growth and Engagement across New Technologies)” project has been exploring the use of social networking technologies to provide e-mentoring between alumni and undergraduates as a means to improve employability.
The main challenges relate to the difference in the use of social networking technologies by alumni and students:
- students are hesitant to join LinkedIn and are more likely to belong to Facebook
- alumni in employment are more likely (95% of the Brunel sample) to belong to LinkedIn and prefer to use LinkedIn rather than Facebook for e-mentoring
- the uptake of professional business-oriented services is low amongst undergraduates
- alumni were not mentioned as a source of advice (employability or career development) during the customer journey mapping exercise.
Strengthening ties between alumni and their institution by encouraging engagement with current students can help:
- provide a sense of belonging and reinforce positive feelings for both alumni and students
- build mutually beneficial relationships, which improves business and community engagement
- improve student skills and employability; for example demonstrating the value of creating a LinkedIn profile can raise student awareness around self-reflection and self-marketing
- bring together staff from across the University
- improve the student experience.
Alumni engagement has a lot to offer in terms of knowledge exchange, relationship building, skills development etc. In order to build the relationship between students and alumni, the project discovered that:
- engaging alumni should begin as early as possible in the student lifecycle, e.g. by inviting alumni to talk to prospective students
- it should be made clear to participants how they can contribute and gain from services, such as LinkedIn
- specific LinkedIn groups (e.g. subject-specific groups) should be established rather than a single university entity, as students prefer to belong to a particular group
- LinkedIn can be seen as a safe place that supports both students and alumni and this “electronic handshake” can help to build trust within relationships.
If you would like to find out more about this project, the following resources may help: