Want to boost your networking power – and job search results – past the typical connect-and-wait method of interaction on LinkedIn?
LinkedIn's Schools section (formerly called "Education" or "College Alumni") is one of the site's hidden gems that can make your networking activity much easier.
Tucked under the menu options at the top, Schools aren't just for planning a college entrance; it's also a high-ROI tool that can help open doors for any former student (even if you didn't graduate).
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.
Next, from your LinkedIn Home page (or any page of LinkedIn when you are logged into your Profile), type one of your schools into the search bar, and LinkedIn will usually immediately show you a list of alumni. If it doesn't, click on "More" and select "Schools" from the drop-down menu.
Under "Where they work," click "Show More" to see a broad synopsis of employers, cities, and occupations. In the list of companies alone, you'll be able to drill into the volume of alumni by employer, as well as by college major.
Click on any employer for a quick look at your former classmates' locations, skills, graduation year, and area of college studies.
Armed with this information, you can identify companies who are already familiar with the quality of graduates from your university or college.
When approaching these potential employers, you can mention your research and further emphasize the value of your education ("I've found that some of my former University of Iowa classmates are enjoying careers at XYZ Corporation, prompting me to inquire about your needs for a Business Analyst").
As part of the Schools data, you'll be able to quickly see how much your chances of employment increase by relocating to the cities shown for each employer.
Since you can review Profiles of former classmates as part of this research, you might even find that they've worked for different employers in the cities shown – further expanding your list of potential companies and locations to add to your "bucket" list.
What this means in your job search: companies in these locales are likely to be familiar with the education you've received at your alma mater. You may find that mentioning your university degree in your cover letter can give you an "in" with these employers.
In addition, should you decide to visit (or relocate) to these cities, reaching out to the alumni on your list can create valuable new networking resources – or even friends. Many former classmates welcome alumni connections, even if you haven't previously met.
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 ("I found you when reviewing Engineering grads from University of Minnesota. If you ever swing by Austin, look me up").
You can also offer to assist others in a potential job search or professional networking activity ("Should you need a contact in the Atlanta SAP community, please feel free to get in touch"). Your generosity may come in handy when you need the favor returned.
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.
You'll find that alumni ties are among the most intensive, lasting contacts you can make throughout your career.
Job-Hunt's LinkedIn for Job Search Expert Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Director of An Expert Resume, is an award-winning executive resume writer, national columnist, author, LinkedIn and SEO enthusiast, and past recruiter. Laura is author of How to Get Hired Faster: 60+ Proven Tips and Strategies to Access the Hidden Job Market. Connect with Laura on Twitter at @ResumeExpert, on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/laurasmithproulx.