One Super Easy Way to Expand Your LinkedIn Network

LinkedIn is an important tool for the young working professional, but many people don’t know how to effectively maximize this resource… or even see it as a resource at all! In this post, I’ll share one of my top tricks for weeding through the thousands of possible connections so you can find the people who you really want to connect with.

Every time I log in (which probably more than most!), I get new faces in my “People you many know” tab. Sometimes I know them, most times I don’t, but usually they’re people who may not be the most effective connections for my career. Effective connections are people who can help you move forward, whether through mentorship, their network, or potential collaboration on future projects.

Now, not all of your LinkedIn connections need to be “effective” – connecting with people you know in real life is definitely a great idea since they could open up more doors – but it’s necessary to be strategic when adding people you don’t know in the flesh. It’s a good idea to choose people who are in the field you want to be in and doing work that either 1) is similar to yours (or what you want to do) or 2) can complement your pursuits. This way, when you write a customized “I’d like to connect” message, you can give provide the person with reasons they should want to connect with you, too. Otherwise, they’ll be like “Why is this stranger trying to join my network?” and could potentially not add you.

(Pro tip: Always customize your connection message!)

But scrolling through the faces and reading the captions on the “People you many know” page is quite the arduous task. It’s very easy to get lost and very hard to find the information that you need to know if the person you’re seeing is going to be an effective connection or not. You have to read all the profiles for the information you want… which can make you look like a creeper because the person can see that you visited their profile and you don’t know the person (or haven’t seen the person in years)… So yeah, who wants to deal with that?

*ESPN 30 for 30 voice* What I told you that you didn’t have to do any of that?

Presenting: The alumni filter!

The alumni filter on LinkedIn is a way for you to quickly and easily find people who attended the same school(s) as you, thus helping you leverage your school-based network. While it is limited to your institutions, it is by no means limited, as this is often the most effective network that you are part of. Chances are great that alums from your school are doing things that you’re interested in, and the fact that you have the shared experience of attending the same institutions makes it much more likely for them to help you out.

This tool is more useful that reading over the results in other sections because the filters are using information from individual profiles, not just their headline blurbs. Therefore, it can give you more granular results in a fraction of the time. Sounds good, huh? Here’s how to use it.

Step 1: Find the page.
Critical step! You need to be on the right page of the website before you can do anything with it! ????
Go to your homepage, and click on “My Network.” Then click on “Find alumni” from the dropdown menu and you’re there.


post pic 1

post pic 2

Step 2: Figure out your parameters.
This is the important part, as it will determine how successful this search is. Since you’re on LinkedIn and seeking out connecting for a purpose, think about it deeply and answer these questions:

  • Who are you trying to find? What do they do?
  • What sorts of people do you want to connect with? Old alums, recent grads, or both?
  • Are there specific industries or companies that you prefer?
  • Are there locations that you’re interested in?

Step 3: Use the filters.
Now that you know who and what you’re looking for, put them into the filters. If you don’t see exactly what you want, be sure to click the “Show More” button. There are plenty of options!

pic 3

It’s good to be as specific as possible to ensure that your results are as useful as possible. For the example below, I’m looking for any Columbia alums in the greater Salt Lake City area who work in education. (To add a city that’s not listed, click the magnifying glass and type it in.) I’m sure the results will be minimal, but this shows how granular you can get.

post pic 4

post pic 5


Step 4: Go through results.
The list that gets returned should be exactly what you’ve put in. In some cases, it will results in a ton of returns, others will only have a few (or zero). In this case, I found 36 people – which is way more than I expected!

post pic 6

If you don’t get the folks you’re looking for, just go through more filter combinations until you get the yield you want.

Step 5: Repeat as needed.

The LinkedIn alumni filter makes it very easy to find the potential connections who can help you get your career on track. With just a few clicks, you can get a manageable list of results that you can use in your personal career development journey. Not only is it great to have such individuals in your network, but they are also a great resource for informational interviews and industry research in general. It’s just one way to make this powerful website work to your benefit.

(PS: Need more LinkedIn help? Check out this post on how to use the site in the least creepy way possible. Also, download the essential checklist for profile development. Enjoy!)


Dr. Lindsay is career development & academic success coach who loves helping people figure out and proceed to the next levels of their lives.