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Why Sales (and everything else) is like Alumni Relations

Until about a month ago, I’d never done sales. But it feels just like fundraising: you can’t do it unless you’re passionate about the product; you have to educate and engage potential “donors” before making the ask, and you have to find that sweet spot between reminding and annoying. Ask for advice first, make them feel good, explain why their support matters. And when the timing’s right, you need to inspire enough to convert “let me think about it” into “let’s do it!”

I’ve never worked in venture capital. But schools are like VCs, where every student is like a startup with unlimited growth potential. Like VCs, schools are increasingly being measured based on the success of their investments. And like schools, VCs should create an ecosystem of mentoring, networking, giving back and staying connected that extends far beyond the IPO.

I’ve never worked at a corporation. But I know that an active network of former employees can become a hotbed for recruiting, rehiring and referrals. No one knows the company culture or can be a more authentic ambassador than its alumni, not to mention the collaboration that can take place under the auspices of the institution.

I’ve never run a company. But as someone who just left the comfort and stability of a school for the excitement and unpredictability of a startup, I’m trying to meet and learn from everyone under the sun. While I’ll ruthlessly (albeit thoughtfully) reach out to anyone of interest, people generally won’t respond unless we have something, or someone, in common. Enter alumni network.

In our entrepreneurial society, collaboration, camaraderie and symbiosis rule. Everyone is an alum, and everyone has something to gain from (and offer to) those from their past. Because people from your past matter. And no one knows that better than an Alumni Director.

See for yourself!


  1. Conduct a LinkedIn search of your first-degree connections.
  2. Quickly scan the list for a long-lost former roommate, classmate, colleague or client, and ask their advice on something. Or just invite them out for coffee.
  3. Let me know what happens!

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