What to Do When An Interviewer Asks You to Describe Yourself

“Tell me about yourself,” is often the first question you hear at a job interview.

The hiring manager may be stalling because they haven’t had time to study your resume or they may realize that open-ended questions are an effective way to identify candidates who can fit in and perform well. In any case, they’re often deciding whether it’s worth continuing the interview based on how you answer this seemingly casual ice-breaker.

There’s a lot at stake, but you can make the situation work to your advantage. Learn how to describe yourself quickly and compellingly so you can land more job offers.

Welcoming the Question

1. Stand out from the crowd. While you may feel awkward talking about yourself, it’s really a golden opportunity. Think of it as an invitation to tell your potential employer what you want them to know about you and what makes you unique.

2. Guide the conversation. Instead of waiting to see what the interviewer will do, you can steer the discussion toward your strengths and concerns. A good opening will prompt the interviewer to ask follow-up questions about areas where you shine.

3. Determine your fit. Remember that you’re evaluating the company while they’re screening you. Do you sense a connection with the interviewer, especially if they’ll be your supervisor? Are they listening attentively or shuffling papers? Your initial rapport may suggest what your working relationship will be like.

4. Practice for real life. You rarely meet someone at a party who asks about your five-year plan. Most conversations are unstructured, so it can benefit you to learn how to sound articulate and make a good impression.

Answering the Question

1. Keep it professional. The interviewer is mostly interested in whether you can excel at the job and mesh well with the corporate culture. Talk about your career path and achievements rather than your family background and hobbies.

2. Write it out. The ideal response time is about one to three minutes. Developing a script enables you to check that you can cover each main point without sounding too long-winded.

3. Rehearse your pitch. Practicing your statement will help you to come across as competent and confident. You can practice in front of a mirror or recruit a friend who can give you feedback.

4. Be flexible. It’s also important to sound natural. Even if you’ve delivered your pitch 50 times, you want to sound fresh and engaging.

5. Customize your approach. Just like you tailor your resume and cover letter to each employer, you can adjust your self-description to fit the situation. Depending on the position, you may concentrate on your accounting skills or your customer service orientation. Background research will help you determine what’s appropriate.

6. Provide testimonials. While it’s essential to be able to talk about yourself, what others say about you is often even more influential. Mention the flattering comments you’ve received from clients and colleagues. You’ll also be showing the interviewer that you work well with others and appreciate the feedback.

7. Tell stories. You’re more than a list of keywords. Share interesting anecdotes that will make the interviewer remember you in a positive light.

8. Create interest. Your self-description is like a movie trailer or the first chapter of a novel. Instead of trying to cram in your whole life story, make the interviewer want to hear more.

Walk into your next job interview ready and eager to talk about yourself and why you’re an outstanding candidate for the position. Focusing on the intersection between your strengths and the interviewer’s needs will help you to find a job you’ll love.

Understanding Health Studies Made Easy

If you feel overwhelmed by the number of health studies you read about, you’re not alone. Scientific publication grows about 6% a year, and doubles every 13 years, according to the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the claims are often exaggerated and sometimes contradict each other.

Still, you can see through the hype and understand medical news without having to take a graduate course in statistics. Study these quick tips for making sense out of health research, and applying the findings to your own life.

Tips for Understanding Health Studies

1. Reframe the numbers. Health risks may sound more alarming than they really are. Reporters write headlines that will grab your attention, and even scientists can feel pressured to announce a breakthrough. Saying 1 in 20 adults has a certain health issue sounds more dramatic than saying 95% do not, even though the meaning is the same.

2. Draw comparisons. To appreciate how big the risk is for any health outcome, liken it to another event. You may have a greater chance of winning the lottery than contracting an exotic illness.

3. Shorten your timeframe. If you listed all the challenges you’ve faced since birth, it would sound pretty daunting. Contemplating 10 years at a time rather than lifetime risk may feel more manageable.

4. Assess the relevance. However serious the condition, you need to know if it’s likely to affect you. Maybe you’re an elderly female, and the study sample was adolescent males.

5. Focus on starting risk. Starting risk is a complicated but essential factor that’s sometimes overlooked. Keep in mind that the sicker a patient is, the more they’ll benefit from any treatment.

6. Look for patient outcomes. You probably care more about eliminating symptoms that bother you rather than just lowering your cholesterol. Look for results that matter to you.

7. Consider the source. Naturally, pharmaceutical companies fund most drug studies. They may still be high quality research, but they’re also trying to sell their products.

8. Think critically. Healthy skepticism can help you avoid the inconvenience and expense of unnecessary treatment. Calculate your risk and weigh the benefits of any intervention. Be cautious about preliminary findings and observational studies.

Tips for Taking Action based on Health Studies

1. Establish priorities. What health choices would have the greatest impact on your wellbeing? Maybe you need to quit smoking or manage a chronic condition. Make the best use of your time and energy by seeing what credible, peer-reviewed journals and government sources have to say on those subjects.

2. Note the side effects. Practically every drug or procedure comes with a potential downside as well. Consider how severe the side effects are, and how likely you are to experience them.

3. Change your lifestyle. On the other hand, many lifestyle adjustments are powerful, far-reaching, and 100% safe. Let scientists encourage you to eat your vegetables, exercise daily, and wash your hands frequently.

4. Talk with your doctor. Your physician and the rest of your health team can help you sort out how any individual study pertains to someone with your background and values. Ask questions and share your concerns.

5. Make your own decisions. Remember that medical studies give you options. Reasonable adults will reach different conclusions about how they want to respond to those findings. You may decide to seek aggressive treatment or prefer a wait-and-see approach.

Make sense out of health statistics, and use the latest medical information to enhance your own wellbeing. With a little practice, you can benefit from health studies instead of feeling confused by them.

Top 10 Tips to Ease Chronic Pain Without Medication

Chronic pain isn’t an easy condition to handle, but you can take control. Simple changes in your lifestyle, diet, and exercise routines can help ease your pain.

Try these techniques to experience relief:

1. Manage stress. Stress can increase chronic pain and make it more difficult to manage. Try a variety of strategies to relax and reduce stress to see which ones work the best for you.

* Yoga and meditation are two stress-reduction strategies that can help.

2. Try breathing exercises. By simply focusing on your breathing, you can relax your muscles and reduce pain. Deep breathing exercises can also reduce blood pressure, eliminate stress, and decrease the heart rate.

3. Find fun distractions. Instead of concentrating on the pain, try distractions that help you forget about it.

* Hobbies and activities such as watching your favorite movie or reading a new book can help. You may also want to try drawing or other ideas that help you fill your time and avoid thinking about the pain.

4. Increase your water intake. Dehydration can make chronic pain worse.

5. Avoid inflammatory food. Fast food and processed food can increase inflammation in your body, so your chronic pain also increases. Foods with a lot of sugar and salt also contribute to inflammation and increased pain.

6. Add more anti-inflammatory food. On the other hand, nuts, leafy greens, fatty fish, berries, and other items can help you fight inflammation and reduce pain. They have antioxidants that fight damage on the cellular level.

7. Focus on posture. Posture can help reduce the stress on your back and cut down on chronic pain.

* Consider the way you sit and stand. Experts recommend that you avoid slumping your shoulders and lowering your head. The spine should be straight, so circulation is better.

8. Discuss your health. Researchers have found that talking about your health can reduce pain. The American Psychological Association points out that talking about your pain can help you discover management techniques.

9. Try massage. Massages can reduce chronic pain by improving circulation and blood flow.

* Massages help reduce back, shoulder, and neck pain. They can also help your overall health.

10. Find support. Health experts recommend finding support groups that focus on chronic pain. These groups give you the chance to meet others who suffer from chronic pain.

* They can offer advice and tips for managing pain. They can also provide doctor and clinic reviews or recommendations. By talking to others who have chronic pain, you can learn new techniques to deal with your pain.

* Chronic pain is linked to anxiety and depression. The social aspect of support groups can also help in coping with these side effects.

* Support groups are less formal settings, and online groups offer privacy and anonymity, so you can feel comfortable sharing your experience.

Even if you take medication for your pain, you can further reduce it with these techniques. Follow your doctor’s advice, reduce stress and inflammation, and find support, and you’ll feel the pain relief you’ve been seeking.

Top 10 Tangible Benefits of Optimism

There are two general attitudes you can hold: Pessimism and optimism. Pessimists have poorer long-term results than optimists. Optimists are healthier, happier, and more successful. If you’ve been accused of being pessimistic, rethink your perspective. Optimism is a more enjoyable way to live.

Optimism has many advantages over pessimism:

1. You’ll excel. When learning a new skill, studies have shown that optimistic people tend to overestimate their current skill level. However, those that are optimistic ultimately learn a new skill at a higher level. Those that most accurately judge their abilities at the beginning fail to learn as well as those that are more optimistic.

2. Strengthen your health. Optimistic people have been shown to have healthier blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They’re also more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke. Optimists carry less body fat, too.

3. Lower stress. When you expect good things to happen, there are fewer reasons to experience stress. In fact, when things go wrong, optimistic people are more likely to view the mishap as an opportunity for something bigger and better to happen.

4. Uplift your mood. Your attitude affects all aspects of your life. Adopting an optimistic perspective might be the easiest way to lift your attitude.

5. Make more friends. Others appreciate your optimism. When you have positive expectations, you positively affect the mood of those around you. You’ll find yourself with more friends and have greater influence over others. The people you like the most are those that make you feel the best. Your optimism benefits others.

6. It’s the most effective option. Pessimism doesn’t have much to offer. It’s damaging to your health, mood, and results. Others avoid pessimists. Why would you choose to be anything other than optimistic? What other intelligent option do you have?

7. Optimists dare themselves to be great. Pessimists are too afraid to try new things or take the risks that are necessary for higher levels of success. Optimists are in a better position to pursue and achieve greatness.

8. Boost your immune system. Or maybe pessimism suppresses your immune system. Either way, you’ll get sick less frequently if you have a positive outlook on life. You might even spend less at the doctor’s office.

9. Live longer. You’re more likely to live to be 100 years old if you’re optimistic. Interviews with centenarians consistently demonstrate an optimistic attitude about the future. Optimism is one of the most enjoyable ways to extend longevity. An optimistic attitude might allow you to spend time with your great grandchildren.

10. Make smarter decisions under pressure. This can be helpful at work and in your personal life. When you deal with stress more effectively, you can make wiser decisions. When you expect a negative outcome, your decisions will be mostly defensive in nature.

Optimism has a lot to offer. You’re hurting your future, yourself, and those around you by being pessimistic. Optimism is free and it feels good. Your health, success, and mental health are all enhanced when you hold a positive viewpoint. Let go of your pessimism and view the world from an enthusiastic perspective. You’ll be glad you did!

The Surprising Link Between Spicy Food and Your Life Expectancy

Did you know that eating more spicy foods may help you live longer? Researchers have found that spicy food has multiple health benefits.

If you’re interested in adding extra years to your life, learn more about these foods!

Spicy Food Science

A study, titled “Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study,” found that regularly eating spicy food may lead to longer lives. In this study, both men and women benefited from eating more spicy food.

Study participants who ate spicy food six or seven times a week lived longer than the participants who only ate it once a week. However, eating spicy food once a week still helped increase longevity.

The study included 500,000 people. Participants who ate spicy food once a week reduced the risk of dying by 10 percent. The participants who ate spicy food three to seven times a week reduced their risk of dying by 15 percent. Adding this type of food to your daily meals helps!

Try These Spicy Foods

1. Fresh chili pepper. Researchers found that fresh chili pepper has a stronger impact on health than dry or other forms of chili pepper. The fresh peppers yielded better results.

* Researchers believe the molecule capsaicin that is found in chili peppers is responsible for the longevity. They believe it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may also help fight cancer, hypertension, and obesity.

2. Curry. Eating more curry has also been linked to longer life spans. Curry can include cayenne pepper that also has the capsaicin molecule. The other spices in curry also have health benefits.

3. Spicy soup. Soup can be a nutritious and healthy option that is easy to make. By adding spices such as peppers, you can increase the health benefits. You can also add an assortment of healthy vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and others.

4. Salsa. The spices and peppers in salsa may help you live longer. Peppers such as jalapenos, habaneros, and ghost chilies can add a dramatic kick to your salsa, and they can also help your health.

Adding More Spices to Your Meals

Get the most from spicier foods with these techniques:

1. Look for new ways to incorporate more spices into your meals. Can you add hot peppers to your favorite casserole? Will your stir fry benefit from chili peppers? Can you simply add spices to your scrambled eggs or omelets?

2. Find dishes that your entire family can enjoy. After all, it’s hard to get the benefits of the spices if you don’t actually eat the meal! Keep in mind that people have different tolerance levels for heat.

* You may want to gradually increase the spices in your meals, so you can adjust to them over time. Adding a large amount of peppers at once can make it difficult to tolerate.

3. Go with fresh spices, if possible, but other forms are still beneficial. Although fresh ingredients offer more health benefits according to researchers, you may not have them available at all times. In these cases, it’s better to substitute dry or powder forms than to go without. You can also try oils or other extracts.

4. Take precautions. If you’re cooking with spicy food at home, avoid touching your eyes or other body parts while handling hot peppers.

Spicy food has a variety of health benefits and is linked to longer life spans. However, before you change your diet, you may want to discuss it with your doctor.

The Miracle of Small Wins

Small wins pay off big. Social scientists and business experts agree that modest victories can provide major inspiration.

You may have heard of the progress principle. Researchers at Harvard Business School conducted a multi-year study of what makes employees happy and productive. They found that daily progress on meaningful work was the most powerful factor by far.

Take a look at the general principles behind this foolproof formula for success, along with practical examples about how you can apply a small wins strategy to your life.

General Principles Behind Small Wins

1. Keep a journal. Writing in a journal will help you recognize and celebrate miniature milestones that you might otherwise overlook. You’ll also be able to track your progress and understand the conditions that affect your performance.

2. Create catalysts. According to the Harvard team, there are two kinds of actions that encourage small wins. The first, catalysts, are related to how you work. Set clear goals, budget your time and resources, and practice open communications.

3. Seek nourishers. The second kind of action is called nourishers, and refers to interpersonal support. Surround yourself with friends and colleagues who provide validation and constructive feedback. Participate in groups that share your interests, whether it’s a faith community or professional association.

4. Set intermediate goals. Lofty goals can be overwhelming. Break any project down into tiny tasks. You’ll feel invigorated each time you check something off your to-do list.

5. Learn from setbacks. The flipside of small wins is the discouragement that can follow running into an obstacle. Acknowledge your feelings. Turn mistakes into valuable lessons.

Practical Examples of Small Wins Strategies

1. Eat more vegetables. Sticking to a healthy diet may be easier than you think when you focus on only one change at a time. Work your way up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Mix spinach into your eggs at breakfast. Snack on baby carrots and hummus.

2. Cut down on sugar. If you like sweetened coffee, use half your usual amount of sugar. The savings will add up.

3. Go to bed on time. Adequate sleep keeps your body and mind in top condition. You’ll probably accomplish more even if you shorten your waking hours.

4. Exercise for 5 minutes. Are you tired of lapsed gym memberships? You’ll be exercising for more than a half hour by the end of the week if you start with 5 minutes and add just 5 minutes a day to your home workouts.

5. Memorize a few lines. Maybe you’d like to speak Russian or recite poetry, but your busy schedule gets in the way. Ty practicing just 5 vocabulary words or one stanza a day.

6. Extend your network. Whatever you do for a living, networking is essential. Introduce yourself to a new contact or reconnect with a former colleague.

7. Dazzle a customer. Similarly, you can make any work more meaningful by focusing on those who use your products or services. Give someone a sneak peek at your new line and ask for their feedback.

8. Listen to your child. Show your child how much you love them by giving them your full attention. Empathize with their struggles in Algebra or congratulate them on making the soccer team.

9. Surprise your spouse. Brighten your partner’s day with a fun surprise. Take out the garbage when it’s their turn. Put a love note in their briefcase or pick up a carton of their favorite ice cream on your way home from work.

Grand visions are the sum of many small wins that help you translate your dreams into action. Taking a small step forward each day will bring you success and happiness.

The Busy Professional’s Guide to Creating a Meditation Space

You probably know that meditation is good for your body and mind. Still, it can be a challenge for a busy professional to find a place to sit and think.

Learn how to create a meditation space in your home or find a sanctuary nearby. After all, your surroundings play an important role in helping you to quiet your thoughts and become more mindful.

Benefits of Creating a Meditation Space

1. Increase concentration. A designated area for contemplation makes it easier to switch gears. You can forget about utilities bills and your kid’s report cards. Pay attention to your breath, and connect with the divine.

2. Screen out distractions. Turn off your phone and keep your laptop out of sight. Let your family know that you’ll be out of reach for a while.

3. Practice more consistently. Your meditation space is a powerful reminder if you’re trying to establish a consistent practice. You can look forward to your next session each time you walk by.

Designing a Meditation Space at Home

1. Clean up. Removing clutter allows you to keep your meditation space tidy and inviting. Sweep the floor and wash the windows. Remove your shoes to avoid tracking in dirt.

2. Lower the volume. Aim for a quiet environment so you can appreciate the silence or listen to instructions and chants on CDs. A pink noise machine or fan will block out street noise.

3. Add inspiring objects. What do you like looking at while meditating? There are lots of options, including posters, statues, and prayer flags. If you’re creative, you may want to design your own props.

4. Set out offerings. Depending on your spiritual practice, you may also want to engage in rituals that involve offerings. Water offerings are popular because they’re inexpensive and easily available. You can also fill your offering cups with colored stones on days when you don’t have time to change the water.

5. Store literature. Maybe you like to refer to prayer books or other inspirational passages. Install some shelves and cover your books with fabric to keep them pretty and protected.

6. Arrange seating. Having a comfortable place to sit is essential. You may prefer a regular chair or floor cushions. Any position that encourages good posture can work so feel free to support your back if necessary.

Finding a Meditation Space Away From Home

1. Browse community listings. If you like practicing in a group, a space away from home may be an attractive supplement or a way to help you get started with meditation. Check out what’s available in your neighborhood. Yoga studios and college campuses are good options. Local Buddhist centers may also welcome visitors of all faiths and philosophies.

2. Ask your boss. A growing number of companies are taking an interest in meditation. Talk with your employer about using the conference room before or after work.

3. Enjoy nature. Head outdoors if the weather is mild. Enjoy beaches and public gardens while you meditate. Look for a spot where it’s safe to drop your guard for a while.

4. Meditate anywhere. Remember that the most important meditation space is in your mind. The more you practice, the easier it will be to calm your thoughts regardless of what is going on around you. Focusing on your breath can help you to reduce tension whether you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair or waiting in line at the motor vehicle department.

Create your own beautiful haven in your home or in your neighborhood. A special meditation space enables you to draw your focus inward and experience greater peace.

Some Straight Talk About Foodborne Disease

Food recalls have increased in recent years, but that’s good news. It means contaminated products from salad greens to ice cream pops are being tested and pulled off the shelves faster. Yet, 1 in 6 Americans still experiences a foodborne illness each year.

In fact, that figure may be low because experts believe that only about 1 in 20 cases gets reported. While most symptoms will go away on their own, understanding food safety will help you and your family to stay healthy and avoid any long-term complications. Try these tips for preventing and treating food poisoning.

Preventing Foodborne Illness

1. Wash your hands. Clean your hands before handling food. Use hot water and lather up with soap.

2. Stop cross-contamination. The juices from raw foods like meat, poultry, and fish can contaminate other products. Use different cutting boards for meat and vegetables. When shopping, bag raw foods separately.

3. Cook foods thoroughly. Browse online or pick up a book that will teach you the correct temperature for cooking hamburgers or scallops. Learn how to use a meat thermometer.

4. Store foods safely. Consult reliable sources like government agencies and universities to find out how long you can hang onto various leftovers. When in doubt, toss them out. Set your freezer to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and your refrigerator to 40 degrees or lower.

5. Defrost carefully. Thawing food overnight in the refrigerator is usually the safest option. Leaving it out on the kitchen counter may seem faster, but you’re likely to wind up with bacteria.

6. Spot high-risk items. Most foods are okay as long as they’re handled correctly. On the other hand, extra precautions may be desirable for individuals who are at higher risk such as small children or the elderly. Some items that require extra care include raw and undercooked meat and fish, as well as soft cheese.

7. Consider canning. Home canning may sound appealing if you want to save money, and limit your exposure to BPA. Just be sure to research proper procedures first so you avoid contamination.

8. Support meaningful regulations. While there are many steps you can take at home, the food industry has a role to play too. Stay updated on legislation that affects food supplies.

Treating Foodborne Illness

1. Identify the cause. Different kinds of foodborne illness require different treatments. Contamination can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other factors.

2. Seek urgent care. While you can usually recover on your own, some cases require prompt attention. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you have severe abdominal pain or become sick after eating mushrooms or canned products.

3. Replace lost fluids. Diarrhea is the most common symptom of food poisoning. Home remedies like drinking lots of water are usually adequate. Call your doctor if your diarrhea is severe or lasts more than 2 days.

4. Eat light. Stop eating for a few hours if you’re feeling queasy. Then, start with bland foods like rice and bananas until you’re back on track.

5. Rest up. Good quality sleep and relaxation will help your body to heal. Avoid vigorous activity for a while and take an extra nap. Cut out potential irritants like alcohol and tobacco.

6. Follow your doctor’s recommendations. Some cases of food poisoning require antibiotics or other treatments. Your doctor can answer any questions about your individual condition.

Most food poisoning is mild, but why risk a trip to the emergency room? Sensible food safety practices enable you to eat a nutritious diet while protecting yourself from foodborne illness.

New Help for the Second Most Common Exercise Excuse

The most common excuses adults give for not exercising are lack of time and feeling uncomfortable when they exert themselves.

While scientists haven’t yet managed to add more hours to the day, there may be new hope for the sedentary.

Some endurance experts are advocating caffeine or other substances to help reduce the perception of effort. While the approach is still controversial, it may someday become as acceptable as a nicotine patch for smokers or an appetite suppressant for dieters.

Until then, there are still the traditional ways to make physical activity more palatable even for the most confirmed couch potato. Try these tips that will help you change the way you think about exercise.

Transforming Your Attitude about Exercise

1. Congratulate yourself. Do you criticize yourself for being out of shape when you feel short of breath or sore after a visit to the gym? Take a page from athletes who welcome those kinds of physical sensations as proof they’re growing stronger and faster.

2. Focus on results. Keep your motivation in mind. Maybe you want to lose weight or reduce your risk of heart disease.

3. Maintain a log. Track your progress. Putting your program down in writing will make it easier to see how you’re advancing.

4. Find a buddy. Working out with a friend or signing up for an exercise class can be more fun than going solo. You’ll look forward to your time together.

5. Form a habit. Exercise is easier when it’s automatic. If you go for a run each morning, you’ll find yourself putting on your sneakers without even having to think about it.

6. Change your self-talk. Telling yourself that you dislike push-ups just reinforces the discomfort. Cheer yourself on instead. Celebrate your accomplishments like losing 5 pounds or moving up to an advanced Pilate’s class.

7. Be patient. It may take several weeks to see any visible results. Hang in there so you can reap the rewards of your efforts.

Working Out at Your Own Pace

1. Respect your limits. Pushing yourself too hard can make you want to give up. It also increases your risk of injury. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your individual condition.

2. Take a walk. Walking is safe and effective for most adults. Start out with short distances, and gradually increase your time and pace.

3. Jump in the pool. Low-impact water exercises can be a healthy alternative for seniors or anyone who needs to protect their joints. If you have trouble finding a community pool, ask a local hotel if they offer gym memberships to non-guests.

4. Lean back. If you prefer dry land, how about pedaling on a recumbent bicycle? You’ll condition your heart without taxing your lower back and knees.

5. Count daily activities. Other kinds of movement qualify as exercise. You can burn calories and tone your muscles while you play with your kids and clean your house.

6. Adjust your schedule. You probably have certain times of day when you’re most productive. If your energy flags after work, lift weights in the morning or at lunch time.

7. Monitor yourself. Health experts agree that most adults can accurately judge their heart rate and level of exertion based on signs like breathing, sweating, and muscle fatigue. If you like using the latest gadgets, you can also buy a fitness tracker to help you decide whether you need to slow down or challenge yourself more.

It’s much easier to stick to an exercise program when you learn to like physical activity. Starting out gradually and thinking positive will help you to fulfill your workout resolutions so you can stay in top condition.

Modern Rules of Alumni Networking

The internet has changed the way alumni networking operates.

Years ago, former schoolmates might be surprised and delighted to hear from anyone who attended the same university. Today they’re more likely to feel overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive from strangers who found them on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Does that mean you have to forget about the potential connections you created during your college years? No, it just means you need to take a more targeted approach. Learn how to tap into your alumni network the 21st century way.

Identifying Contacts in Your Alumni Network

1. Start early. If you’re still in school, you can begin building your network as soon as you pick your major and meet your roommate. If you graduated years ago, start warming up old contacts today.

2. Explore university resources. In addition to the standard alumni directory, most schools now have online communities that make it easier to chat. Plus, the campus career center may have exclusive job postings and other goodies.

3. Know your industry. Different fields of study may have their own special offerings. For example, MentorNet is a social network where any STEM student in the U.S. can look for a mentor among professionals working in science, technology, engineering, or math.

4. Browse LinkedIn. The world’s largest professional network puts you in touch with fellow graduates. Your alma mater probably has at least one alumni group you can join. Reach out to the group manager, participate in discussions, and send connection requests to other group members. Use the LinkedIn Alumni tool to research what your peers are doing now.

5. Go back to school. Maybe you skipped college when you were younger or you’re thinking about returning for an advanced degree. Add your new classmates to your network.

Communicating with Contacts in Your Alumni Network

1. Introduce yourself. Let others know who you are and what kind of assistance you’re seeking. Mention the year you graduated and who referred you.

2. Ask for information and assistance. Even if you urgently need a job, slow down before handing out your resume. Most professionals can share advice and referrals, but will probably be unable to hire you directly, so avoid making them feel uncomfortable.

3. Think positive. Manage stress so you come across as confident and capable rather than desperate. Focus on your strengths and what you can contribute to any organization.

4. Schedule information interviews. Invite your contacts out for coffee dates and after-hour drinks. Be ready to pick up the tab.

5. Attend receptions. You can meet a roomful of alums at networking events. Rehearse your small talk and bring business cards.

6. Follow up. Cultivate the contacts you make by staying in touch. Show an interest in their careers, share interesting news articles, and provide updates when you have exciting news like landing a new job.

7. Express gratitude. Let others know how much you appreciate their kindness and generosity. Send handwritten thank-you notes and email holiday cards. Deliver a batch of chocolate chip cookies or post enthusiastic comments on their professional blog.

8. Return the favor. Networking is most effective when you’re willing to give as well as receive. Think of colleagues who you would like to introduce to each other. Ask a fellow jobseeker if they want to join you for a workshop when you have an extra ticket.

Your alumni network is still a powerful resource even if you use it a little differently today. Do your homework and focus on how you and your former schoolmates can support each other. Plugging into your alumni networks can help you access new positions, valuable information, and helpful mentors and advisers.