The time-honored practice of schmoozing at black-tie cocktail parties may be on the decline thanks to today’s expansion of an online alumni career network program through which Yale students can now build connections with high-powered Washington, D.C. lobbyists, Chilean environmental activists and NASA physicists — all without ever leaving the comfort of their dorm rooms.

The Yale Career Network, first created exclusively for alumni in June by the Association of Yale Alumni, will be open to students beginning today. The network is a searchable database of Yale alumni interested in advising and mentoring fellow alumni and students on career options.

Students can log into and enter their NetID and password to find alumni using various search criteria such as profession, geographic location and graduation year, and contact them through a blind e-mail system.

The network is designed to educate students about careers they are interested in, Association of Yale Alumni Executive Director Jeff Brenzel said.

“It isn’t a job bank, but a networking service,” Brenzel said. “This is a way you can contact alumni who might be useful to you in providing advice and help when looking for a career.”

So far, about 6,000 alumni have already filled out a career profile and volunteered to participate in the program and about 2,500 alumni have been contacted through the blind e-mail system. Brenzel said he hopes the database will include 10,000 alumni by next year.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he thinks the career network is “terrific,” noting career connections are often made through informal networking.

“I talk to our alumni quite a bit, and they always indicate a desire to be more involved with students,” Salovey said. “What an opportunity for our students to have friends in the business, whichever business they may be in.”

While many other schools have alumni directories, the Yale Career Network is unique because alumni must first volunteer and complete profiles in order to participate, Brenzel said. He said this volunteer-driven network leads to a higher quality of return because alumni are actively interested in connecting with other people.

For maximization of the network’s potential, undergraduates should use the career network throughout their four years at Yale, and not only at the last minute in senior year when looking for a job, Undergraduate Career Services Director Phil Jones said.

“If a student makes appropriate use of this system throughout their time at Yale, it gives them the opportunity to expose themselves to a lot of different fields and to get some really excellent advice about the suitability of a particular field for them and also how to position themselves for that field,” Jones said.

Benjamin Hansen ’00, a Washington lobbyist who volunteered to participate in the career network, said he thinks students will find his realistic account of life as a lobbyist to be useful.

“It’s important, I think, for people to understand the real world and the unglamorous nature of the work that goes on in Washington,” Hansen said. “I don’t think they’d get that from a job description or someone who recruits employees.”

Alexis Ringwald ’05 said she thinks the career network is an “awesome idea” since most Yale students do not know well-established alums who have been in the workforce for awhile.

“It’s interesting to hear about the paths these Yalies have taken to get to where they are now,” Ringwald said.

Hansen said he is looking forward to helping current Yale undergraduates.

“When I came to Washington, I didn’t have a clue and I wouldn’t want that same state to befall my fellow Yalies,” Hansen said. “I certainly want to impart what knowledge I have.”