Many students use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites but likely not for job search or professional networking purposes (a topic for a future post). However, when asked about LinkedIn, most admit they have a half-completed profile at best or they lament that their uncle has been bugging them to sign up and "connect" but they haven't had time or understand why it's important.
If you have a partially completed profile on Facebook, would you really be using or benefitting from membership? Of course not! So having a partially completed profile on LinkedIn and remaining inactive doesn't provide any benefit either.
There's a lot of confusion about how and why using LinkedIn is helpful when exploring careers or searching for jobs and internships. It's fun to connect with friends and family on sites like Facebook but the prospect of networking with unknown professionals is intimidating and scary for most of us. However, making professional connections in fields of interest is critical to your job or internship success.
You can learn a lot just from looking at profiles of entry-level professionals in fields or organizations of interest. Reading someone's profile is similar to looking over their resume. Of course, to gain the most benefit, you need to be proactive and take advantage of the many features available on LinkedIn. For example, did you know about the following?
- Find Alumni feature that allows you to find alumni by where they live, what they do, where they work, college major and other criteria.
- Advanced search allows you to find an follow organizations of interest. You can also search for and join groups (alumni, by professional interest areas, etc.). You will also find many thought leaders across a plethora of industries. You can follow those of interest and read regular updates and advice.
- There are a ton of recruiters and hiring managers who use LinkedIn to find candidates with skills, interests and experiences that match their openings. The biggest complaint of these recruiters is that college students are not using LinkedIn as much as they'd expect them to do so.
- You can also visualize your connections in map format to see "hubs". You can identify areas the need further development and areas that are strong.
- Check out the 7 Smart Habits of Successful Job Seekers
UM students are fortunate to have a very large network of enthusiastic alums. Recent graduates, in particular, are often eager to share advice with current students. After all, they can relate to all of the questions and uncertainty surrounding senior year and job searching. Also, these can be some of the most helpful resources since they are working in entry-level roles and are closer to their past internship experiences too.
Don't let fear of the unknown prevent you from reaching out to alumni and friends of friends of friends on LinkedIn. Loose connections usually turn out to be the most beneficial because they allow you to meet new people rather than cycling through the same group of acquaintances.
If you need help, make an appointment with a member of The Career Center staff. Before you know it, you'll be teaching your friends to use LinkedIn and you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner!
Photo Credit: Coletivo Mambembe CC BY 2.0