The Penn State Alumni Association takes a snapshot of total living Penn State alumni every year on July 1. Most students know that networking with Penn State alumni can get you a long way in your job search and career, but with a current total of more than 650,000 living alumni, they seem more like a largely untapped resource.
Until recently, Penn State students could only contact alumni through the Alumni Association’s directory, which they only had access to if they were a member of the Blue and White Society. Now, the association is promoting a new platform, LionLink, to connect students with Penn State graduates.
LionLink is powered by PeopleGrove, a San Francisco-based company dedicated to helping “every student and professional realize their full potential by connecting them with the mentors, advisers and network needed to make that possible.” The company also powers sites for universities including Stanford, Georgetown, Baylor, Wellesley, and Clemson.
Allen Cao graduated from the Smeal College of Business in 2017 and works on university partnerships at PeopleGrove. As a Penn State student, he was very interested in speaking with alumni about entrepreneurship and other business opportunities.
“I used that platform to hit up a bunch of people, but didn’t really get any responses. There were a lot of barriers for me to reach out,” he said. “It was just their graduation year and their name. You couldn’t get their e-mail or their number.”
LionLink makes it possible for alumni who are specifically interested in advising students to sign up for the platform. Alumni can decide how many students they want to see or how much time they have to devote to students. Their contact information is still protected, but when a someone sends them a message on LionLink, it gets forwarded to their personal inbox so there’s a higher chance they see it.
According to Alumni Career Services Director Cheryl Bonner, the Alumni Association wanted to get a certain number of alumni signed up for LionLink before promoting it to students through Career Services this semester. The association wanted 1,000 alumni signed up by the end of 2017 and ended up exceeding its goal by more than 800.
“We wanted a software that, in a way, would be our own LinkedIn group that would allow people to post a profile and share information,” Bonner said. “Its primary purpose is to ask questions about career, reach out to alums…to ask for information and advice. It’s a great way for first-year students who are deciding on their major to talk to someone all the way to seniors who are considering their grad school or job offers and every stage in between.”
After students sign up for LionLink and enter information about their major, classes, and interests, they can take a quiz to find recommended alumni to reach out to based on location and field. They can participate in online discussions, browse the full list of alumni, or sign up for private mentoring groups or events set up by faculty.
Cao believes that a big selling point for LionLink is its “social media look and feel.”
“As a recent grad, I know that the younger [students]get, the less they want barriers in software. They’ll just ‘X’ it out,” he said. “We really make sure it’s super easy to use and really easy to make connections.”