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March 13, 2013


Career Center Helps Faculty, Staff Learn Tools To Aid Students

By Heidi Opdyke

More than 55,000 Carnegie Mellon students and alumni have LinkedIn accounts but their connections to faculty and staff may be just as helpful.

John Hill, LinkedIn's Higher Education Evangelist, recently offered learning and development sessions for faculty and staff through the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) at the Pittsburgh campus to share ways they can assist students start their careers.

"It's amazing how it has changed access to jobs," Hill told the 75 attendees. The professional networking site has been around for a decade and has more than 200 million members. Hill said that more than 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies now use LinkedIn and other sites to conduct job searches.

This was the first time that the CPDC has hosted a workshop for faculty and staff, said Debra Ignelzi, a CPDC assistant director and career consultant. They wanted to provide faculty and staff with tools to help coach students to use the website effectively.

For example, once logged into the system, a user can look under the contacts tab to learn information about colleges. Once there you can see how many students and alumni have the school in common, and users can sort through information such as where people live, work, job functions, topics of study, skills and how closely they are connected to the person conducting the search.

"LinkedIn is a major networking tool," Ignelzi said. "We're hoping that a seed has been planted and that we can use this great network to its full advantage since we are positioned in the global marketplace already."

Andy Shaindlin, associate vice president for Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, said that connecting people to each others' extended networks may be the most important aspect for students and alumni.

"By connecting with an alumnus, for example, a CMU student is gaining access to that alum's extended professional network, which goes well beyond the CMU community," Shaindlin said.

He said faculty and staff also can benefit by enabling others to find them according to their experience, expertise and interests. They also can discover what peers and colleagues are learning and doing, which often provides a road map to trends in their own professions.

Because colleges are connected to profiles, it can allow job seekers to find an alumni connection that could open a door at a time when a company is inundated with resumes.

Hill said it was important for students to create networks before they need them and to keep in mind that they should be built on quality relationships rather than quantity.

There are four major affiliations to start making those connections: family and friends; university affiliations; workplace affiliations; and volunteer interests. To make LinkedIn be useful, networks should have at least 30 connections for students and 50 connections for professionals.

But, Hill said those networks need to go beyond just sending an email.

"[At LinkedIn] we support you with helping students take conversations offline," he said. The best way to engage with someone is to gather information from the website and then call potential contacts to invite them to share information.

One way to find potential connections is the official CMU Alumni Association group, which has more than 21,000 alumni members and is open to students. LinkedIn members can find the group by selecting "Groups" in the Search menu, and typing in "Carnegie Mellon Alumni."

"We encourage students and alumni to join the group," Shaindlin said. "It can help them build out their CMU network, which is a lifelong resource. LinkedIn is one way to make the CMU alumni network visible and accessible to anyone who can benefit from it."

Another program for faculty and staff will take place on Monday, April 8. Details are still being finalized.

For more information about CPDC programs, visit