I wrote this post for the RWOE blog. The blog was put on hold before this was able to be published.
LinkedIn for Students
by Nicole LaChance
Social media is fun. Whether uploading a photo of your dog to Instagram, reading a celebrity’s latest tweet, pinning delicious-looking recipes or stalking high school classmates on Facebook, almost everyone is connected in some way. It’s almost unheard of to meet someone without an account on at least one site. However, as fun as it is to share videos of sneezing pandas or crazy dances, social media can be a huge tool in building a professional image.
One of the biggest sites that help with this is LinkedIn. (www.linkedin.com) The site’s main aim is basically virtual networking. Professionals from all over the world can connect, share information and give references to current and former colleagues. As a student you may be thinking, “I have no colleagues, so why would I make an account? It’s only for professionals.” If that’s how you feel, read on and find the answer to your question. You may just create an account after all.
1. It’s easy and free. The basic version of LinkedIn that many people use is free. So even if you create an account and never use it, you didn’t waste any money. Once you do decide to log on it’s pretty easy to create a profile. The site runs you through step by step and you can add as much or as little information as possible. You can even upload your resume and it will pull out the jobs for you, meaning you have to do almost no work at all.
2. Connect with alumni and professionals in your field of interest. Once you’ve logged on and created a profile look at the top of the page. You should see a tab called “Groups.” Click on that tab. It can be one of the most useful sections of the site. Say you graduated from the University of Florida. By joining a UF group you can connect with alumni from all over the world, alumni who may work at companies with open internships and may be interested in hiring a fellow Gator. You can also start discussions asking for advice on specific topics and career fields.
Groups aren’t just limited to universities. If there is a career field you are interested in, chances are there is a group for it. Entry-level engineers? Check. Writing jobs? Check. Accounting professionals? Check. People in these groups will usually be willing to give you career advice, connect you with internships and will often post related jobs. There are also area-specific groups connected to career fields and universities.
3. Follow companies. Is there a company you have always dreamed of working for? With LinkedIn you can follow the company and get updates on changes and big news. Many companies will also post job and internship openings for their followers to view. This means that followers can be informed of open positions almost instantly. News from companies you follow will be posted on your home page, similar to a news feed.
4. Expand your resume. Companies typically prefer paper resumes to be one page, especially from entry-level employees and interns. This can be very limiting and cause some activities to be left of. Since LinkedIn profiles are virtual the page limit is not an issue and you can be as detailed as you please in your descriptions. The site also allows users to post projects, awards, links to portfolios and social media sites and, especially beneficial to students, course lists. If you are e-mailing a contact about a possible internship simply include the link to your profile along with your resume and encourage them to check it out for additional details on your qualifications.
5. Find and apply for jobs and internships. As stated in points two and three, LinkedIn can also function as a job search tool. Members typically receive a weekly e-mail listing jobs and internships they may be interested in. If there is a company you really want to intern for and they haven’t posted anything, try seeing if you can find the hiring manager or internship coordinator’s profile and view their contact information (if it’s public). Contacting them directly usually leads to better results and they may be impressed with your determination. More and more companies are letting potential employees apply for jobs directly with their LinkedIn profile, making it easy and convenient for both parties.