Harness the Massive Networking Potential LinkedIn Has To Offer Using Your Alma Mater Connections
Of all the networks we build in our lives, one of the earliest and deepest networks we create is that of our alma mater. People take their connection to their school seriously (just watch the boosters at any basketball game). The fundraising department at your school depends on that when they have students call and ask you for money.
Most of us are busy and don’t have a lot of spare time just lying around. But if someone wants to have five minutes of our time, all they have to do is call and say they graduated from our alma mater…we’ll find a few minutes.
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In the past, if you wanted to network with your fellow alums, you had to wait for your next reunion to roll around. Or, if you were lucky, the alumni association would have events in your area where you could meet others from your school. That would only work, though, if you stayed around your school after graduation or were in a major metropolitan area.
LinkedIn has done a lot lately to beef up its alumni section. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, it’s worth a few minutes of your time. Since LinkedIn has almost 300 million members who have self-identified, your classmates are already there and have checked the “Education” box. Whether you are a recent graduate or the class of (mumble, mumble, mumble), it’s a great tool to use when you are looking to expand your network.
The heart of the alumni section is an incredibly powerful search engine that allows you to find your fellow alumni.
You can filter the results by where alumni live, what industry or companies they work in, and even what they studied while in school. The date filter allows you to find alums that went to school during a specific time period—a great way to find your fellow classmates. And you can sort through them by degree of connection on LinkedIn. For example, many of us will have thousands of contacts on LinkedIn who went to our school during the same years and are second-level connections. Not only could you leverage your school connection, but you also know someone in common. That makes it a lot easier to start a conversation with them!
There are many ways you could leverage the alumni section. For example, those second-level connections have usually spread around the country (and the world) into almost every conceivable industry and job. If you were looking to move, to work for a new organization, or even to change career paths, you could check to see if you had any connections in those areas to ask questions and get some feedback.
If you are looking for help, definitely reach out to your school connections. If you are interested in making inroads into a company to get a job there or because you are in in sales and they were a great prospect, start with your fellow alumni. When you are prospecting for new opportunities, the hardest thing to do is get someone to pick up the phone and talk to you. (You shouldn’t expect someone to buy from you just because you went to the same school together, but it can often be the proverbial “foot in the door” so you can start the conversation.)
Beyond the search feature, your school’s homepage also includes a newsfeed where alumni can communicate with each other. There’s also a listing of notable alumni (I’m not quite sure how they decide who is “notable” – but you will probably find some fun surprises), and links to your school’s LinkedIn Groups. How you use all of this information is up to you, but it’s a great resource as you build your career!