LinkedIn Job Search Strategy You Should Be Using But Probably Aren’t

Are you networking with your college alums?

Kaitlyn, a career counseling client, was finishing her MBA at Columbia University. She started job hunting and saw her dream job listed at Goldman Sachs. She knew that positions there were super competitive. She asked, “Besides applying online, is there anything else I can do to help me get on their radar?”

My answer was yes.

She was surprised when I explained what I thought she should do. It involved using a unique networking technique that is highly effective and almost no one uses. When Kaitlyn exhausted her contacts, she felt her networking options were over. Not true. She overlooked an effective strategy you likely aren’t using – her college alums.

Let’s review what Kaitlyn did to see how this technique works.

She went to her College’s Alumni Association to determine if they had an alum career group. Columbia did. They had one group for MBA graduates. These groups exist to help people with networking and job search. She searched the alum listings for executives at Goldman Sachs with an MBA from Columbia. Kaitlyn uncovered a high-level executive.

I recommended she send her a LinkedIn message that said, “I’m finishing my MBA at Columbia, and I saw you graduated from there too. I am applying for a financial analyst position at Goldman, and I wondered if you could help me and forward my resume to HR?”

To her great astonishment, the executive she asked said yes. So Kaitlyn sent her resume, and the executive passed it on. She only spoke to the executive again to say thank you. Yet, that simple but critical referral opened the door, and as a result, Kaitlyn got hired.

Most people recognize that networking should be the cornerstone of your job search efforts, but not many people do that. Some contact a few people they know and leave it at that. Yet you open an array of possibilities and opportunities when you network. This technique works well. You most likely didn’t even consider asking for help by connecting to alums.

Jessica Hernandez, President of Great Resumes Fast, advises job hunters to seek out alums for job search help. She teaches a LinkedIn course outlining how to use this strategy on LinkedIn. She explained, “The Alumni feature is one of the most effective tools on LinkedIn, and it’s been reported that alumni are more likely to help you than any other type of connection.

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Finding alums on LinkedIn

Hernandez said to start by finding your college’s LinkedIn page. Just type the school’s name in the search bar. Once you’re on the college’s page, you’ll see a tab for Alumni. Click that tab.

College alumni can be found on LinkedIn by selecting the Alumni tab.

By clicking on a college’s Alumni tab (in bottom row) you can search for alumni based on titles, industries, companies, and more.

This Alumni feature allows you to search for job titles, industries, and the years attended — you can broaden this range to find people who graduated close to you or ahead of you. You can also search for alums employed at a specific company where you want to work.

“I love this alumni networking feature because you can find multiple points of commonality, which is what networking is all about,” noted Hernandez. “The first connection point is that you’re alumni of the same school. Next, find alums where you live. Now, you have two common issues of connection with this person. Then identify the organization you want to work for. For example, it’s Mayo Clinic, so click Mayo Clinic. Now, you can see all the alums that work for Mayo. Next, do a deep dive search for your department, such as Operations or Accounting. You now have several things in common you can mention when you reach out to connect with that person.”

LinkedIn message examples

What should you say when sending the alum a LinkedIn connection request?

Hernandez advises that you list one or two of your common points. She offered a few messages you could use. Remember, it’s all about pointing to something you have in common. For the example below, the commonality point is highlighted so you can quickly see how these can be woven into a message.

“Hi (name), we’re both UNF alumni and Jacksonville natives. I studied and worked in HR, too. I’d appreciate the opportunity to connect and network since we’re in the same field.”

After you’re connected, you can follow up and ask questions like:

“I aspire to work for Mayo Clinic one day. I’d love to hear what path you took to work there.”

Alums are much more likely to help you

These are the people you want in your network. They are the people who are willing to hold informational interviews with you, share their stories, and give you advice. That’s the goal of networking when you are looking for a new job.

A version of this article was originally published in Forbes.

©2024 Robin Ryan

Robin Ryan

Robin Ryan

A career counselor that helps clients land jobs, I offer Resume Writing, LinkedIn Profile Writing, Interview Coaching, and Salary Negotiation services.

I’ve appeared on Oprah, Dr. Phil and over 3200 other TV and radio shows. A Wall Street Journal #1 bestselling author, I have written eight career books including: 60 Seconds & You’re Hired, Retirement Reinvention, Winning Resumes and Over 40 & You’re Hired. Currently I write a careers column for Forbes.com.

Helping people advance their careers and land a new job is my mission.

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