I’ve written in a previous post about ways to find professional contacts for informational interviews (or any other purpose, like inviting to an event, etc.) But this is such a huge question that I thought it might be useful to give a quick top ten “attack list.” Hit these in order of priority, and I guarantee you’ll have more contacts than you’ll ever be able to connect with!
1. Join a professional association or two. There are hundreds of professional associations out there that are begging for more student members. Find some in this directory (the professional association for people who run professional associations). Sign up. Attend their events. Access the membership directory. Reach out. Connect. Enjoy.
2. Access your alumni directory. This is a no brainer. Find people who are in the field you’d like to enter. Find former international students who might now be on an H1B. Remember that alumni from your school already like you. Many schools actually have a subset of alumni who have specifically volunteered to help students with networking. And if you’re a grad student, don’t forget your undergraduate alumni directory.
3. Linkedin Education pages. If your alumni directory isn’t so good (and some aren’t), go to linkedin’s version. It’s likely to be more up to date anyway. Make sure you’re logged in so the system can determine what school you’re from. Click on the “Students & Alumni” tab and you’re off to the races. You won’t get email addresses with this tool–just the names, companies and titles. But using an email format finder tool like this one can quickly get it for you. Or, if you’re gutsy, you can call the company’s main number and ask to be connected to the person. Easy enough, no?
4. Take a free trial at a contact directory. There are many tools out there for sales people trying to build professional contact lists. The tools offer a free time of access/number of contacts to entice a purchase. Some of these are excellent. Salesloft, for example, will allow you to search linkedin profiles, outside of linkedin, and pull people on to a list. Most of the time it will also give you an email and phone number (although I’m not sure where they get them!), which is great. You’re limited to 20 contacts; so when you’re done, trial something else. Here are some: lead411, SalesGenie, ZoomInfo, Data.com. There are MANY others.
5. Walk into your school library. This sounds too easy, but your school pays many tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on database subscriptions. And virtually everybody has an institutional subscription to Hoovers, One Source or others like it. Go up to a reference librarian and tell him or her the sort of people you’re looking for. Along with getting more contact information than you could hope for, you’ll be shocked at what other information lurks in the vast depths of your library’s databases. Who knew?