It’s time for community colleges to utilitze LinkedIn to help their students, while helping themselves and their Foundations. The more points of contact between things, be it a spider web in a corner, tree roots in the ground, or ways people are connected with one another, the stronger the bond. The Foundation depends on the relationships of many to fulfill its mission. Being able to quickly identify the kind of person who can best assist us with specific projects is very useful and important.
LinkedIn was started in 2003 in Silicon Valley as a means of connecting people and making it easier for them to get their work done. The early adopters were employees, businesses, venture capitalists, recruiters, and contractors that served the hi-tech industry in the area of Northern California. Because LinkedIn started in a business environment, it quickly evolved into a sort of online resume for people. This created a culture among users on LinkedIn as one in which people are more discriminating about who they are connected with, and who they are willing to give recommendations for. LinkedIn connections can be much more valuable than those from other social media sites.
Why we need to use LinkedIn more fully
When we can identify the connections that exist between our Board Members, Deans, Volunteers, and those remotely concerned with the wellbeing of the organization, it is easier to bring people into the fold and teach them who we are, where we are headed, and why they should be involved.
If you were to make a concerted effort to get as many of the Faculty, Staff, and Board Members connected to one another it could be the beginning of a beautiful network. You can then more easily identify several possible roads to a prospective sponsor.
When we add the advantages of inside connections for students who might be looking for internships or career positions, we have a robust view of how a community college can benefit from advancing LinkedIn usage on and off-campus.
How we can help Foundations, Students and Alum at the same time
Students typically have very light profiles on LinkedIn because they haven’t been taught how to fill one out properly, and they can sometimes be intimidated by the perceived lack of experience they have to list. When someone from the Foundation takes the time to give them specific advice about how they can make the most of their LinkedIn profile it helps both the student and the college.
The Role of the Foundation
Students may not have the foresight to realize that one of their classmates could end up in a helpful, pivotal position someday when they are considering a career move, or want to make inroads with a certain company in pursuit of a contract or sale. They need to be shown how to reach out to friends and others who can help them in any future job search.
When the Faculty reaches out to their corporate connections using LinkedIn and then uses those bridges to put qualified students in intern positions, everyone wins. That’s already happening in some departments. We need to teach all our Faculty members how this can work for them and their students.
Teach Faculty how to optimize their LinkedIn network. Teach Students and Alumni how to enhance their professional positions on LinkedIn. Encourage Faculty to connect with industry for potential internships. Build bridges to alumni and students and show them what value the Foundation can be to them. Identify connections to sponsors and donors we weren’t aware of before this project.
When we get our students to start their profile and add their community college as an education source, they are not likely to remove it. We can keep track of them as they move through their careers and stages of wealth. We won’t have to search for them.
Here are the elements I am suggesting:
Bring in an expert in LinkedIn who also is versed in non-profit marketing to speak to and train the Faculty on using LinkedIn. This person can show them how to optimize their profiles, set up groups for networking for internships, and/or create online discussions with community members that may want to be guest speakers. The Career Center, the CTE division, and the Computer & Information Technology areas are naturals for reaching out to students via social media and LinkedIn.
Keep in touch with former students. In surveys, many alum have expressed a desire to spend some mentoring time with current students. This ranges from a 15-minute conversation to long-term relationships. LinkedIn can facilitate this.
Set up LinkedIn University Page. Now that LinkedIn has created their “University Pages” and opened this to the first colleges there is a special forum to communicate with our Alum and our supporters. This will also give you access to analytics of alum.
Interact with students and alum and teach them something that will further their careers, such as LinkedIn tips for success, the Foundation can build relationships with them at an early stage in their career lives. I suggest hosting a booth during graduation and take headshots that could be used for the alum.
Another Community College Development staff has been charging students $10 and setting personal appointments to advise them on their LinkedIn profile. It takes about half an hour and builds a relationship with the Foundation at an early stage.
Invite those we can identify to join groups on LinkedIn. One you have a LinkedIn Alumni Group you can contact them and invite them to join this group. Many colleges who have alum groups on LinkedIn utilize them to post career openings.
Offer no cost professional development courses. In a recent Conference call with Alumni Relations staff from across the country, it was noted that Professional Development courses are something that is being asked for by alum. One of the callers reported a strong interest in courses they are offering in Social Media. I would like to offer a series of classes on using social media for professional betterment.
Community outreach. Estimates are that 60% of people (80% of students) aren’t using LinkedIn to their best advantage. If we can show them how to do this we are building a community of friends that will be much more likely to help in the future when they are needed.
Since social media is still considered a newer topic, allowing members of the local community to join in on these seminars and workshops at the college will also create goodwill and positive public relations in the community.
Educate our students on the value of their online reputation. Today it is more important than ever to start a career search with a strong online persona that is connected to your ideal position. The best way to do this is to blog regularly on related issues.
Encourage students to own their name. I believe most students should have a URL with their name, i.e. johnsmith.com. They should use this URL to set up a simple blog and write articles that show their mastery of their area of expertise. When a prospective employer “Googles” their name this body of work will show up and help them get an interview over someone who does take the time and effort to write a regular blog post.
Train our students to blog about their major subject of study. They should have a blog set up before they finish their education. It is simple to teach blogging. It shouldn’t be hard to get one of the large hosting companies to offer hosting for a free introductory or reduced rate for students.
Link to student blogs from a.edu. Google ranks domain links that end in .edu much higher than any other type of link. If we can find a way to link to our students’ blogs, this will help their blog ranking tremendously. We might want to set up an .edu URL just for this purpose.
Work with our Marketing department. When students blog and they mention that they are students at a college, or talk about their classes, it adds to the body of information that is on the web that relates to that college. If there are lots of students blogging and using the college’s name in their articles (even if it only mentions it in their bio) it will raise the visibility of the school online in searches raising public awareness and eventually the perceived value of an education from the college.