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The old college try.

The competitive nature of business often emphasizes who you know over what you know. But actually, it's who knows you that determines whether or not you snag a new account, head a high-profile project or gain access to a pivotal circle or group. While chasing down elusive contacts or forming new alliances is crucial for business success, sometimes you only need to look as far as your own backyard.

The average professional has a surprising number of accessible, yet untapped resources at his or her fingertips. A college alumni group may be but one of them. Shared school colors work in your favor in your dealings with other alums. Just as within fraternal organizations, a certain kinship tends to exist between professionals who once attended the same school.

Forward-thinking professionals generally view participation in their alma mater's alumni association as a natural progression after graduation. "I was introduced to my alumni group as an undergrad. I saw it as a ready-made network awaiting me upon my graduation," says Ruby Saake, training and development manager at Inroads/New York City Inc. and an active member of Cornell University's Black and Latino Alumni Association. Alums like Saake recognize the value of maintaining ties to and a vested interest in their former college or university. Other than helping members sustain friendships made while in school, alumni associations can help you "pool resources, broaden your network and support currently enrolled students, in addition to supporting the university," Saake says.

However, less progressive individuals may deem membership in these organizations as not worth their time, money or effort. Not a smart move, say active alums. Social perks aside, members of alumni associations are privy to a vast pool of potential resources, customers and contacts. "People tend to do business with people they know," says Danny Parker, an active member of both Stanford University's general alumni association and its National Black Alumni Club, and assistant treasurer for a Los Angeles construction materials firm.

At predominantly white schools, inclusion in an alumni group specifically geared to African-Americans often holds particular allure to black alumni. "Perhaps our most important mission as African-American alums is to provide a presence, leadership and mentorship on campus for current [black] students," says Larry Martin, executive director of program development for Syracuse University and a member of its African-American and Latino Association.

"You've got to give something back," agrees Ted Reid III, a Dean Witter Reynolds account executive and Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance member. In fact, most black alums cite this as the main impetus behind their membership.

Undoubtedly, active participation requires time, hard work and commitment - work habits that any successful businessperson is familiar with. But the professional and personal rewards apparently make the endeavors worth the effort. "We exist to help each other as much as possible," Ruby Saake says. "We just ask that members reach back and help someone else."
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Title Annotation:college alumni groups
Author:Baskerville, Dawn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Gateway to minority contracts.
Next Article:Clinton and the federal courts.

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