LinkedIn Alumni Connections for Students
I recently spoke with a few undergraduate classes on campus, a mix of upperclassmen and a few second years. Here’s what I learned.
LinkedIn is an underutilized resource among college students. Period.
I asked students “Do you know what you want to do? Do you know someone who currently does that work?” “Do you know where you want to work? Do you know someone who currently or previously worked there?”
While the students had ideas of what or where they want to work, unfortunately they knew no “insiders” and they were not on LinkedIn.
Looking back to my college days, I probably would have said “no” too, but it doesn’t have to be that way for today's college student.
If you’re a college student on LinkedIn, congratulations you’ve taken an important step toward building a network, but you may ask “now what.”
Your answer – begin by connecting with your university’s alumni.
Connecting with Alumni is Easy
Alumni love connecting with current students. Connections that begin over a shared major evolve into conversations about career pathways and companies students should research. What’s more, LinkedIn makes it remarkably easy to build these connections and begin conversations.
When you add a university to the education section of your profile, LinkedIn automatically links your profile to the university’s company page. This page becomes a door to opening your university’s global alumni network.
Every university company page has a big blue “See alumni” button – click that button and you’ll access LinkedIn’s alumni directory for your university. Search for alumni by class year, location, company, function, major, skill set and LinkedIn degrees of connection.
Use the search filters to narrow down the listing to a manageable number of records. I recommend using your major under “What they studied” then narrow the list further with geographic or company filters.
Perhaps you study political science and have an interest in living in Denver. Great, narrow your list down based on those two filters. You may still see a long list, but that’s okay. Scan the headlines, companies and class years to identify three to five alumni of interest.
Check out their profiles to learn more about their careers and professional involvement. (Yes, LinkedIn tells you when someone sees your profile, but on LinkedIn it is less creepy, it is expected.)
Follow-up a profile view with a connection request. Include a personal note with the connection request, such as mentioning your shared university.
Once connected, you may begin communicating with alumni using the LinkedIn messaging application. Thank each person for accepting your connection, share a bit about yourself, and give a reason why this connection is important to you. Be ready to ask questions and keep the conversation going.
Building a Network Will Take Time
Be present on LinkedIn. Build a habit of posting information of interest; like, comment or share the posts of your connections; and always research new connections.
Is the first connection you make on LinkedIn going to land you a job before you graduate? No, probably not. But it will help build your name and reputation, expose you to industry and company insiders, and help you explore what and where you want to be after college.
Remember, a strong network of alumni are already on LinkedIn ready to connect, but you need to put yourself out there if you want that network to go to work for you.
P.S. Don't forget to visit the university Office of Career Services for assistance planning for your career after college and check out Professor McCorkle's social media tips for near and recent graduates.