When you consider the true purpose of college, it’s much more than passing classes or submitting an outstanding research paper. The end goal is to secure a job that will bring you stability and financial freedom in the future. Many college students don’t consider the interview process that comes with the territory until it’s already upon them. They don’t realize there are quite a few things they should be doing before the actual job search. There are many resources students can utilize to better prepare them for professional networking and the process of gaining employment after graduation.
The Internet provides many opportunities to connect with other professionals. Establishing relationships and engaging in proper networking before the interview process only gives you an advantage. Social media platform LinkedIn offers college students many ways to promote their professional selves. With the use of this guide, you will learn how to set up and maintain a proper LinkedIn account, which will in turn help position you as an industry professional, ready to be hired by the best.
Get an Early Start on the Job Search
It’s beneficial to begin preparing for your job search before graduation. It’s a tough market out there. Although the unemployment rates are lower for those with degrees than those without, the overall job market still leaves recent graduates with much to desire. New professionals just entering the workforce are at an advantage if they start familiarizing themselves with the job market before it’s time to actually find a job.
LinkedIn allows you to get a head start on the job-search process by offering a variety of professional networking benefits. To put it simply, LinkedIn is your personal resume that never sleeps.
Connect With Industry Professionals
LinkedIn connects professionals with other professionals. Dubbed the Facebook of the professional world, LinkedIn can help you locate professional contacts, organize those professional contacts, and stay in contact with them.
Furthermore, you will know when your contacts find a new job or make changes to their resumes. This will immediately help you gain industry insight and become familiar with the job market. When it’s time to begin the search, it will also let you know when jobs in your industry become available.
Establish Yourself as a Pro
The act of creating an appropriate and complete LinkedIn profile sends the message that you care about your professional image. As a student, in particular, a LinkedIn profile delivers a powerful message that you’re ahead of the game. Being prepared and positioning yourself among the established community of professionals is a positive reflection of your drive and ambition.
Also, an increasing number of job recruiters look toward social media sites – LinkedIn in particular – to hire new talent. As a college student or recent college graduate, you’re missing out on potential opportunities if you’re not utilizing the LinkedIn platform.
LinkedIn offers a recommendations feature, which allows others in your network to recommend you. People with more recommendations have a greater chance of getting job offers. As a college student, you should aim to increase your number of recommendations. This way, by the time you graduate and begin the job search, you will have an established list of recommendations. This will gain the attention of prospective employers and help position you as a prime choice for job openings.
See Job Openings
Even if you aren’t quite ready to start the actual job search as a college student, it is wise to keep your eye on the prize. In other words, it’s never too early to begin your research about potential employers and the best companies out there.
You will receive notifications from LinkedIn as job openings in your field become available. If you want to make the best use of your time in college, why not start researching the companies that hire within your field? Conducting such research will serve as a solid foundation of knowledge for your inevitable job hunt in the future.
Also, there are many internships posted on LinkedIn every hour. If you must complete an internship as part of your degree program or certification, LinkedIn is a great resource. Sometimes your LinkedIn profile will do all the work for you. If you set it up properly, prospective employers may even find you, instead of you having to find them.
How to Get Started With LinkedIn
Now that you’re convinced of the value in creating a LinkedIn account, it’s time to learn how to start the process. Before anything else, you will create a profile and import your current contacts.
Create Your Profile
As a student, your LinkedIn profile should contain important and relevant information about yourself and your unique background. Consider the following checklist for completing the necessary components of your profile:
- Photo – The more professional your photo, the better. If you don’t have a professional image of yourself, have a friend take one using the best camera you can find. Be sure the background is plain, and wear a professional shirt or blazer. Gentlemen, a tie isn’t required – but it’s a nice touch.
- Headline – Use the headline to tell people what you want to do in the future, and the position you want to have. If you don’t currently hold a job in the field in which you’ll eventually work, add something that emphasizes your major, such as English Major, and your end goal, such as Aspiring Writing Teacher. Aim for brevity, but don’t be afraid to be creative.
- Summary – What is your passion? What motivates you to complete meaningful work? Where do you see yourself in the future? Add a summary of your goals here. As a student, you should rely heavily on your aspirations.
- Experience – List any jobs you’ve held in the past or currently hold. Part-time jobs should be included, as well. Also, you should consider adding video or photos of your work if you have them available.
- Organizations – List any organizations you’re a part of, and be sure to properly describe your roll and position within that organization. Clubs you’re involved in at or outside of school should be added here as well.
- Education – List every institution you’ve attended, even if it was only for a single semester or summer session. Begin with college.
- Volunteer work – If you completed any type of work on a volunteer basis, add it here. Many prospective employers view volunteer work as a valuable cue to the type of person you are.
- Skills and expertise – Add five or more key skills to this section, and focus on gaining endorsements in those areas.
- Honors and awards – If you earned it, add it to this section. Awards, honors, prizes, or other recognitions should be listed here.
- Courses – List classes you’re currently taking, classes in which you’ve excelled, or classes that have excited or interested you.
- Projects – Use this space to describe your past projects. Whether school projects, personal projects, or professional assignments, write about them in this space.
- Recommendations – Who can attest to your work ethic? Ask bosses, managers, classmates, or professors to recommend you. This will give your profile an extra boost of credibility.
Who Should You Connect With on LinkedIn?
Upon the initial setup of your account, LinkedIn will import your contacts from your email address and ask to connect with those people. Besides the immediate contacts associated with your email address, you can connect with the following groups of people:
- People with whom you conduct business
- People you actually know
- Members of similar social groups (church, sports, religious, etc.)
You should expand your network in any way you see fit, but practice some caution. As a general rule, it’s OK to connect with anyone you know. However, you should avoid sending requests to complete strangers, unless you’re in similar fields and could benefit from establishing a professional relationship. Furthermore, you should avoid connecting with strangers who don’t tell you why they want to connect, or strangers with whom you don’t share any mutual contacts or interests.
To connect with someone on LinkedIn, you must first state how you know the individual, and then you will be asked to confirm that information. You also have the option to send a simple message along with your invitation to connect. Without being too verbose, it’s wise to send a friendly but professional message along with your request to connect.
How to Maintain Your Account
Once your profile is complete and you begin to expand your network of contacts, it’s important to keep the momentum going if you want to reap the many benefits of a quality LinkedIn account. Here are a few tips for maintaining your account after it’s created:
- Comment on industry-specific articles. People in your network will post industry-relevant content, which will appear on your home page. Read their articles and comment on them, even if it’s just to say thank you for posting. It’s even better to bring a new voice to the conversation by offering additional information or insight about the post topic.
- Post authoritative content. You will get noticed faster on LinkedIn if you post authoritative content. It will take some time to create a high-quality post, but your effort will be rewarded with a little patience. Be sure not to simply regurgitate information that’s already been posted somewhere else online. Write a unique post about your own professional experience, or offer advice to other students. Whatever it is you decide to write about, aim to offer something valuable to your network of professionals.
- Join relevant groups. Become a part of a specialized, professional group of people through LinkedIn’s groups feature. Join groups that are associated with your desired profession, and then become active within them. You can gain more connections, increase your visibility, and learn new information from the people in those groups. Plus, many of those people are established professionals, so you can ask them questions or gain further knowledge from their posts and comments.
- Be selective about your connections. It’s not wise to connect with too many people with empty or half-finished profiles. LinkedIn is all about branching out to other professionals who are interested in networking and building professional relationships. If you connect with too many people who aren’t actively participating on the platform, the purpose of LinkedIn isn’t being utilized. Aim to connect with professionals and people you know who have completed their profiles and actively participate on the platform.
- Research companies. With some quick research, you can locate companies in your industry. Keep tabs on the best companies using LinkedIn’s company feature. Follow the companies that interest you, and then you’ll be kept up-to-date with job openings, other company news, and latest postings.
- Continue to gain recommendations and referrals. Your LinkedIn page is a work in progress. Think of it as an interactive resume with a plethora of features. As you gain recommendations, endorsements, and referrals, you are building a better resume.
- Refer and endorse other deserving individuals. As people endorse and recommend you, do the same for them if they’re deserving and you can vouch for their skills and expertise.
Things to Avoid on LinkedIn
As with every social media platform, there is an understood LinkedIn etiquette to follow. Because LinkedIn is a platform for professionals to connect, it’s imperative that you treat is as such. Here is a list of things to avoid when it comes to properly utilizing the LinkedIn platform:
- Don’t use an unprofessional profile image. Avoid anything too casual, revealing, or that promotes drugs or alcohol. Simple, professional, and put-together is what counts on LinkedIn.
- Don’t forget to complete your profile. A complete profile is vitally important on LinkedIn. Think of your LinkedIn profile as an interactive resume, complete with extra opportunities to highlight your capabilities and potential. If you start networking with an empty or incomplete profile, it could send the message that you’re lazy or aren’t very interested in connecting with other professionals.
- Avoid haphazardly posting any material without first proofreading it. Any content associated with your name and profile should be free of grammatical errors and typos. If writing isn’t one of your talents, consider asking a friend to proofread for you before you post.
- Don’t neglect the privacy settings. Privacy settings are important on any social media platform, and the same is true for LinkedIn. Familiarize yourself with the settings, and be sure to change the settings as your career progresses, or as you progress from student to employee. For example, if you’re working at one job but are looking for a new opportunity, you may not want your current boss to see your complete profile overhaul, which is typically a sign that you’re looking for a new opportunity. You can tweak your privacy settings so that your boss can’t see every change you make.
Consider Vista College
Remember to use LinkedIn to highlight your professional self. Everything positive that you have achieved to get where you are today should be highlighted on your LinkedIn profile. If you have completed or are completing an educational program, add it to your profile.
Consider Vista College for your continued education. At Vista College, you will experience the focus that comes with a specialized degree or certification and the benefits that come with hands-on experience. Offering programs in health care, business, technology, legal, and trade, Vista College could be the perfect addition to your LinkedIn page. Entering a program at Vista could be the first step toward achieving your goal of becoming a professional in the near future.
Although every path to success looks different, many people have taken a path that involved entering a program at Vista College. As the Internet offers us many options for furthering our professional selves, LinkedIn is the platform that many experts agree is the most vital for a professional. We constantly share information – and everyone benefits from this paradigm.
Share the Knowledge
Share this post so that others can benefit from learning the basic components of an appropriate LinkedIn profile. After all, everyone you share this post with could potentially be in your network – and they may even recommend you. The more worthwhile recommendations you receive, the worthier your LinkedIn profile appears to other industry professionals, who may provide you with a future opportunity.