LinkedIn is the one social network college students, considering a career in Marketing, should be a part of. Why? Your professional reputation depends on it. LinkedIn has brought together over 400 Million professionals, small business owners, entrepreneurs, job seekers and college students in an effort to make it easier to solve a simple professional task; to find someone that knows the answer.
Below are ten tips college students should consider when using this professional online networking tool.
1. Remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook nor is it a job board and should not be treated as such.
In an interview with Charlie Rose of PBS, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, is quoted as saying “LinkedIn is a tool for solving professional task.” Basically, work related problems can be solved here. If you need someone to help you with accounting, finding new funding for a business, or simply getting answers from the community about a specific topic LinkedIn is a tool to help solve those tasks. Facebook is not a professional networking tool. It is a collaborative social community of friends. You may not realize this now but your professional and social lives may not mix very well when you get out of school. The same goes for online networks.
2. Create a profile using keywords that describe you as a student that will become a professional in your field.
Keywords are critical to being found on LinkedIn. If you are about to finish school and have figured out what career field you are targeting you need to keywords that fit your field throughout your profile. Remember that when using keywords they need to flow in your profile, otherwise it will appear you are trying to cheat the system.
3. Connect with your college professors and ask for recommendations
Here is a big opportunity to show potential employers that you work hard and are still teachable. Ask your college professors if they are on LinkedIn. If they are, connect with them and maintain a professional relationship with them. Let’s say you have worked your butt off all semester for this professor and have received a few “at-a-boys” from him or her. Ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn. If you really enjoyed your professor’s class and was able to walk away more enlightened than you were before then give them a recommendation. Their professional network is important to them as well.
4. Connect with your classmates.
It is early in the game of life. Connect with your classmate. When you all get out of school you will continue to grow your professional networks. When it becomes time to find a new job or look for someone to solve that professional task you have your have a significant resource to turn to.
5. Research companies that interest you and reach out to employees that could potentially be a mentor.
Do you know where you want to work when you get out of school? Probably not. But you have a general idea. Using the company directory on LinkedIn will help you identify businesses that offer services that potentially fit your education. You can also use the company directory to find where employees of that company have worked before and after they were employed there. This will help you create a list of companies to target when looking for internships or full time employment.
6. Join groups that are related to your field of study, school or a local networking group.
You may not connect with everyone in your class or everyone that ever when to your school. LinkedIn Groups help you reach out to those that you have a common interest with. By being a member of a LinkedIn Group you can start discussions with group members about topics related to the group, share news and comment on it, as well as message members that you are not directly connected with. This is helpful because it does not require you to take the extra step of asking for an introduction from a member of your network.
7. Use the Amazon read list app to show your connections what you are reading up on. Are you reading books related to your new career field? If so, share that with your network and anyone else that may be looking at your profile. You can also follow a connection’s list and get ideas for what you should be reading next.
When I originally wrote this post LinkedIn offered integration with a number of third-party apps. So, I’m updating this to suggest you check out LinkedIn’s Youniversity section.
7. Use LinkedIn Youniversity to find a school, a program, alumni and employers.
Take a step back from your LinkedIn profile for just a moment and look at a much bigger picture. LinkedIn is a collection of employment migration data. Based on what information users provide can show you if you go to a specific school, get a specific degree that a specific employer will likely be recruiting you. It’s big data you can actually use to predict your future. If you wanted to earn a marketing degree and work at Google, you should attend the University of Pennsylvania. If you want to be a software developer and work for a startup, your best bet is going to be at Stanford University or MIT. Whatever your educational and career goals are, LinkedIn has the data to show you the paths to your opportunity.
8. Update your status to let your network know what you are working on or if you need help with something
This is a feature you really only need to use once a day at most. The reason is because LinkedIn does not show a timeline of updates like Twitter does. Remember to keep your updates professional. An example of an update could be “I am working on my thesis about the financial collapse of the Japanese financial markets of 1996.” Connections will see this and could comment on your status update offering advice or words of encouragements
9. Update your public profile URL to something easy to remember, preferably your name.
LinkedIn provides you with a public URL that you can share in an email signature or on a business card. This URL directs everyone to your public profile page. This is great but the URL that LinkedIn gives you is difficult to remember because of the random letters and numbers in the URL. However, you can and should customize this URL to something easy to remember. Preferably, try to use your name. If you have a common name, use a middle initial in your vanity URL. Try not to use numbers. They are distracting and leave people guessing what they mean.
10. Your profile picture should be professional
When choosing a profile picture remember to keep it professional and relevant to your career field. The best profile shots are head and shoulder shots. Make sure the picture is clear. Try not to use your cell phone camera. You cannot enlarge a picture on LinkedIn to get a better look so pick a clear and well adjusted profile photo.
This post was updates January 5, 2015.