LinkedIn stalking. It’s the new form of Facebook stalking for when you want more information on a certain career. You start with your connections, looking to see where the valedictorian of your high school in your freshman year ended up (Google, no surprise there). You’re searching through Rice alumni, trying to figure out what people with your major are doing now (they’re all doctors–you sigh as a BIOC non-premed…).
There’s that one, glorious, glamorous human being, who happened to end with your dream job! You click on their profile and it’s like looking 10 years into the future–this is exactly where you want to be! Score!
Now here’s where it gets tricky: how do you tell them that they are basically all of your dreams and goals embodied without, you know, telling them that they are basically all of your dreams and goals embodied. The last thing you want to do is come off sounding like a creepy, obnoxious, desperate stalker. That’s why you’re reading this post and where I can help (somewhat). 🙂
You have a few options of how to reach out to them now. If you’re super on top of your game and you have a LinkedIn Premium account, feel free to shoot alumni an InMail message. I’ll get into the details of what this sort of message should contain in a little bit.
If you don’t have an LinkedIn Premium account, I suggest signing up for a free (yes, you read that right) trial of the service. Go ahead and click on the little link in your LinkedIn messages that prompts you to sign up–feel free to cancel the service later if you don’t feel like it’s for you. That allows you to send InMail messages (which have larger character restrictions, making for a more impactful message) to the alumni that you want to contact.
If the swag associated with LinkedIn Premium isn’t for you, start by simply connecting with them. Remember to replace that generic LinkedIn connection request with something that tells them who you are. Anything along the lines of “Hello <Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name>, My name is and I’m currently a at Rice, studying <major(s)>. If you have some time, I’d love to ask you a few questions about your career path. Please feel free to contact me at .” should work perfectly.
So, they’ve accepted your connection request. That’s Step #1 complete!
Ok, now you want to give them a little more information. Along with your introduction (yes, include it again, in case they missed it the first time), tell them why you’re interested in talking to them specifically and send them a few questions so that they know what sort of information you’re looking for. For example:
“Hello <Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name>,
My name is and I’m currently a at Rice, studying <major(s)>. I am interested in <industry/role>. In looking through the LinkedIn profiles of Rice graduates, I see that you have done so very successfully.
I wanted to know your thoughts on the field of . .
Thank you so much for your time and advice. I can also be reached at .
Hit send. Step #2 (and the whole deal) complete! Congratulations on finding out more about your dream career!
- They may email you back or ask to set up a time to chat via phone. Don’t worry if they want to talk to you over the phone; they were once college students looking for career guidance too. I promise, they aren’t scary (mostly)!
- Remember to send a brief thank you note to their email (if you have it) or LinkedIn thanking them once again for their time. You want to maintain this connection for the future too, after all, this person has the job that you might eventually want!
- If you feel like you want multiple perspectives on a field, ask if there are other people that they suggest you talk to or can put you in contact with. There’s no harm in trying to network further–the worst they can say is no.
- Ask if there are any opportunities that they suggest you look into to learn more about the career or industry. Who knows, they may offer to have you shadow them for a day or even offer to forward your resume to their recruiters for an internship (double score!).
- Finally, don’t get disheartened if they don’t reply right away. Working professionals are busy people, and they might not have seen your message. If you haven’t heard back in a week, follow up with a note asking if they received your message. If they still don’t reply, try contacting someone else.
Shikha Avancha is a Peer Career Advisor from Lovett College. She is a sophomore studying biochemistry and cell biology.