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Students and alumni frequent LinkedIn for networking

Although social networks such as Facebook and Twitter dominate the daily lives of Duke students, LinkedIn has recently carved out a role as the professional network of choice.

Since LinkedIn launched in 2003, the site has witnessed massive growth and now has more than 300 million members in more than 200 countries, according to the website. More than 30,000 of those are members of the Duke University Alumni Network, a group that allows for the development of professional relationships among alumni, faculty, staff and current students. A more general search for Duke alumni—through the site’s connections tab—reveals more than 73,000 former Duke students with LinkedIn profiles. Those statistics indicate the growing presence of LinkedIn within the Duke community—a microcosm of the professional world, which is increasingly concerned with the immediacy of information and the reputation of employees.

Duke’s LinkedIn presence shows few signs of fading. The Duke University Alumni Network continues to grow as new graduating classes enter the job market and search for connections through Duke.

“Especially after graduation, we’ll get a hundred new members a week asking to join,” said Sarah Baker, senior program coordinator for campus engagement and owner of the LinkedIn group.

Baker, Trinity ‘13, said the LinkedIn network for Duke alumni and the connections functionality—which allows for detailed searches of former Duke students—are invaluable tools for students looking to explore the career paths of alumni and possibly make a professional connection.

The LinkedIn network and the various other social networking avenues available are important resources for students to create a reputation and develop a substantial professional presence, said Cameo Hartz, associate director for graduate student career services at the Career Center. “Reputation is really important, whether it be personal, professional, with your friends, your family—and social networks are a way to have your reputation precede you or exist in a way that people can see and understand, even having never met you,” Hartz said.

She added that while LinkedIn may be the foremost professional social network, niche networks like GitHub are also effective resources for getting involved in communities that focus on specific professions.

LinkedIn offers a certain amount of specificity as well. One feature of the connections tab allows users to look at collected statistics about the majors, skills, professions and employers of alumni with profiles.

Duke’s statistics indicate that, with 9,696 members, economics majors are the most populous demographic, while those who studied medicine only account for 1,279 of the alumni on LinkedIn—a conspicuous misrepresentation of the actual demographics of Duke students.

Hartz explained that certain professional communities simply have less use for LinkedIn than others.

“I work with Master’s and Ph.D. students, and academics may be less likely to be on LinkedIn than perhaps other populations because of the nature of their work,” Hartz said.

At the Fuqua School of Business, there is no shortage of LinkedIn profiles. A simple search of Duke University on the LinkedIn website reveals a large contingency of MBA candidates looking to network and research future employment opportunities.

“I think pretty much everyone in this building uses LinkedIn,” said first-year MBA student Logan Besuden, referring to the Fox Student Center. “When we’re looking at different companies that we might want to work for after we leave and finish our MBAs, it’s a really good way to identify people who we might know who already work there.”

Still, many at Duke use LinkedIn in a far less employment-oriented manner. Greg Brown—a first year law student—said he is yet to use the social network for employment purposes, but has utilized LinkedIn as a means to connect with friends and acquaintances.

But with social networks like Facebook and Twitter retaining their popularity for personal use, LinkedIn will continue to function primarily as a professional tool for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t use LinkedIn because it’s not relevant to anything I’m trying to do right now. I’m not trying to get a job,” freshman Kunaal Sharma said. “Maybe in the future when I’m actually applying for jobs, it might be useful to get a LinkedIn.”

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