Our lives are becoming increasingly intertwined with the internet. We use it at work, we use it at home, and, thanks to smart phones and tablets, we use it on the go. What’s left behind is a mound of unorganized information. It’s no surprise then that innovative companies everywhere have begun to organize this data and put it to good use.
LinkedIn, Careers, and Big Data
Here, the company most relevant to the career services space is LinkedIn. Specifically, their University Finder tool, which is a part of their overall higher education offering. With this tool LinkedIn provides key information about school outcomes in an easy and accessible way; they have taken immense amounts of data from their site and organized it into a powerful database.
When using this tool one can look up a college or university - there are over 25,000 college and university profiles on LinkedIn - and access important data on alumni activity: where they go and what they do after graduation.
Some of you are probably already familiar with LinkedIn’s University Finder, but let’s take a quick look anyway. For example, here is some key information from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s profile:
As you can see, this is some pretty powerful information. It not only gives detailed data on your alumni, but recommends a number of alumni connections based on the particular user's interests and profile.
Why This Is Important
People want to know who your students work for, where they go, and most importantly, if they’re successful. And LinkedIn has the data.
Just to reinforce how powerful this tool is, here’s an interesting fact: college-age kids are currently the fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn with over 39 million students and recent college graduates using the platform. Additionally, NACE recently reported that 74% of graduating seniors believe LinkedIn to be an effective job-search tool - the highest percentage across all social media platforms included in the survey.
Although this data is by no means perfect, i.e., it doesn’t give you every bit of information possible about your alumni, it does give you a fairly substantial representation of the companies, cities, and industries that your alumni are working for and in.
Ok, I know, I’m rambling a bit. One more quick comment and I promise I will get to the point.
Career centers nationwide are facing smaller budgets, increasing pressure from parents and prospective students who want evidence of employment outcomes, and a ranking system that is based, at least partially, on these outcomes.
This is why LinkedIn’s tool is so important to the career services industry: it helps to alleviate all of these problems. There it is. Now let me explain.
For one, by knowing what companies hire your students, you can work to create new relationships and build upon established ones. Reach out to these companies. As Bless Vaidan said in a recent NACE blog post, you have to build great employer relationships by helping them find the right candidates and meet recruiting objectives. Maybe a company asks you for a stack of targeted resumes for a position they’ve recently posted. Lend them a hand. Or, even better, maybe they haven’t asked, but would benefit from having such a list. Take the initiative, they will appreciate it and you will become a preferred partner, which means they will come to you with jobs.
Strengthen the bond even further by networking with alumni that work for these companies. Never underestimate the power of engaged alumni. Get them involved in Twitter chats, LinkedIn discussions, and other social activities that connect them with students. For instance, if one of your former students works for an advertising firm, organize a Twitter chat where he/she answers questions from students interested in going into advertising. If that is successful, hold a follow-up event on campus. It could be anything from a larger talk to a small intimate chat with a handful of students. Thoughtful students will come to the event and be able to network, giving them a tangible intro into the industry. Through this, you will develop an even stronger rapport with both the company and alumnus.
Developing close relationships with alumni helps your students make valuable connections while simultaneously furthering your employer relationships. It also helps students become educated about the practical opportunities that lie ahead of a certain major. Said differently, actively engaging alumni and employers is an exercise in community building, which allows your students to become more informed, more connected, and eventually, gainfully employed in a job they enjoy.
LinkedIn’s provides you with the data, but you are the ones that decide how to use it. Use it wisely and use it often.