Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Using LinkedIn Alumni to Explore Careers and Majors

If you want to make a career change,  choose a career, or choose a majorLinkedIn Alumni is a helpful addition to other career information resources that opens your mind to career and education options.

Because LinkedIn Alumni is organized around schools and studies instead of occupations, it’s really best used as a turbo-charged “what can I do with a major in” career exploration tool. And despite the word “Alumni,” anyone can use it, college graduate or not.

Getting Started: First, click on LinkedIn Alumni and choose a college or university.  You don’t have to be a school’s graduate or current student to see information about its graduates. It could be a school you’re interested in attending, a big university near you, or a school you attended.

So although I didn’t graduate from North Carolina State University, I can still see what their graduates studied or majored in, their skills, the types of work they do, and where they work. I just uploaded a related video, "Explore Careers Using LinkedIn Alumni", on thecareerkey YouTube channel:

1. Look at the types of jobs listed for a field of study, exploring those that interest you.
After you’ve chosen a school, click on “what [graduates] studied” in the 4th column over.  You’ll see the graph adjust and narrow to graduates of that field.  I chose “Social Sciences”.  Notice that the study choices can be broad (like social sciences, which includes economics and sociology) or specific, like chemical engineering.

You can also start by narrowing results based on the type of job first, called “What they do”, and then field of study. If you’re already focused on careers in education, then start there.

2. Notice the types of skills most listed by graduates in a field of study.
When you choose a field of study, notice the column next to it “What they’re skilled at.” Take a note of skills you have on that list and those you don’t; this will give you ideas for ones to focus on and strengthen. (Our “Identify Your Skills” articles will also help you in that process).

3. After choosing categories of “What they do” and “What they studied,” look at individual job titles and profiles by clicking “3rd connections + Everyone Else” in the “How you are connected” column.

Scroll down to see the people listed. Are there any job titles that surprise you? Interest you? Consider these people as possible sources for information interviews.  Even if the person lives far away or there is no realistic way to make a connection to them, you might search locally for someone similar, working in a similar type of job.

To avoid getting overwhelmed by information, you’ll need to tailor your search to what interests you most. For example, you could get indicators of job outlook in certain geographic areas (where they live) and the most popular employers (where they work).  The best thing is to just dive in and look around.

Note: I found LinkedIn’s “Skills & Expertise” tool (under the “More” tab of the top navigation menu) to be less informative – the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET Code Connector has much more accurate, detailed information about skills careers require.  And LinkedIn takes its career descriptions from Wikipedia, not my first choice for career information.

For an overview of LinkedIn Alumni and the different ways it can be used, visit the excellent LinkedIn Blog post “Start Mapping Your Career with LinkedIn Alumni.”  I’m sure this is only the beginning of uses for this tool. Do you have other suggestions for using LinkedIn Alumni for researching careers? Please leave a comment.

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