3 Steps to Network with Alumni

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. Dan Schawbel in an article on Mashable noted it is as high as 80 percent.

So with LinkedIn membership increasing by one professional every second, how do you expand your network beyond the professionals with whom you have a direct relationship?

One opportunity may be to build a network bridge between LinkedIn and Twitter, and capitalize on a key benefit of each. LinkedIn promotes group memberships (e.g. by profession, college alumni, shared interest, or location) but outside of your immediate contacts, you are unlikely to go through a list of all 5,973 alumni of your school to find a potential networking opportunity.

Twitter, on the other hand, promotes open sharing of your professional identity, but it lacks an efficient way to identity and group common interests or backgrounds.

So how do you build a network bridge between the two?

It is actually quite simple and has proven to be kind of viral for my two alumni groups on LinkedIn – James Madison University Alumni Association and University of Virginia Alumni (UVA). It’s been kind of a fun race to see which school has the most alumni sign up (so far the Wahoos are winning, but I have faith in the Dukes).

Here is my recommendation:

Step 1: Start a simple discussion item in your LinkedIn group to get the discussion thread and network going.

For example…

Discussion Topic:

Group Members on Twitter? or customize it a bit… Hoos on Twitter? Dukes on Twitter?

Discussion Additional Details:

Respond to this post with your Twitter url and a brief discription so that other group members can follow you. Please look for opportunities here to establish connections, promote businesses, and support each other.

Please invite others to post as well.

Thanks,

Brent

http://twitter.com/InterviewAngel

Step 2: Be the first person to respond to your discussion item so that other people see your example. You can use your Twitter Bio or perhaps something else to identify your professional goals. You are not limited to 160 characters in LinkedIn, but keep your LinkedIn Bio relatively short. This will keep the responses in a standard form and help get things going. It is important to make your Twitter url “clickable” in LinkedIn.

For example..

http://twitter.com/InterviewAngel

Description: Launched Interview Angel Inc in Dec 2008 to help students and professionals shine in job interviews. Organizing careernetworking events nationwide to raise proceeds for the Dress for Success organization.Tweet career and small business advice, music trivia, and sports opinions.

(Note: If you are the LinkedIn group owner or manager, you can make it a Featured Discussion. I’m not for either alumni group but both discussion topics rank at the top of Most Comments so it is always found.)

By following this format, you are providing a direct url to your Twitter account so that people can easily follow you if they see a networking opportunity. Importantly, once the discussion thread gets going, you may quickly discover a valuable connection to someone else in your LinkedIn group.

Step 3: Contact your fellow alumnus if there is a connection you would like to explore. I recommend contacting the person via LinkedIn if you are able to direct message. If not, use the DM feature in Twitter.

Here is a sample introduction, “Hi Steve. I’m a JMU Alum too. I noticed you worked at ABC Co. If you have a few minutes to talk sometime, it would be great to connect. Thank you for your time. Brent.”

My LinkedIn Rule of Thumb: Do not send an invitation to connect with someone you do not know until you have an opportunity to talk with him or her (at a minimum, via email). Different professionals have different rules about accepting invitations. Do not ever assume what is their unwritten policy.

Ever since I started these “discussion items” in my alumni LinkedIn groups, the responses (and potential networking opportunities) have increased every day. Through this social media experiment, I have now built business connections with people across the country that, most likely, would never had been done otherwise, and these potential connections are increasing every week. Another cool feature of LinkedIn is that you can receive automatic email notifications when someone new adds a comment (i.e. twitter url and description). Now, that’s the power of social media to expand your network!

If one of these discussion threads has already been started in your LinkedIn alumni group, be sure to set up a Twitter account and join in. If you are the first person to start this viral discussion in your group, it will be like the Cheers theme song where everyone knows your name. You will always be listed at the top of the discussion thread. Can’t beat that for publicity – whether you are a job seeker, recruiter, entrepreneur, or just a really cool alumnus!

Since alumni groups in LinkedIn are essentially private (e.g. you have to be a graduate of a certain school), I have created a new public group in LinkedIn with my company’s namesake (Interview Angel) to demonstrate an example of this discussion thread in LinkedIn. You are welcome to check it out here and join in with your Twitter URL and Bio. You never know who you may connect with!

You are also welcome to add your LinkedIn / Twitter information to this blog post so that others can link to your information.

Happy Networking!


Author:

Brent Peterson, PMP, MS, MBA, is the founder of Interview Angel Inc, a company that offers a comprehensive guide and toolkit to executing near flawless job interviews. Discover customer testimonials, blog posts, upcoming events, and media interviews at www.interviewangel.com.

Brent is also on Twitter at (twitter.com/InterviewAngel.com) and in LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/brentpeterson.

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