Former employees of high-tech firms and IT professionals in particular are prime targets for the recruiters who hang around alumni Web sites, Corporate Alumni's Kaufman says. Indeed, a number of headhunters have contacted former Lotus employees through AXLE's Web site and electronic directory, which are open to the public. "Most people are thrilled to be called. We only had one person ask to have his name taken off," Kaufman says.
"Alumni parties are really heavy places for job networking," says Susan Cabral, general secretary for J.P. Morgan's alumni association. But reunions have one drawback: They only happen a few times a year.
Alumni Web sites let members network in a more ongoing and dynamic fashion. And while printed directories are often out of date before they're even publisheed, Web-based directory databases let alumni update their profiles online as needed.
Of course, not all alumni are jumping onto the Web. For example, only about 8,000 to 10,000 out of a total of 200,000 IBM alumni use BBAI's Web site. "We'd hoped for a lot more," Anderson says. She ascribes the low usage mainly to BBAI's large number of retirees, who are less likely to be Web-literate or to access the site for business networking.
And some alumni worry that putting their names, e-mail addresses and job histories on the Web will leave them open to spamming and other intrusions.
"We were loath to put the directory online because people might get harassed," J.P. Morgan alumna Cabral says. "We don't have the energy to figure out a password system." The association sends out a hard copy directory, while members who wish to be contacted are free to post their e-mail addresses on the organization's Web site.
Other alumni associations have addressed the problem with security measures. BCG, for example, assigns unique user names and passwords so it can track activity.
"So far, we've had no problems," Gilliatt says. And BBAI helps ensure its members' privacy by password-protecting message forums.
The ability to have a cozy conversation or trade job tips within a virtual community of former colleagues is perhaps the most valuable thing alumni organizations and their Web sites have to offer members.
And sometimes, what alumni organizations provide for their members is something as simple as the chance to relive a good memory.
"I've heard of people who were dying to get ahold of the J.P. Morgan recipe for Mulligatawny soup," Cabral says.