About five years ago Charlie Kemper (McC98), a venture capitalist based in New York City, expanded his network to thousands of men and women who could help him advance in his profession, offer him career advice and make connections in his field.
He didn't have to hand out business cards or shake hands at a conference — he didn't even have to leave his home.
Kemper joined the LinkedIn community, a professional online networking site that has grown to include more than 30 million professionals from around the world since its launch in May 2003.
"I meet a lot of people on a regular basis for my job," Kemper says. "LinkedIn is a great way to keep in contact with these people and also reach out to people. By leveraging my current network of contacts, all of whom I've worked with in the past, I'm able to use LinkedIn to conduct references and due diligence, to get warm introductions to other people or companies I'm trying to meet and to recruit experienced talent for my portfolio companies."
Kemper noticed groups forming within the LinkedIn community: sports fans groups, hobbies and interests groups and, most prominently, alumni groups. LinkedIn users can create a profile that summarizes their professional accomplishments, then search for and connect with current and former colleagues and clients and reach out to other users with similar interests by joining any of a variety of thematic groups.
"I saw that there wasn't a Northwestern alumni group," Kemper says. "So I started one. I wanted to see how I could extend my network and even help the University with fundraising. And, of course, I'm proud to be purple."
The Northwestern alumni group has been growing virally, says Aspasia Apostolakis Miller (GC94), Northwestern Alumni Association director of career services, students and young alumni. "Alumni and students look to their alma mater for career support, and LinkedIn is the premier professional networking service."
Last fall Kemper handed the alumni group over to the NAA. Membership in the Northwestern LinkedIn group has increased from 2,200 last June to more than 8,000 in December.
The Medill School of Journalism and Kellogg School of Management have had their own groups on LinkedIn since spring 2008.
The NAA promotes the LinkedIn group on the career networking section of its web site. For those alumni who are not familiar with the ins and outs of online networking, NAA career services will host web seminars in March on how to make the most of a LinkedIn profile.
"It's a great tool nowadays," Apostolakis says. "There are plenty of alumni feeling less secure about jobs because of the economy. Some want to reconnect with fellow alumni and make new connections in order to be prepared for a change."
Michael Rice (BSM96), a professional opera singer from Chicago and tech-savvy podcast producer of the show OperaNow!, decided to join the LinkedIn alumni group to see what career opportunities were available for his other passion — Internet media production.
"I'm an opera singer looking to make a career change," he says.
After joining the Northwestern alumni group, he posted a discussion titled, "Musician looking to make a career change." Within two weeks Rice had five responses from alumni with advice and some with projects for Rice to get involved with. Several of the responses came from classical musicians who had found careers in digital media. "I've contacted them, and it's been an ongoing conversation," Rice says.
— Christina Rosales (J11)
Join the NAA's LinkedIn group by visiting www.alumni.northwestern.edu/careers, where you can also find job postings, a career blog and other networking options. For additional information about alumni career services, including individual career consultations and job fairs, visit University Career Services' web site at www.northwestern.edu/careers.