Want to network, but don’t know where to start? Wish you could use LinkedIn for something beyond connecting (and waiting for others to respond)?
Meet LinkedIn’s College Alumni section (also accessible through the Education section), which will quickly become one of your greatest networking tools. If you haven’t already discovered this hidden gem on the site, you’ll be surprised at how powerful it can be in your job search.
This tool works best when you’ve updated your Education section with the name of your alma mater (even if you didn’t graduate). Be sure to add all of your university names, especially if you attended more than one college.
Now, you’ll need to access the Alumni section: on your LinkedIn home page, select Network from the top menu, then Find Alumni. You’ll quickly see an Alumni display for your most recent school, with an option to the right (Change School) to see the information for a different college.
Not only will you instantly see the closest LinkedIn contacts who attended your alma mater, but you’ll be able to see something even more valuable: where they live and work, their occupations, and skills.
Start leveraging this wealth of data with the following steps:
1. Review the cities in which your former classmates are living.
If you’re able to relocate for a job search, this information will be invaluable in directing your efforts. Most of your classmates will probably have stayed in the same general area as the university, because local corporations are likely to recruit and attract graduating talent.
Put these cities on your target list for research, as companies in these areas should be familiar with your educational background.
However, there’s also a huge bonus in finding graduates who live in your far-flung city; university alumni often feel a “connection” to former classmates, even if you never met!
You may therefore find a welcome reception in reaching out to an alumnus in your city, using a short invitation message (“I noticed you also attended the University of Washington, and it turns out we’re both based in Dallas”).
2. Pay special attention to the employers on the Alumni page.
These companies are well-aware of the quality education you received—they’re already employing your former classmates! Now, you have an “in” at nearly all of these corporations, simply by reaching out and mentioning your university connection.
In addition, you can pursue these employers by also noting your education in your cover letter, or in a LinkedIn message to a prospective hiring manager (“As I’ve found that Bank of America has frequently hired Texas A&M graduates, I’m interested in opening a conversation about your needs for a Senior Analyst”).
3. Make valuable alumni contacts and offer something in return.
Last and certainly not least, you’re looking at a list of thousands of graduates on your Alumni page. Here’s your chance to issue a connection invitation and make it meaningful.
Consider finding classmates with your major (“I see we’re both Accounting grads from the University of Wyoming”) and add a note offering to assist with their aspirations (“If you’re ever in the DC area, let me know. I’m connected to some great colleagues in the financial services industry here”).
You can also offer a conversation, assist with another LinkedIn contact, or simply have a brief exchange through InMail. Whatever the level of conversation, you’ll have just made another meaningful contact on LinkedIn, and potentially put yourself closer to a great pool of employers.
So, don’t forget to capitalize on this valuable tool for cultivating new contacts. Alumni connections are among the most solid of networking connections, both online and off.