The Missing “Link” to your Dream Internship: Connecting with your School’s Alumni on LinkedIn

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The Missing “Link” to your Dream Internship:  Connecting with your School’s Alumni on LinkedIn blog image

The Missing “Link” to your Dream Internship: Connecting with your School’s Alumni on LinkedIn

This blog is courtesy of Melissa Olney, our Campus Ambassador at Wake Forest University.

Last year, I knew I wanted to intern at a law firm, but as a rising college sophomore and with most firms only listing internships for law students, I knew the odds were not in my favor. However, I was able to do the seemingly impossible and land a paid undergraduate summer internship at a nationally top-ranked law firm using my university’s alumni network on LinkedIn! In fact, LinkedIn is the go-to social media outlet for landing your dream internship. It is the premier professional social network with more than 175 million members worldwide. Don’t have a profile yet? You better get on that!

Once you set up your profile, and hopefully had it reviewed by a career counselor, I advise you to do the following:

1) Join alumni groups: I searched LinkedIn and became a member of my university’s alumni group, which has over 10,000 members. I also recommend joining:

-University career connectors group: If your school doesn’t have one yet I highly recommend suggesting that your career office create one. This group is specifically designed for current students to connect with alumni. Both students and alumni can post in the group about job seeking or hiring opportunities.

-Campus organizational groups: If you are a member of specific academic, Greek, athletic, community service or other interest based group on campus, search to see if there is a LinkedIn alumni group for your organization. This will be a smaller group, but you will share common interests with these alumni.

2) Know what you want: What is your top priority? Is there a specific company you want to work for? Or would you be happy with any job in a particular industry? Does location matter?

3) Start searching within your groups: Click on the “Members” tab and start searching using key terms in the “Search Members” bar. Key terms might be a company name, a profession, or a location such as city or state.

4) Think outside the box: You must be creative with your search terms. Don’t stop looking if no one comes up on your first search. You may need to refine it several times to capture what you are looking for like I had to do. I actually was most successful after simply searching, “Attorney South Carolina.”

5) Inbox: Once you’ve found alumni, send them a free message through the group by scrolling over their name and hitting the “Send Message” button that appears on the right side of their listing. Be sure to include the following in your message:

- As a form of privacy, many users don’t list their last name, so instead address the alumni as “Mr./Ms. First Name.”
- Introduce yourself as a student and tell them that you found their profile through the university’s alumni network.
- Write a few short sentences about yourself including your major/minor and your career interests.
- Explain how they “have personal insights and advice that would help you learn more about a career in their field.” Offer them a personal compliment based on their LinkedIn profile or employer.
- Ask about how they got started in the field and that you are interested in an internship in that field. Be sure to word this carefully so that you are not directly asking them for a job.
- Offer to send them a copy of your resume and provide times you are available in case they want to talk with you via phone, Skype, or in-person.

6) Have Patience: This step is key! Many alumni may not check their LinkedIn profiles as frequently as email or other modes of communication so don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. I messaged five alumni and only heard back from two, one of which didn’t write me back for several weeks. But once the conversation gets flowing hopefully the alumnus can connect you to the right people and you can get an application or be considered for an internship like I was!

7) Follow-up and say, “Thank You”: Hopefully you know the rules by now! Never forget this crucial step no matter the outcome. If the alumnus has given you another form of contact, contact them via email or handwritten letter instead of LinkedIn.