LinkedIn.com is a social networking site that is mainly used for professional networking purposes by over 70 million users.  The majority of people who use the site have found it to be an extremely valuable tool for keeping in contact with their professional network.  Gone are the days of a big rolodex filled with business cards, as LinkedIn allows you to keep a virtual version of all your contacts.

Getting started on LinkedIn is very easy.  Simply go to the website and start to build your profile by entering information about your current and past employment, education and professional specialty areas.  You can even upload your resume to make the process easier!

Once you have built your profile, it is time to start connecting with others.  You can start by importing your contacts from many popular email programs or simply add individuals you know professionally.  LinkedIn recommends that you have at least 65 connections to give you significant reach to find people.  Having 65 connections usually translates into being able to connect to approximately 19,460 second connections (the people your connections know) and 1,277,180 third connections (the people your second connections know).  As you can see, your network can grow exponentially!

Another great way to connect with others on LinkedIn is to join Groups.  Groups are formed around many different areas including geographic locations, colleges, professional organizations, and interests.  You can start by joining the UMass Amherst Alumni Association LinkedIn Group and start connecting with over 12,000 members already networking there!