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Tips for Applying for a Job at an Alma Mater

by Jill Leviticus

Getting a job at your alma mater might seem like a dream come true if you thoroughly enjoyed your college or university experience. Although your alumni status might earn your resume a more in-depth review, don’t assume your connection will give you the edge over equally qualified non-alums. Before you email that resume, make sure you’ve done everything possible to position yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Build Relationships

Reach out to your former professors and let them know you’re interested in working for the university. They can give you inside information on the position and, if they’ve got some pull in the department, recommend that you be hired. If you worked on campus as a student and developed a relationship with your supervisor in a university department, be sure to speak to that person too. Make yourself visible to university administration by joining alumni groups and volunteering to work at university events. You’ll expand your network of contacts if you join a higher education association or online social media groups for higher education employees.

Research Positions

You might know everything about your university from the student perspective, but you likely know less about the university as an employer. Research the job just as you would any other job. Ask your connections on campus what they know about department hierarchy and politics. If you're interested in a teaching position, ask professors about average class load and publishing requirements. Find out what issues are most important to the university and what their plans are for future expansion. Glassdoor.com suggests you target your job search to areas that are growing or in which needs are currently unmet.

Emphasize Skills

Make sure you’ve got the necessary skills for the position. While you might have impressive skills, if they aren’t the ones the university needs, you won’t be hired. Talk to others in the field and find out what skills or processes are most valuable. If you don’t have those skills, take a class before you apply for a position. Find ways to gain experience if lack of experience is an issue. For instance, if you’re interested in working in university admissions, volunteer to staff the admissions table at college fairs in your area.

Polish Your Resume

Human resources staffers won’t spend more than a few minutes looking at your resume and cover letter, so it’s important that both documents paint a glowing picture of your accomplishments, skills and suitability for the position. Use the information you obtained when you researched the university to write the cover letter. For example, if you know the college plans to upgrade and buy new computer servers, mention your experience upgrading your company’s servers. Make sure your resume is targeted to the job you want, particularly if you’re changing careers. The Inside Higher Education website advises that if you use language or jargon relating to your previous field in your resume, the interviewer might question your commitment to a new career.

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