If you missed the latest talk on Saint Connect, here are a few of the key features that provide the greatest benefit to students. Saint Connect is the University of St Andrews’ alumni networking service, which provides networking opportunities, advice, a mentoring service, industry interest groups and degree groups. The network is experiencing a few teething problems, however the University is working on these, and is set to roll out a new search feature soon. The service pulls information from LinkedIn which means that there is very little to do to get your profile set up.
One of the key features that is most beneficial to students is the ‘People’ tab. Here you can search for, and engage in a conversation with, alumni in your industry who are interested in offering advice and perhaps mentoring. When a user messages another user, the message is sent straight to their email inbox meaning that they do not have to be an active user for you to contact them. This facilitates conversation outside of the service. Both the industry specific and subject specific groups also allow users to ask public questions. This means that more than one of the highly knowledgeable alumni can answer and the user can expand their network faster.
Virtual events and jobs are publicised in different sections. Few jobs are published on the network because, as it was pointed out, going to St Andrews does not necessarily mean that you are a suitable candidate. A strong network exploited successfully is a better route to a job, as a user can gain advice on applications and often tips on unpublished job adverts. Events such as the Alumni Insight series are publicised on Saint Connect, and provide the opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of what is needed to get a similar role.
Within a network it is of critical importance that a contact is bona fide, especially when the network is based on a shared educational history. Saint Connect guarantees the credentials of members through a series of checks before the full capabilities of the site are made available. This is an important aspect of the network which provides assurance and a base level of trust from which networks can grow. Additionally, by joining Saint Connect, alumni indicate a willingness to give advice to both current and former students, and possibly become a mentor.
It was here that the talk dovetailed from Saint Connect into further correct networking practices. The invaluable advice shared included: how to engage with potential contacts, how to ask for advice and how to demonstrate knowledge through asking questions. For example, it would be highly presumptive to put the burden of a job request onto a connection in the first message. However asking for small requests such as where they think the market is going, or which sector to focus on, places a smaller expectation on the alumni and often makes them happier to help.
Networking is the business necessity many people think is easy, but when it comes down to it there are so many small actions that can make or break your connection. As the talk underlined, 60 to 70 per cent of jobs and internships are not advertised, which makes your networking skills critically important. Saint Connect facilitates the growth of your network and by starting to use this resource now, you could see real long term benefits.