LinkedIn is considered the social network for professionals, which means that college students, whether they are in the job market yet or not, should be using it to build their professional network.
My friend, Steven Chappell, previously posted on this blog about Why You Should Use LinkedIn More Than Facebook or Twitter. But just having a LinkedIn account certainly isn’t enough to make you stand out to potential employers. Here are some tips for using LinkedIn to network.
Write an appealing headline
LinkedIn automatically puts your current position as your profile headline. Most people don’t realize that you can (and should) change this.
You should change your headline to help you stand out. Use this space to identify your industry, specialty and/or the job you’re interested in.
Claim your URL
LinkedIn automatically gives your profile a standard, numerical address. Customize it with your name to help you stand out in Google search results.
Display an appropriate photo
Photos of you in a club, with other people or obvious selfies do not communicate professionalism. Choose a good headshot with a neutral background. If you don’t have a professional headshot, consider getting together with a friend and taking good, clear photos of each other.
Use keywords when describing your work. This increases the chances of your profile getting noticed by people in similar industries.
Complete the summary
Treat the summary as a short place to sell your personal brand, a bit like a super concise cover letter. Why should the person looking at your profile page look further and consider hiring you?
LinkedIn has a skills section where you can highlight special skills, languages, publications, etc. Be sure to be specific about what you can do here. Be honest because you may be asked to perform these skills.
It doesn’t do any good for you to have a LinkedIn account if you aren’t connecting with others. However, LinkedIn is not the same as a social medium like Twitter where you connect with anyone with an interesting profile. Connect on LinkedIn only with individuals you know who you would like to serve as potential career references for you.
LinkedIn connections are like references with degrees of separation. It is likely that potential employers will contact someone you’re both connected with, perhaps even doing this instead of your provided references.
Join groups in your professional area and representing organizations you’re already part of. This is a good way to network and make professional connections. A great place to start is your college’s alumni group, which is full of people who have a vested interest in your success.
If you don’t have much work experience, you can include your college classes on your LinkedIn profile. This is especially helpful in fields where specific, unique skills are sought after. For example, if you’re a journalist who can edit video in Final Cut Pro and code, potential employers need/want to know that.
List leadership roles
Leadership roles show how you chose to spend your time when you weren’t in class. Include volunteer experiences and student leadership experiences on your profile.
There is a difference between connecting and following. You should connect with people you know and who you wouldn’t mind being contacted informally and asked about you. You can follow pages of companies, organizations and leaders in your industry. Again, this is a great way to network with others in your profession.
If you did an internship and made a great impression on your employers, don’t be afraid to approach them for a recommendation. Recommendations make your profile more credible. Also, don’t forget about asking professors, advisers, etc. for references and connections in the beginning.
Post and engage
You can’t just build your LinkedIn profile and leave it. You need to participate in the discussion.
Post professional blog posts or relevant industry news. Be sure to include a call to action or discussion question at the end of the post to try to entice others to join the conversation.
Comment on other posts from those in your network. Be sure your comments are thoughtful and professionally written.
There’s no rule about how often you should do this, but I would try to stop in and post/engage with others once a day. This may seem like a lot, but it really only takes a couple of minutes to add this to your current social media mix. It’s worth skipping one Snapchat photo post a day to make time to build your professional network.
LinkedIn is not a social medium for sharing what you ate for lunch or how excited you are that your bestie is coming to town. Use full sentences, proper grammar and appropriate punctuation. Avoid slang and exclamation points.
Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile as you evolve as a professional and add experiences.
Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to invest in your LinkedIn page. It’s too late at that point. Consider ongoing LinkedIn updates as part of your professional development/branding.
LinkedIn is considered the social network for professionals, which means that college students should be using it, whether you’re currently looking for an internship/job or not.
But “using” LinkedIn is about more than just building a profile and waiting for internship and job offers to coming pouring in.
I hope this post helped you better understand how to build your LinkedIn profile and engage on the social medium in a way that will benefit you professionally.
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I am the first to admit that my personal LinkedIn profile needs some work. Therefore, I’m sure I missed points here that would be helpful to students. What advice would you give students for building a LinkedIn profile and engaging there?