Young Job-Seekers Tap College Alumni Networks for Leads

Reed Crowson was in the final round of job interviews with a financial-technology firm in Denver this spring when he got the call that is now familiar to the Class of 2020: The company was freezing hiring as it braced for the economic impact of Covid-19. “Your whole job search […]

Reed Crowson was in the final round of job interviews with a financial-technology firm in Denver this spring when he got the call that is now familiar to the Class of 2020: The company was freezing hiring as it braced for the economic impact of Covid-19.

“Your whole job search is just set back to square one,” says Mr. Crowson, who studied finance and international business at the University of Colorado Boulder.

In May, as this year’s college grads confronted a job market in tatters, many schools turned to a particular group for help: alumni. The stakes are stark. Fifteen years after graduation, college graduates who entered the job market during the early 1980s recession were earning wages that were 2.5% lower than graduates who didn’t start out in a slowdown, according to research by Lisa Kahn, a University of Rochester economist.

Colby College, a private liberal-arts school in Waterville, Maine, pledged to find a job, internship or fellowship for every senior within 90 days of graduation by asking alumni to hire them through its Pay It Northward initiative, begun this spring. University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business joined with alumni and local business leaders on a mentorship program designed to help graduating seniors find work. Over the past six months, alums have stepped up to make connections and offer advice on résumés, insight into industries, and encouragement to network—a skill where many graduates feel shaky.

While alumni networks have sometimes been assailed for reinforcing sameness in hiring at a time when many companies are striving to diversify, alums often facilitate new connections, rather than making actual hires themselves. Not all colleges are soliciting alumni help in job-searches, and efforts vary among schools that do tap such networks.

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