Review: SelectMinds.com

Business networkers have long used school alumni groups and local professional networks for professional and business development purposes, as well as for job search. Recently, a new platform has emerged: corporate alumni programs.

American Way magazine recently featured Mr. Courtney Kurk, who belongs to three networking groups where ex-employees share career news, plan reunions, ask advice, and post job listings online. A few months ago, the Miami-based senior IT manager posted three job openings from Ryder System (his current employer) on the e-mail list for alumni of his ex-employer, Breakaway Solutions.

Why? “People I’ve worked with are very high-caliber, and I want to stay in contact, even if it’s just peripherally, to network,” says Kurk.

The strongest alumni programs are those organized by the companies themselves, since the extensive data available to the company can rapidly generate critical mass, which is where most of the value comes from.

The leading company providing such corporate alumni programs is SelectMinds.com. In addition, on Yahoo Groups, Classmates.com, and other general networking sites, you can often find groups for alumni of certain prominent companies. Some firms have also built solutions using in-house technology.

About SelectMinds
SelectMinds is the first and only firm that specializes in helping major corporations build and capitalize on their alumni networks. SelectMinds uses its proprietary software to build and manage private-label, hosted alumni websites, and can serve as a client’s fully-outsourced alumni relations department. SelectMinds works with global corporations and leading professional service firms. The firm was founded in 1999 and works with such leading customers as IBM; Ernst & Young; BearingPoint; Sapient; O’Melveny & Myers; and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

Components of Successful Alumni Programs

At the core of a successful alumni program is a strong value proposition to the alumni. Once registered to the corporate alumni program, participants typically get access to a directory of fellow alumni with whom they can network, some proprietary content, and career services.

Alumni Directory: The directory is the highest-traffic areas of alumni programs. According to Cem Sertoglu, CEO of SelectMinds, the directory is the reason over 50% of alumni participate in most programs. The directory includes information from the former employer as well as from the alumni themselves. Most profiles include personal contact information, current professional profile, past experience, skills, interests and educational background. More progressive companies have expanded the alumni profiles to include communications preferences and participation in special-interest subgroups within the program (e.g., Bay Area, African-American, etc.).

Career Services: Given the current economic slowdown, career management resources is one of the most valuable tools a company can provide to its alumni. One obvious way to populate this area is publishing opportunities at the company, especially since rehiring former employees makes economic sense for the company. According to Mr. Sertoglu, re-hires are less expensive to recruit and train, and tend to make better hires.

In addition, companies typically allow alumni to post opportunities of which they are aware. Particularly in industries experiencing layoffs, the power of the alumni network can supplement the outplacement efforts of the company. Another source for opportunities are the clients of the company creating the alumni program. If a match gets made, it creates a three-way win.

Proprietary Content: Most organizations creating alumni programs generate public or semi-proprietary content in the course of day-to-day business — white papers, press releases, articles, books, research, etc. Typically, sharing this type of content with alumni has no adverse business effect, nor a significant incremental cost. However, they prove to be valuable to the alumni population, who create a competitive advantage for themselves in their professional environments.

Rapid Growth

Corporate Alumni Programs have begun proliferating in the professional service industries first. According to Mr. Sertoglu, 8 of the top 10 management and IT consulting firms have formal alumni programs. Other industries which have embraced the value of alumni programs are accounting, law, and investment banking. These are a uniquely powerful platforms for effective business networking, because of the strong pre-existing tie you have to fellow alumni.

If you are fortunate enough to be a graduate of McKinsey, Bain, BankOne, or another company with a progressive alumni program, one can gain tremendous benefit by exploiting the power of that network. Even if the firm does not have a formal alumni program, you can set up your own informal network at Yahoo Groups, Classmates.com, or another similar site.