Starting your Alumni Program

Your Alumni Network Is Your Net Worth

Do companies actively recognize the value of a strong alumni network? Your employees - past, current, and future - are the core of your company's network.

Why do I end all my articles with the words, “Your network is your net worth”? It’s because who you know – and how you treat them – dwarfs every other strategy you could possibly use to power your career – and this applies to your Alumni Network too.

To take this one giant step further, the same truism applies to every company: your network is your net worth.

Not your equipment. Not your cash on hand. Your network. We do business in a relationship-based world and the best organizations understand this.

Who is at the core of your network? Your employees, past and current and future. They are the lifeblood of your organization, and have the potential to be even more important as they move on to other endeavors. As alumni, they can become customers, raving fans, sources of fresh talent, and even still serve as mentors to your existing team.

How many companies actively recognize the value of a strong, actively-managed alumni network? Not nearly enough. Your employees – past, current, and future – are the core of your company’s network. Invest in them. More importantly, make this a high-level corporate priority.

“Big glass buildings don’t buy software, people do.” Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Officer at SAP.

People buy and do business with people, not companies. It may sound obvious but your alumni network is a network of people who have been essential to your growth and prosperity. The way you treat these folks shows employees and potential hires how you do business. It’s vitally important that when people leave they are not considered to be deserters, but rather a still-vital part of your corporate family.

Most of the firms that cultivate an alumni network do so within the ranks of their HR organization and thus focus mainly on recruiting new talent. This is important, but is just a narrow slice of what’s possible.

Whether you are an organization building an alumni network or a single professional cultivating your own network, the principles are exactly the same.

It’s all about how you help others, not what they can do for you… or any other self-serving statement. Make more deposits than you do withdraws.

Help others, and they will help you. Not in a tit-for-tat, “now you owe me one” manner… but because your role in the lives of others will be one that they value and appreciate. It’s important to judge the success of your alumni network not on the basis of KPIs or transactions, but simply as an embodiment of your values: people matter to us. By the way, values are dramatically more powerful than mere metrics as a way to motivate current employees and to show customers what your company represents.

I’ve learned this lesson many times, but most powerfully as an employee of first Salesforce and later Eloqua. In both cases, I worked with colleagues who were united in treating our clients right… and that mindset extended to how we treat each other.

Did you think that was a typo? I said “treat” instead of “treated”.

Thanks to two powerful alumni networks, I still interact each week with my peers from these former employers. #AlwaysBeConnecting

As I think of it, I don’t really have a past tense when it comes to relationships. When I find good people, I hang on for life. You should do the same.

For me, being acutely aware of their interests is a way to stay connected. I know who is obsessed with the Internet of Things, who binge watches Scandal, and who will be looking to hire a fresh team at her new SVP position. This knowledge enables me to share relevant information and make valuable introductions.

What’s in it for me? These people matter to me. They are interesting, talented, accomplished, ambitious, curious, and – in many cases – tenacious. I get pleasure out of helping them, and I feel proud when they think enough of me to voluntarily help me as well.

The right motivation for building an alumni network is to be of service to that network.

Don’t just bury your alumni network in HR. Connect it to every area of your firm. For example, make it easy for Marketing and Sales and Product Development to remain connected to your alumni. Make sure that there are at least as many ways you help alumni as they help you. Take pride in their success. Stay connected to them because they are great people, not because the numbers say they were worth $17,422 to you this quarter.

Perhaps the single best test of your alumni network is this: do your most senior executives pay active attention to it? If the answer is no, there’s simply no way to make it vital. But if the answer is yes, the importance of your alumni network will continue to grow. This may sound sappy, but if you put alumni at the heart of your business, they will – in return – keep your team and its welfare in their hearts, too.

Be like me. When you find good people, hang on for life. Your (Alumni) Network is Your Net Worth.


Jill Rowley wants to connect every person (and device) she encounters. You can engage with her on LinkedIn and Twitter if you need help digitally transforming your sales organization. Always Be Connecting!

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