The University Network

The Millennial Rolodex: Networking Through LinkedIn

Physical Rolodexes may have outlived their physical usefulness, but the concept behind them will never be obsolete. We millennials just have a slightly different tool for the exact same purpose. And it is LinkedIn. I speak from my own experience.

LinkedIn was first described to me as “Facebook for people with jobs.” The comment was intended as a joke, but it actually sums up LinkedIn very well. The only difference is that we don’t have to feel guilty for spending hours on end on it. When we connect with people on LinkedIn, we are expanding our personal network.

And as college students in a competitive job market who want to employed after graduating, there is almost nothing more important than networking. It is a point that parents, teachers, and college career advisors beat to death, but it really is true. So many of the college graduates that I know are only employed because of someone they knew, often someone they met through networking.

I personally experienced it as well.

A few years ago, when I was still brand new to the internship/job application process, I was sitting in a group interview at a boutique investment firm in midtown Manhattan. The two other business students in the room and I had just survived a Q&A session with the firm’s two managing partners and were speaking with a senior broker, who, as it turned out, was something of a legend in the Wall Street trading scene. One of the first questions he asked us was if we had 500 connections on LinkedIn — he didn’t bother to ask if we had profiles on the site, but rather assumed that we would. When we collectively answered that we did not, he asked me how many we had. None of us had very many.

The trader shook his head upon hearing this. “You need to hit the 500 connection mark,” he told us. “Shoot to have that many by this time next year.”

He later told us that we should all add him, as well as everyone we had met at his office that day. I never forgot his advice. The next day, I added him on LinkedIn and he sent me a private message asking if I was still interested in an internship. It was then that I realized how powerful and important a tool LinkedIn truly was.

The following semester, I found myself at my college’s annual Alumni Career Symposium, an event featuring many of my alma mater’s most successful graduates. When I found myself sitting next to one of the most important designers at J. Crew, one of my favorite clothing brands, I asked him how he’d landed a job with such a company and what the employment journey had been like for him.

He replied that it had been his first job out of college and he had landed the position by reaching out to one of J. Crew’s recruitment heads on LinkedIn and asking if there were any positions available at the company. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to people on LinkedIn,” he told me. “Even if you don’t think there’s any chance that the company would hire you, it’s worth a shot.”

I didn’t doubt his words for a moment.

For about the past year and a half, I’ve been trying to add people on LinkedIn every day. Sometimes I reach out to people who work in recruitment for local companies, be they large or small. My connections include Jordan Belfort of the “Wolf of Wall Street” and my favorite fashion designer. I have met neither of them, but both seem like worthwhile connections to have.

It’s been almost a year since that fateful interview and I’m close to breaking the 500 connection mark.

Aside from helping you connect with people, LinkedIn also provides great job and internship recommendations on a daily basis and helps match you up with positions that it thinks you are well suited for based on your connections.

LinkedIn holds more people than any Rolodex and thanks to smartphone technology, I can take it with me wherever I go. It really is a more useful tool than Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform you may care to name. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you should be.