Writing E-mails/Making Contacts

Students often find it anxiety-inducing to reach out to alumni via email. But, keep in mind, most alumni were in your position and are, therefore, often quite generous about helping students. The key to connecting with alumni is to respect their time, and treat this otherwise informal way of communication as a formal part of job hunting. Therefore, you cannot assume that typos, misspellings, awkward writing, or any other transgressions that might appear in print are acceptable in an e-mail to a potential contact and/or employer.


Some additional caveats to keep in mind: Do NOT include an attachment unless you have been instructed to do so. Do NOT send mass e-mails. Do NOT ask alumni for a job or internship.

Do thank alumni for taking the time to respond to your email. Do conduct adequate research before initiating contact. For example, contacting an alumna who works in Public Relations to discuss your interest in Marketing does not make the best first impression.


Contacting Alumni Via Email

If writing to a Williams alum, put “Williams College Student Seeks Advice” in the subject line.

“Dear Ms./Mr. _________:

Greetings from the [Berkshires][Purple Bubble][Williams].

I am a [senior, junior, etc] majoring in _____ and hope to pursue a career in [______]. I found your name in the Alumni Database and would really like to speak with you about your experience and get advice about next steps.

Thank you for considering my email.

Sincerely, ____________”


If writing to alumni, about a specific job opening, the same rules apply

Sample text:

“Dear Ms./Mr. _________:

Greetings from the [Berkshires][Purple Bubble][Williams].

I am a [senior, junior, etc.] majoring in _____ and am following up on a job for a ___________ in your company/firm/organization/office/department. This position is intriguing and would be a terrific fit for me. I would like to learn more about the [firm’s] culture and get your advice about how best to strengthen my application. I’m more than happy to provide you with my resume or cover letter, if that would be helpful to you.

Thanks for your attention and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, ____________”


Housing Inquiry

Dear Ms./Mr. _________:

Greetings from the [Berkshires][Purple Bubble][Williams].

I am a [senior, junior, etc.] majoring in _____ and I have recently accepted a position/admission at [Company/School] in [City].  I’m really exciting to be headed to [City] and as a local alum, I was hoping you would be able to give me some pointers about finding [summer housing/a new apartment, etc].

Thanks for your attention and I look forward to hearing from you.




Remember, these are sample texts so feel free to personalize your email within the above guidelines. Finally, alumni are doing you a favor, so if they agree to speak to you or meet with you, and provide a time to do so, please prioritize accordingly.


So, you’ve sent out 10 e-mails and expect to get 10 answers within a couple of hours, right? Perhaps, but not likely. Even with Williams alumni who have volunteered to be contacts for students, you may not hear back right away, or at all. If you examine your own habits of e-mail maintenance, you’ll realize that all e-mail is not equal.

Our general rule is to try two times before giving up on a particular contact. If a person does not respond within a week, send another e-mail. Simply re-send a copy of your original with a little note at the top that reads, “I wanted to make sure you received the following e-mail that I sent on [day of the week].” If there is no response after that, move on. Learn more about following up here.

Having the Conversation

So you have the meeting scheduled, now what?! Check out this list of questions to ask an alum for inspiration regarding topics of conversation during this meeting!

Thank you’s! 

The question often arises about whether or not to send an e-mail note to thank someone for a meeting, an interview, information, a contact, or any number of job-hunting related issues. A good rule of thumb in this case is “send an e-mail, get an e-mail.” In other words, if your interaction with a contact has been primarily via e-mail, it’s perfectly okay to thank him or her with an e-mail. If, however, someone took the time to meet with you in person, or provided you with a favor that took more effort than simply hitting the “reply” button, then a written thank you note in addition to an email is best. Check out examples of how to say “thank you” here.