UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


LinkedIn: Get connected


John HillLinkedIn’s higher education evangelist – yes, that’s really his job title – John Hill is known for a few things: wearing sweater vests, talking really fast (he easily rivals the best auctioneer in the country) and working tirelessly to get the 135 million students worldwide to join LinkedIn.

Hill visited UNC Kenan-Flagler to help students, faculty, staff and alumni learn how to effectively use LinkedIn’s powerful networking tools. Here are his tips for getting (and staying) connected.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create one.

Over the past several years, LinkedIn gained steam with corporate recruiters. A staggering 97 percent of human resource professionals use social media to source and vet potential job candidates, and LinkedIn is now the most commonly used site for job recruitment, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.

In short, LinkedIn is the future of recruiting.

If you aren’t sold on the idea yet, consider that the vast majority of job opportunities come from connections to weak ties or, in laymen’s terms, “a friend of a friend.” Your LinkedIn network instantly expands your access to a wide array of opportunities. Job search sites like SimplyHired offer the ability to connect your LinkedIn profile with their jobs database, allowing you to see how you’re connected to employees of the company that’s hiring. Since HR professionals rely heavily on references and recommendations from current or former employees when selecting a candidate, the ability to connect to employees within an organization is an invaluable tool for job seekers.

Click here for tips on creating an effective LinkedIn profile.

Click here for tips for job seekers.

Establish your network before you need it so it’s there when you do.

In 2007, Hill was named the director of alumni career services at his alma mater, Michigan State University (MSU). The recession hit soon after, and Hill was tasked with serving MSU’s 420,000 alumni by himself in the state hit hardest by the recession. Many of MSU’s alumni had worked in the imploding auto industry and found themselves laid off, leaving them scrambling to find a new job. Without a network in place, thousands of unemployed alumni turned to Hill for help. LinkedIn quickly became a vital asset in helping to connect alumni who needed jobs with alumni who had openings in their company.

The moral of the story: start building your network now. The connections you make today will be invaluable in the future.

Build a quality network, not a quantity network.

Connecting with someone you’ve known a short time is not uncommon on social media. How many times have you met someone at an event, chatted for a few minutes, then sent (or received) a request to be friends on Facebook?

When it comes to LinkedIn, Hill stresses that your focus should be on building a quality network, not a quantity one. He suggests building your network using four categories.

  • Family and friends: Start with the people who you know the best. While networks built on family and friends often don’t have the extended connectivity as other groups do, they offer a solid foundation on which to build.
  • University affiliations: Connect with UNC Kenan-Flagler classmates, faculty and staff. Be sure to include UNC Kenan-Flagler in the education section of your profile and join our LinkedIn Alumni Group. You never know when you’ll need the help of a fellow Tar Heel or be able to help one yourself.
  • Shared work experiences: Make it a habit of connecting with colleagues at companies where you work or previously worked.
  • Volunteerism/Extra-curricular organizations: Are you a board member for a charity organization or a volunteer for a community group? If so, connect to others who are also involved in these organizations and join affiliated LinkedIn groups.

Use LinkedIn to track your communications with connections.

One of LinkedIn’s hidden gems is its ability to act as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool – an incredibly useful (yet underutilized) feature for business professionals and job seekers.

LinkedIn gives users the ability to input notes and information onto the profiles of first-level connections, with the content only visible to the user that created it. Users can input everything from additional contact information to notes with pertinent information about interactions (dates, times and topics of conversation). You can export this data into a CSV (Excel) file, making the functionality versatile enough to take the place of Post-it notes, spreadsheets and those old, overstuffed rolodexes.

Click here for a how-to guide to using LinkedIn notes.

LinkedIn is changing the way business professionals network. What are you waiting for? Get connected today!