Job Help for Older Alums

A few years have gone by since you last visited your college career center, practicing interview skills and combing through job listings.


OK, maybe it’s been longer than a few. No matter: Your alma mater could turn out to be a smart resource for your next career move.

The past decade has seen an explosion in the field now known as “alumni career services,” as colleges have expanded their efforts to help older graduates, many of whom found themselves hit by the recession.

“The issues are more complex for an advanced-level job seeker,” says Lori Kennedy, the director of Lehigh University’s alumni career solutions center. “They are often married, supporting families, and paying mortgages.”

Yet their career status isn’t always matched by their digital savvy—which is where alumni centers do a lot of their work.

Kennedy and her staff now help older graduates determine whether they need a LinkedIn page (yes), whether they should settle for a low-ball salary (no way), and whether the resume that landed them a great job 10 years ago still works today (sorry; it’s time to revise).

Even if you haven’t been an active alum, you can take advantage of the various ways your college may offer mid-career support, by attending a class reunion, or joining the school’s LinkedIn group for alumni.

In Salt Lake City, Julie Swaner runs a weekly “Job Club” where members of the University of Utah’s alumni association come for counseling and support. Many of her regulars are in their 40s and 50s; the oldest client she’s had was 82.

“Many alums have been in one job for many years, so they no longer have a credible resume or social media skills,” she says.

Enter technology—everyone’s career booster.

An older grad who might feel out of place on a campus full of 20-year-olds—or who has simply moved far away–can easily download podcasts or conduct a mock interview via Skype.

Kennedy and Swaner have run numerous webinars that can be conducted live, then archived for clients to view at any date or time. This is especially helpful for folks who are employed but are “stealth seeking” a new position.

Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia launched a “Hire a Tiger” initiative, encouraging graduates to hire other alums, and to funnel job leads for senior- and mid-level positions to the alumni office.

Purchase College, part of the State University of New York, offers speed networking sessions – like speed dating, but with a potentially more lucrative payoff.

Many alumni career services are free or very inexpensive. So, what’s in it for the colleges?

If your alma mater helps you to land your dream job – again – maybe you’ll be inspired to, you know, donate funds for the next football stadium.