LinkedIn is like that neighbourhood uncle of yours, who shows up wherever you go and corners you at society gatherings. You hardly speak to him, hear him out and are looking for constant avenues of escape.
However, do you ever realise the value this uncle could provide to you? He’s probably the richest among all your neighbours, possesses immense business acumen, and can actually teach you some amazing life lessons.
It’s time to have a chat with that uncle.
There is a certain sense of trepidation for everyone starting out on their professional journey. Jobs are hard to come by and the fear of not having one is very real. LinkedIn, and in particular, your alumni networks on LinkedIn, are key as you start out in building your professional career. Here’s how you can leverage it effectively:
If you begin looking to alumni networks as you begin your job search, you risk leaving a bad taste with others. You are more likely to make genuine initial connections by reaching out to others prior to your job hunt, as opposed to reaching out to ask for favours. With this you will come across as relaxed, friendly and genuine, and not desperate or needy. Once you receive this degree of pleasant recognition among alumni, you will find the network to be a valuable resource when you begin your job search.
While most of you would have already set up a LinkedIn profile, note that academic qualifications are just as important a barometer as your professional work experience. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with special care given to three facets of the same: your profile picture, any typographical errors and a generalisation of your skillset. In effect keep your LinkedIn display professional, proof-read for grammatical errors and avoid generic statements such as ‘recent graduate looking for a job’.
Alumni from the same school or college are almost always willing to lend a helping hand as you begin your professional journey. Never discount the importance of living in the same hostel, using the same beds and sharing those cups of tea – irrespective of whether you and the other alumni were in the same batch or not. Here’s the important part though: Change the search setting found in the upper right hand corner of your home page to Groups. Enter the name of the college you attended and your alumni group should show up in the search results. Select and join the Group.
While those cups of tea bring out a nostalgic connect with your alumni, it is important to create a textual reference to introduce yourself to your alumni network. An engaging message via LinkedIn is your first – and perhaps only – first impression!
The sooner you learn to take initiative, the faster you will grow in your professional career. Alumni are usually impressed when you go out of your way to connect with them. Establishing connections is vital, leveraging them is the next step.
Pitch your introductory note to members of your alumni group who are in the same industry that you are keen on entering. Do not spam everyone with introductory notes on LinkedIn. Here’s how you go about it: In the alumni group on LinkedIn, click the Members tab. Find alumni who work in the industry in which you want to get a job as well as alumni in the city where you would like to work. When you find a good fit, send your introductory note to him or her.
This one’s pretty simple! Whether your work is complete or not, communicate regularly, even if it’s just a ‘Thank You’ message. Don’t burn bridges.
As is human inclination, it is only normal that the ‘alumni’ you interact with are those within your immediate circle of friends; with whom you share Whatsapp forwards and on whose posts you immediately click ‘Like’ on Facebook. This defeats the very purpose of an alumni network on LinkedIn. It does not matter if you graduated this year, or 20 years ago, an alumni network is all-inclusive with different graduating classes to different academic departments.
More often than not, members of your alumni network are not recruiters. Networking is about building your professional network that could lead to referrals. It is important to understand and practise this distinction. It is through these relationships that you will hear of ‘open positions’ which are not even advertised.
Networking with your alumni network on LinkedIn is an on-going process – it should be a part of ‘best practises’ throughout your career. As you begin your professional journey look for a mentor within your alumni network. Once you have gone up the ladder, return the favour and open doors to those who are just starting out.
All the Best!