Every year, I have the honor of critiquing my fellow alumni’s LinkedIn profiles. The event takes place on the 32nd floor of a building that overlooks Boston, where the alumni and current students of my alma mater come dressed to the nines and ready to get their profiles critiqued.
One thing that immediately grabs my attention is the size of a person’s LinkedIn network. In many cases, the number is quite low. When I ask the participants why, most say it’s because they have just started using LinkedIn. They ask with whom they should connect and how.
In a previous post, I explained the who and the how of connecting on LinkedIn. You may recall that I stated your fellow alumni were at the top of the pyramid of connections — meaning this was the lowest tier of potential connections. But for current students or recent grads, the alumni network can actually be the key to building a successful network on LinkedIn.
To help you connect with other alumni from your school, LinkedIn has a neat feature called “See Alumni” (formerly “Find Alumni”) which is located on your alma mater’s page.
Here is the process of getting to this feature when you need it:
- Type your school’s name into LinkedIn’s search field.
- Select your school.
- Click “See Alumni.”
Using the ‘See Alumni’ Feature
Assuming you haven’t made any connections with alumni from your school, you’ll want to change that right away. Your fellow alumni are probably currently employed, and they may know of opportunities — or at least people with whom you can connect. Don’t ignore older alumni who may have attended your alma mater before you!
When you first use the “See Alumni” feature, you’ll land on a page that looks like this:
Click “Next” on the righthand side of the page to go to a screen that looks like this:
Now, look at the section titled “How you are connected” on the righthand side of the screen. You will most likely see that you have few, if any, first-degree connections. That’s alright — we’re going to focus on your second-degree connections.
Select your second degrees by clicking on the appropriate bar. The screen will shift to only show you information about your second-degree connections.
You can narrow down the results even further by using the other categories — “What they are skilled at,” “What they studied,” “Where they work,” etc. (See above screenshots.) For example, I have 7,774 alumni in my second-degree connections, but I can narrow my results down to a much more manageable five people if I set each category to the following:
- What they are skilled at: Social media
- What they studied: Marketing
- What they do: Media and communications
- Where they work: Boston Ballet
- Where they live: Greater Boston Area
Connecting With Fellow Alumni
One of the advantages you have when connecting with fellow alumni is the common bond you share through going to the same school. You’ll want to mention this when you personalize your invitation.
Under no circumstances should you send the default LinkedIn invite; that’s plain laziness. Instead, you should write the kind of personalized, professional note LinkedIn members expect from each other. To write a truly personalized note, be sure to read through a person’s profile before sending off your invitation!
Here’s an example invitation:
Dear Mr. Schmidt,
As you’re an alumnus at the University of Virginia and are in the field of marketing communications, I’d like to take this time to reach out and invite you to my network. I will contact you to see if we can be of assistance to each other.
Completing the Process
Your new invite accepts your personalized invitation because both of you share an interest in social media and, most importantly, are alumni of the same school.
Where many people fall down in the process is not following through. In your message, you offered assistance, so stay true to your word by contacting Mr. Schmidt via email when he accepts your invite.
Prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask Mr. Schmidt regarding the line of work he does. Make them intelligent questions — don’t waste his time. Ask him if he might know of anyone with whom you could also speak.
As I explain to the alumni and current students of my alma mater, the process of building relationships can be a long one, but developing long-lasting relationships is the key to their future success. Your fellow alumni can definitely be a secret weapon for networking on LinkedIn, so be sure to utilize the “See Alumni” feature!
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.