LinkedIn is a tremendous tool as we work to strengthen and grow our alumni network at Longwood University. It’s a platform where our alumni can not only connect with each other, but also endorse and recommend one another.
Because of this, one of our primary goals as an alumni office is to get as many Longwood constituents as possible using LinkedIn on a regular basis. We’ve gone about this in a couple of different ways; below are some of the tactics we use to demonstrate the value of LinkedIn to alumni and students.
Encouraging Alumni to Network on LinkedIn
As with any university, many of our alumni are natural networkers who actively use LinkedIn. On the other hand, plenty of our alumni don’t yet see how LinkedIn can benefit you personally and professionally, as well as enhance the Longwood alumni base as a whole.
With alumni, we do a couple of things to get them into the LinkedIn ecosystem. The first is showing them the power of the “Find Alumni” tool, which is located in the “My Network” drop-down on your home screen.
This is an incredible feature for job seekers, networkers, and people just looking to better understand their fellow alumni. When you click through to the page, you can see where alumni are living, what companies they’re working at, and what types of jobs they have. If a Longwood alum tells us that he or she is moving to a new area, one of the first things we do is send over a screencast of how the “Find Alumni” tool works.
We’ve also incorporated LinkedIn into our “1 Hour a Month” volunteer program. Two of our volunteer bundles—”The Connector” and “The Head Hunter”—encourage alumni to spend 15 to 30 minutes a month on LinkedIn. They can endorse fellow Lancers, write brief recommendations on their peers’ profiles, suggest jobs at their company, and grow their connections using the “Find Alumni” tool. It’s a quick and easy way to add value to our overall network while also helping alumni enhance their personal networks.
Introducing Students to the Power of LinkedIn
For students, we take a slightly different approach. We’ve developed a program that fosters their relationship with LinkedIn across their four-year journey at Longwood.
To introduce them to LinkedIn, we hold conversations at “lunch and learns,” at group meetings, as part of classroom programming, and of course, one-on-one. The idea is to familiarize them with LinkedIn and to demonstrate the value it can have across their college years and beyond. We encourage them to start connecting with their classmates now, as those can turn into beneficial professional connections down the road.
From there, we take them on a journey so that by their junior and senior years, they’re using LinkedIn and the “Find Alumni” tool to find great internships and set up informational interviews that open the door professionally after graduation.
Bonus: LinkedIn-Themed Events
This year, we also had the pleasure of hosting high-profile speakers and LinkedIn advocates on campus for a series of events that we call The Real World Chronicles and Career Chats Live. The Real World Chronicles was a lecture-style series geared towards students.
The event featured J.T. O’Donnell, CEO and founder of CAREERALISM & CareerHMO, and John Hill, network catalyst at Techstars, who presented on the value of networking to all of the students in attendance. The speakers also sat down with us for a podcast recording, held a digital lecture for alumni who couldn’t be on campus for the event, and met with individual students for LinkedIn profile reviews and networking tips.
The response to this program has been so positive that we’ll be hosting a LinkedIn Influencers Week this summer in which four high-profile Influencers will hold digital conversations about LinkedIn and the importance of networking.
Needless to say, here at Longwood we’re “all in” on LinkedIn. We know it’s an incredibly powerful tool for both our alumni relations office and the university community as we work together to build the Longwood Network.
Thinking about creating a LinkedIn group for alumni? Check out this post for some helpful guidelines.
Parks Smith is the director of alumni relations and a 2008 graduate of Longwood University. You can follow Parks on LinkedIn or on his Twitter @RVAparks.