Learn About Alumni Career Paths on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great research tool. That’s right: it is not just for networking, but also for researching. One way to use LinkedIn as a research tool is to explore the career paths of SPHHS alumni. Sound difficult? It’s not. In fact, LinkedIn has a handy tool that makes it very simple. Keep reading to learn more about this toolOnce you are on LinkedIn, here’s how to do it:
(Note that if you already have a LinkedIn account and connections, skip to Step 3.)

  1. Create a LinkedIn account. Okay, that sounds obvious, but I know many folks are still dragging their heels on this. Now is a great time to take action. It’s easy and free to create an account, and once you do it and start using LinkedIn on a regular basis, you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long.
  2. Connect with people on LinkedIn.  This is important because with a free account, you are able to view the detailed profiles of only first and second connections.  If you don’t have many first connections, you won’t have many second connections.  So go ahead and connect with current and former classmates, colleagues, family members, and friends.  It’s perfectly fine to connect with people who do not work in your field; after all, they may be connected to folks who are in your field!  The key is to connect with people with whom you have relationships.
  3. On the LinkedIn homepage, place your cursor on the “Contacts” tab and then click on “The George Washington University” on the drop-down menu.  You’ll notice that all the schools you have included on your LinkedIn profile will appear on the drop-down menu.
  4. On “The George Washington University” page, you’ll be able to learn about the career paths of alumni and students of the university.  One of the first things you’ll want to change is the dates on top.  The “Attended” dates that automatically appear are the dates that you attended GW.  As such, the default is to show only students and/or alumni from those years.  But you can alter these dates so that you can see alumni and students from a wide range of years. This makes a huge difference. For example, when the “Attended” dates include only 2009-2011, a total of 21,067 students and alumni are found. But when the “Attended” dates are expanded to include from 1950-2013, a total of 80,055 are found.
  5. Now, go ahead and search!  You can use the menus on top to sort by location, employer or career area, or you can search profiles with keywords in the search box located above the profiles on the right-hand side.  For example, you might type in “MPH” to see profiles of GW grads with the word “MPH” in their profile. You also may want to try it again and type “Master of Public Health” or “public health” to see if you get different results.  For more specificity, you may want to use multiple keywords simultaneously: “MPH” and “epidemiology” to see what epi folks are doing, for example.
  6. When doing your research, take note not only of the current jobs that alumni are in, but also the paths they took to get there.  If you are interested in what alumni are doing, try to connect with them through a mutual connection to see if you can arrange an informational interview.
  7. Want to take it a step further and try to connect with some alumni whose career paths interest you?  See if you have any connections in common with them.  If you share connections, reach out to your connections to ask to be introduced.  Since not everyone checks their LinkedIn messages often, you might get better results by contacting your connections via regular email.  Once you have the email address of the alum with whom you wish to be in touch, be sure to write a brief, yet descriptive email mentioning your mutual connection and asking what you seek (e.g., a short informational interview, etc.).  If you have no connections in common with the alum, you still have a couple of alternatives. One option is to send an invitation to the alum to connect via LinkedIn. If going that route, it is important to customize your message and explain why you want to connect with that person.  This is especially important since many will not accept connection requests from people they have never met; however, if you point out a commonality you share (e.g., “We are both GW alumni”) and a reason for being in touch (e.g., “I’d love to learn more about what you do, as your research is similar to what I am studying in school.”), there is a greater likelihood of getting a positive response. Finally, your other option is to engage in some online research to try to find an email address for the alum with whom you’d like to be in touch. From LinkedIn, it is likely that you know the company name where the alum works. Go to the company website to see if there is an employee directory. If no directory exists, perhaps you can find the email addresses of one or two individuals at the company. If so, you could try to use the format of their email addresses to “guess” what the email address might be for the alum.

This tool from LinkedIn is a great way to learn about alumni from SPHHS and any other schools that you attended.  Note that you also have the ability to learn about students and alumni from other schools, as well. (You just may not have as many connections, and therefore may not be able to see many complete profiles.)  To research folks at other schools, simply click on the “Change school” box in the upper right hand corner of the page. Then type in the name of the school you wish to see.  This research option can come in handy if you are moving to a new city and want to see what types of local places alumni from area schools are working.

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