I am a huge fan of LinkedIn but contacting(emailing) people through the LinkedIn system is not intuitive unless one has paid for an upgraded account. Here is a primer on how to find individuals through LinkedIn. In subsequent posts, I will address how to contact/email people via LinkedIn without paying for the upgraded account.
1) After you create a profile on LinkedIn, it is important to join groups (alumni, professional, shared interest) as well as invite trusted individuals to “Connect” on LinkedIn. To assist you in this effort, there is an “Add Connections” link at the top right-hand corner on any LinkedIn page. LinkedIn can match email addresses from your email account to those who have accounts on LinkedIn. To find groups that would be of interest to you, select “Groups” from the top dashboard, Groups Directory link, and input keywords to find the appropriate options from the over 1,000,000 group offerings on LinkedIn. Most times, it takes a few days to be accepted into any locked/restricted groups (ex: alumni only groups)
2) After you have joined some groups and “Connected” with individuals, you will want to search for people with whom you would like to establish a networking relationship. I recommend starting at the Home page and selecting the “Advanced” search link located in the top right-hand corner. The Advanced Search will allow you to enter in a number of filtering criteria in order to generate a solid list of possible candidates for your networking outreach efforts.
For example, to find Notre Dame alumni I recommend inputting School=Notre Dame or Group = Notre Dame Alumni Network in the Advanced People Search page. The difference between these two approaches is the latter will only generate results from individuals who are in the ND Alumni Network (24,000+ membership). The former will include anyone with Notre Dame in their Education section.
I also recommend selecting an industry, inputting a company name, location, etc. to help narrow your results. For more general industry listings (ex: Marketing and Advertising) it is advisable to input a Keyword filter. If one is entering a Company name as a filtering agent, one can select to see only current employees of that company or current and former employees.
3) Hopefully, by now you have a list of individuals who match your search criteria. If your list is too long/short, adjust the filtering criteria using the options on the left-hand side of your computer screen. If you had very poor results, you may want to consider beginning the search over from the beginning.
4) Remember, people do not fit into neat boxes, how you may categorize me is not how I may categorize myself. For example, I work at the University of Notre Dame in a career counseling role. What would be my industry (I can only select one)? “Higher Education” because I work at a university? “Education Management” because I am in administration of an educational institution? “Staffing and Recruiting” as I work with students/alumni/employers with placement needs? How about “Religious Institutions” as ND is a Catholic school? I hope you get my point, by the way – a quick search of full-time employees of Notre Dame yields over 15 different “Industry” listings!
As with any database, it takes practice and refinement of one’s searching style to generate the best results. When I find a good match, I usually review the individual’s profile to see how he/she categorized oneself, keywords on the profile, etc. I use this information to conduct additional searches to find more individuals who I may have missed in my first search attempts.
TIPS: You may experience initial frustration when searching the database as the system is looking for complete matches to your filtering criteria. If one enters GE in the Company search box, only individuals who have a standalone GE as a company name will appear in your results (GE Aviation, GE Healthcare, Corporate GE Headquarters) but no one who uses General Electric in the company entry will be on your results list. It has to be a complete match. This can especially be frustrating when trying to search the system by name – you need an exact spelling. When in doubt, I tend to start a search using part of a name; for example I search by Notre Dame as opposed to University of Notre Dame.