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LinkedIn: Expanding NACADA Network Connections Online

Jim Peacock, Kennebec Valley Community College
Kristina Ierardi, Cape Cod Community College

Editor’s Note: The following article was developed from a presentation given at the NACADA Region 1 Conference in March 2011.

JimPeacock.jpg

KristinaIerardi.jpgLinkedIn© (LI) is one of many online social networks designed to communicate and advance relationships between people. What makes LI unique is its focus on developing professional relationships. LinkedIn (March 2011) connects 100 million professionals in over 200 countries. NACADA members who seek professional development and recognize the importance of networking with others in the field will find LI to be a valuable resource for themselves and their students.

There are three key reasons to create or expand an existing LI account:

  • to develop and maintain a professional network that is “active” throughout the year,
  • to seek advice from others in the field or in ‘like-minded’ groups, and
  • to find employment or to assist students in finding employment.

Networking. One of the benefits of attending a NACADA conference is the opportunity to meet people facing similar challenges in advising. Generating ideas, information, solutions, and support from colleagues is energizing and effective. Unfortunately, the opportunity to make these face-to-face connections happens only a few times a year at national or regional events. With LI, advising professionals can maintain and grow their networks year-round and frequently communicate on topics of interest.

LinkedIn advertises that 100 million professionals already use the site and one million new members join every week. As of June 2011, over 1,600 individuals belonged to the NACADA group on LI. By creating a LI account and performing a “People” search, NACADA members can connect with people they already know. Before sending an invitation to connect, LI members are prompted to identify how they know each person they invite into their network, and each person must agree to accept an invitation before a connection is established. By design, this process attempts to maintain LI as a true ‘professional networking’ website.

Each LI member receives update notifications about their connections on their Home page. Updates may include book review posts, new group memberships (see below), new position listings, updated credentials, or informational posts. LI is an “active” network because of these frequent updates. Members are continually informed about the people in their network and what they are doing throughout the year. It is easy to begin a discussion, share information, and stay current about colleagues’ professional lives.

Groups. LinkedIn features thousands of groups tailored to a variety of subject areas, including NACADA and other higher education groups. Each group has a purpose and attracts like minded members. The discussions can be lively and informative. With a free LI account, members can join up to 50 groups. Each group member can follow discussions of interest, can ask questions, and can initiate and participate in discussions. Every discussion post or response is seen by all group members. This process provides a mechanism for a member to become a familiar face and resource for those within the group. LI statistics even indicate the most influential group members. So, simply discussing common issues can introduce members to each other and expand networks. Additionally, group membership enables each LI member to invite any other group member into their network without sharing another common connection or previously knowing each other. This feature enables group members to exponentially expand their network with ‘like-minded’ professionals.

 Recently NACADA member Jim Peacock received more than a dozen great suggestions from one LI group. He was working with a student at a small community college in Maine who was interested in exploring career options in the adoption field. Jim posted a question in one of his groups and within minutes received ideas and leads from numerous group members. To gain this same information would have taken days of .research and probably would not have resulted in the same quality of information.

Sample LI groups we are involved with include: NACADA, College Career Expert, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, and the National Career Development Association. The LI “Groups” tab allows members to easily explore their own groups and potentially interesting groups, the “Groups Directory,” and even create a group of their own.

Seeking Employment. Job seekers are able to use LI to develop their online presence, market themselves to employers, and take control of online content that might be viewed by potential employers. LI members can post one professional picture, easily import a resume, upload a portfolio, and receive written recommendations from connections. A complete LinkedIn profile with active connections also increases “PageRank” which then lists LinkedIn search results in search engines (e.g., Google©) before results from other online sites (e.g., Facebook©); this allows members to showcase their professional achievements first.

LI also provides great resources for job searches. LI automatically shows member-posted positions targeted toward experiences listed on their resumes. Members can conduct general job searches using the “Jobs” tabs. The “Companies” tab allows LI members to search jobs by company and follow companies of interest. Members who follow companies receive automatic updates about new job postings, new hires, and news from the companies they follow.

LI groups provide a unique means to connect with someone at a company of interest. For example, a college or university alumni group member list may show other members who currently (or previously) work at a desired place of employment. Job seekers may choose to contact that group member and ask about the company culture or request an informational interview.

Some advisors work with students on career development and placement matters. LI can be a resource for students to explore career options, develop job search marketing materials, brand themselves, and find jobs. Advisors should encourage students to join LI and utilize its resources for career advancement.

Only three of the primary benefits of LinkedIn have been discussed here. There are many more LI advanced features, uses, and tools to discover. To find out more about LinkedIn try the following resources:

Jim Peacock
Director of Advising, Career, and Transfer Center
Kennebec Valley Community College
jpeacock@kvcc.me.edu

Kristina Ierardi
Coordinator, Career Services
Cape Cod Community College
kierardi@capecod.edu

Reference
LinkedIn. (2011). About LinkedIn. Retrieved from http://press.linkedin.com/about

Cite this article using APA style as: Peacock, J. & Ierardi, K. (2011, September). LinkedIn: Expanding NACADA network connections online. Academic Advising Today, 34(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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