For students and grads, those alumni connections provide even more value: alumni connections are an important resource that will accelerate your networking, learning and career opportunities:
- Consider asking an alum for an informational interview
- Leverage an alumni connection to learn about a company, industry or specific type of job
- Look for alums with the same major and who work for companies that are interesting to you
Here are some of the best ways to find and network with alumni using LinkedIn features and tools.
1. Join Alumni and School Groups on LinkedIn
Every student and grad should join alumni groups on LinkedIn! For larger schools, there are usually many groups to choose from. Some of these are divided by majors, geography or other activities. I belong to the University of Rochester alumni group and the University of Rochester Metro NYC Women group. Many schools have a career or jobs-related LinkedIn group which includes both students and graduates.
Once you are a member of the groups, check the status updates regularly so you can learn about any opportunities to meet other alumni in person. You can also look through the profiles of the group members for people you may want to meet. Don’t be a “lurker” – engage in the group conversations to initiate online conversations and relationships.
2. Follow and Engage Your University Page
Make sure you follow your university’s page. To find the page, type the school name in the search bar and use the drop down menu for “Universities”, or go to the Interests tab and click on “Education”.
On the upper right side of your university’s page, see “who you know” for the 1st and 2nd level connections in your network. Just below that scroll through “Notable Alumni”. My school currently lists 42 notables. All of the people listed on your university page are potential candidates for networking – and for expanding your list of potential mentors.
3. Sort and Identify Alumni with the Alumni Tool
Thankfully, LinkedIn updated the Alumni Tool feature in 2013. Now students and alumni can easily sort through alumni by “where they live”, “what they do” and the company name which is also known as “where they work”. The graphs are interactive. Additional search criteria includes: “what they studied”, “what they are skilled at” and “how you are connected.”
The benefit of using the Alumni tool is the ability to create a fast sort of your school’s alumni database. Also, the tool will show you photos and headlines of the selected alumni. LinkedIn also indicates if the people who have landed in your sort are your 1st or 2nd level connection and how many connections you have in common.
To dive into this great sorting tool: While viewing the university page, click “Explore Careers of X alumni”, just under the banner image.
4. Create a More Specific Search with Advanced Search
The Advanced Search feature on LinkedIn can be used to narrow your alumni search even tighter. Here, you can pinpoint a specific zip code with distance; and use specific keywords. To customize even further, I can look for an alum with very specialized expertise within 50 miles of my Connecticut zip code; the results are often very different from the “Greater New York City” sort available with the Alumni tool.
5. Ask for Informational Interviews Using inMail
Using the inMail feature, you can send a personalized invitation to connect to the alumni you meet during your searches, or live at college and networking events. After you connect on LinkedIn, use the inMail feature to keep in touch or ask for an informational interview – this is one of the most underutilized, yet highly effective, tools for students looking to expand their industry knowledge.
When connecting with alumni who you have seen online and who have a career that matches your professional interests, bsend them a personalized note and explain why you wish to connect. Specifically, pointing out your common school and major will warm up your invitation to connect. Most important: remember when writing your inMail that you are not asking for a job; you are asking for advice or insight about their career, company or industry.
Your alumni connections are truly an essential segment of your professional network – and must be considered a critical component of your overall networking strategy. Use LinkedIn to help you find, and engage, with alumni that match your interests and career goals!
What other ways do you find or engage with alumni on LinkedIn? Please let me know, in the comments below.
About the Author: Sandra Long is an independent LinkedIn, networking, and social media enthusiast. She is president and chief consultant for Post Road Consulting LLC and My Intern Coach. In addition to working with businesses, Sandra has a passion for helping college students and young career professionals navigate early career challenges and internships. Connect with Sandra on Twitter.
© Copyright 2014. Sandra Long. All rights reserved.