CES invited Puget Sound alumnus Ben Bradley ’08 to write about his experience using LinkedIn while conducting a post-graduation job search:
Networking fascinates me.
I used my time in school to get as many informational interviews as possible. The statement, “I’m a graduating senior, and would love to hear more about what you do” became my mantra. I also began utilizing LinkedIn much more thoroughly. Other social networking sites were great for staying in touch with friends, but didn’t feel appropriate for my professional network.
I had a slow start, connecting first with former colleagues, internship managers, and the people who provided me with informational interviews. But that got the ball rolling. Over time, LinkedIn became my digital rolodex—one that kept me updated on what my network was currently doing. Unlike an e-mail address that changes any time someone switches companies, causing weeks if not months of challenge to get back in touch, I now had a way of staying connected no matter where someone moved.
After graduating and entering the field of Management Consulting, I continued to develop my network at a steady pace. I made one or two connections each week. I maintained this pace until the economy’s downturn created a change in my circumstances. Lay-offs came unexpectedly over night, and I was suddenly, weeks before Christmas, a victim of my company’s revenues running dry. That morning, I had less than an hour to get what I needed off my company laptop. That was when it hit: Unlike an episode of Madmen, where when you leave, you must stealthily sneak your contact’s information out with you, LinkedIn allowed me to take my network with me.
Post-holiday season, I began making phone calls, and sending e-mails and LinkedIn messages to everyone I knew. I let them know of my circumstances, and set up coffee dates, lunches, happy hours, and dinners. Without LinkedIn I would have struggled to remember the names of everyone I had met over the past few years.
At the same time, I realized I needed to continue to build my network. I set a goal of 3 connections a day.
I found people I had initially resisted adding because I had put them in the “friends” category, not realizing that upon graduating, they were also part of my professional network. I connected with professors, university administrators, and others with whom I had informational interviews. I was put in touch with HR recruiters, alumni who owned businesses and friends’ family members who had leads on hiring within their firms. All of these people worked their way into my LinkedIn network.
After months of searching and realizing I wanted to be in a different field than consulting, I landed back at my alma mater, the University of Puget Sound, in the office of Career and Employment Services. I am now working in a role where I am able to use my knowledge of networking to assist students going through the same struggle I endured — trying to figure out what to do when you can’t find a job, or where to begin your career search.
LinkedIn provides a 21st Century Rolodex that not only holds a name and phone number, but updates, history, and opportunities to further develop one’s network. It kept me actively connecting with new people during my time of unemployment, and held my morale from waning thanks to the ease with which I could keep in touch with my network.
There is a sense of comfort in knowing that a network built with LinkedIn is yours, not that of your company. When you leave, whether by choice or economic pressure, your network is not being “let go” as well.
© 2010 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Ross Mulhausen