Want 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.
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:
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.
When you click on the school's name, LinkedIn will show you the school's official LinkedIn page.
Scroll 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.
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.
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.
In addition to the searches above, LinkedIn also organizes your connections into these categories:
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.
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:
You can also offer to assist them in a potential job search or other professional activity.
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.
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 Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.