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LinkedIn Networking Power Tool: Education

By Susan P. Joyce

Hidden LinkedIn Networking Tool: EducationWant to boost your networking power – and job search results? Meet Education!

LinkedIn's Education section (formerly called "Schools" or "College Alumni") is one of the site's hidden gems that can make your networking activity much easier and more effective.

Through Education, track down old friends and classmates, and connect with people you didn't know when you were at school.

The school is the glue that makes connecting both easier and more effective.

Having something in common with a stranger, like a school you both attended, can ease the stress of reaching out, providing "common ground" and starting the conversation.


Do a search for the school's name in the Linkedin search bar, OR scroll down your Profile to the Education section, located below the Experience section. Hopefully, you have completed this section with your schools, so you can simply click on the school's name to go to the school's LinkedIn pages.

When you have identified people you want to contact, see the sample messages at the bottom of this article, and read 4 LinkedIn Icebreakers (with Sample Messages) for excellent and useful tips on how to proceed.

Education is set up for colleges and universities attended and degrees earned.

However, in fact, you don't need to have attended the school to use this section of LinkedIn. So you could use it to find out more about a school before you attend.

Leveraging LinkedIn's Education

This is a high-ROI tool that can help open doors for any former student (even if you didn't graduate).

LinkedIn analyzes and shows you those who are your first, second, and third level LinkedIn connections, so the size of your LinkedIn network impacts who you see in Education, another reason to grow your LinkedIn network.

To maximize this tool, first fill in your Profile's Education section with your university name, major, and other relevant facts. If you have attended more than one college or university, include them all. Note that you are not required to include the years you attended the school.

Finding and connecting with other alumni can help your career and job search in many, MANY ways, and these are the most obvious:

  • Finding another alumnus who lives in your current or target location may help you expand your local "live" network, very useful for increasing your local professional reach for both your career and also for your job search.
  • Finding another alumnus who works for a target employer could provide you with that invaluable employee referral for a job with that employer, which greatly increases the probability that the employer will hire you.
  • Finding another alumnus who works in your target field, had the same major, or works for a target employer can provide you with the insider's perspective on that field via an informational interview.

If you have not attended a school, you can search on the school's name to find the same information as below, but you won't have the common experience of attending the school to establish your credibility.

Mining Education Gold: Alumni Career Insights

When you click on the school's name, LinkedIn will show you the school's official LinkedIn page.

LinkedIn School Alumni InsightsScroll down that page to the school's "Career Insights" section (as you see on the left).

[ "# # # #" will be replaced with the actual number of that school's alumni in your network.]

Below that heading, LinkedIn displays very limited information on 2 of the 6 groups of career insights that LinkedIn provides, described below.

To see all of the "insights" and have many more search options, click on the "See all career insights" link at the bottom of the section to go to a new page which is only the career insights for that college or university.

Scroll down the page, below the charts which list the employers, locations, and other information, to find the people who are represented by the charts with their pictures and links to their Profiles.

Choose Your Years (or Not)

Near the top of the school's Career Insights page, you can specify the years "Attended" or, by clicking on the circled arrow (below), years "Graduated."

Not selecting any particular years provides you with the largest number of people, of course. Or, you can choose those years when you attended or when you think a person who might be a senior officer (or hiring manager, etc.) attended -- or graduated.

Add Your Keywords

Above the categories of alumni insights (listed next), you can search on relevant keywords, like job titles.

For example, if you wanted to see how many CEO's you have in your alumni connections, type CEO into the bar above. Or, type in the job title of your next manager or the job titles of those who would be co-workers if you worked at a specific (target) employer to see if they are in your network.

Select a Search Option: Current Location, Employer, Specialty, and More

In addition to the searches above, LinkedIn also organizes your connections into these categories:

  1. Where they live

    How many fellow alums live in your current or target location? This section includes the 15 most popular locations of alumni, handy for finding local networking contacts or contacts in your target location.

    Note the ability to click on "+ Add" (top of the list for that "Insight") to search for a specific location not included in the display.
  2. Where they work

    Which employers seem to hire more of your fellow alums? Is the employer you want listed? Again, if you don't see an employer you want, you can click on the "+ Add" to type in the employer you want.

    Find a fellow alum who works for your target or your current employer. The top 15 employers where alumni work which is extremely useful for finding people who work for a target employer.
  3. What they do

    Great for identifying people who work in your field or who work in your target field. The top 15 categories of professions for alumni, like "business development," "finance," etc.
  4. What they studied

    The top 15 categories of studies, like "Business Administration," "Marketing," and more. With this insight, LinkedIn again offers the ability to "+ Add" to find a specific major if it is not one of the top 15.
  5. What they are skilled at

    The top 15 categories of work, like customer service, management, strategic planning, and even Microsoft Office. Another "connection" for you and someone you don't know. This insight section also offers the "+ Add" option if you don't see your major skill listed in the top 15.
  6. How you are connected

    Of course, this last option has only 3 sections: first, second, and third level connections.

    You are likely to know -- or know more about -- your first level connections, so they could be the best place to start. On the other hand, your third level connections will be the largest group of connections. And, if you don't choose a level here, LinkedIn will search all of your connections which may be the best option.

All of these sections provide relevant information for you to leverage for your job search, and LinkedIn enables you to refine these searches to find exactly the person you want.

Reach Out to Your Alumni Connections

In addition to networking purely for job search, you can use the Education section to make an impression upon your new contacts.

When reaching out on LinkedIn to add a new connection, be sure to personalize your invitation, and avoid sounding like a sales person.

When you knew the person in the past, in school or at work, mention that in your invitation.

When the person is a stranger, writing the invitation is more difficult, but you can leverage the information you find in your Education research. For example:

  • I found you when reviewing [your major or academic department] grads from [your school]. Please accept this invitation to connect, and if you ever swing by [your location], look me up.
  • I see we both worked at [employer name] from [year] to [year]. I was in the [your part of the organization] group. Please accept this invitation to connect. Should you need a contact in the [your location or your profession] community, feel free to get in touch.
  • I've been following your current employer, [employer name], for quite a while, and I'm very impressed with your [their best known product or service]. I recommend your [product or service name] often. Please accept this invitation to connect. Let me know if you have any questions about our [product or service name] customers.

You can also offer to assist them in a potential job search or other professional activity.

The Bottom Line

No matter the intent, staying in contact with alumni found through the Education section can put you closer to a great set of employer, recruiter, and professional connections. Mix and match the many options that LinkedIn provides you to find exactly the people you want to meet or to reconnect with. You'll find that school alumni ties can be among the most useful and lasting contacts you can make throughout your career.

More About LinkedIn for Networking

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.

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