March 5, 2014 Leave a comment
Now that your profile is in tip top shape, it’s time to think about how, as a new college student, to connect with other LinkedIn members. It’s time to develop your online network.
To help you do this, LinkedIn has a neat feature called Find Alumni, which is located in the Network drop-down menu.
Why is it important that you’ve created a profile and must now develop your network? Because the sooner you start your network, the more useful it will be when you graduate and have to look for a job. An old adage is: in the working world, the best time to network is when you’re working. So it stands to reason the best time to network is while you’re in school.
Finding alumni with whom to connect
Assuming you haven’t made any connections with your alumni, which also include those who attended your alma mater before you arrived, you’ll want to connect with them because they’re probably currently working and may know of opportunities or, at least, people with whom you can connect.
First go to How You’re Connected to the far right of the second screen. Most likely you have very few, if any, 1st degree connections. That’s alright. Focus on your second degrees. Select your 2nd degrees by clicking on that bar. You’ll see the other categories shift, the numbers decrease. This narrows your search for potential alumni contacts.
If you’re a communications major, you’ll focus on people who are connected with you under What They Do, e.g., Media and Communication. Look at where they work, what they studied, what they’re skilled at. This will give you a sense of your commonalities, as well as some talking points when you connect with them.
Connecting with your alumni
The largest advantage you have is your common bond with people who are going to school with you or who have attended years before. When you attempt to connect with them through their profile, the option Classmate has already been chosen for you.
This is where, as an aspiring LinkedIn professional, you need to carefully craft your invite messages. Under no circumstances will you send the default LinkedIn invite; that’s plain laziness. Instead, you’ll write a personalized note, which will show the professionalism LinkedIn members expect from each other.
Note: Even though you can hit Connect under the person’s photo, it’s still best to open their profile and choose to connect after reading it thoroughly.
Here’s what you might write after reading your potential connection’s profile:
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 Communications and, most importantly are alumni. In your invitation you mentioned being of assistance to Mr. Schmidt. Where many people fall down in the process is not following through.
Be true to your word by contacting him via e-mail when he accepts your invite. Also write down some 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 who you could also speak with. Finally, tell him you’re at his disposal should he need assistance.
The process of building relationships can be a long one, but because you’ve just begun your education, you have plenty of time developing long-lasting relationships. These are connections that can be of great help to you once you’ve graduated college.