Best practices for college students using LinkedIn?
I'm in my junior year at college and wanted to ask you what you recommend regarding me signing up for LinkedIn. Should I? And what should I put on my LinkedIn profile?
No question in my mind, if you're in college with the goal of being able to find a job and build a career once you graduate, you should get on LinkedIn as soon as possible. The longer you're on the site, the more you'll see how it can work for you and the more you'll be able to show up in searches that employers might already be doing in their searches for interns and grads. Sounds good, doesn't it?
You asking me this question makes me think that your college counselors might have the same challenge that your parents have in helping you find a job in today's market: it just ain't the market they're used to. Everything's changed. A lot.
What this means is that a lot of their advice is quite frankly obsolete. Just about everything your parents suggest is probably years out of date. Yes, I suppose that a resume is still important, as is a coherent cover letter, and it's always a good idea to dress nicely and be polite on a job interview, but getting into the office of a hiring manager, or even on the proverbial radar screen of a hiring manager just isn't what it used to be.
The biggest difference I see is that companies now search for new employees from either their own or a shared pool of resumes and candidate information, rather than waiting for employee candidates to come to them. This makes the process far more efficient, allowing hiring managers to filtering out things like Ruby on Rails programmer candidates who don't actually list Ruby as a qualification, or mono-language candidates for a job that requires someone fluent in both English and Spanish. It's data driven, just like so much else of our wired world.
As a result, it's smart to get going building your LinkedIn profile. Not sure what to list? Be entrepreneurial! Create a consulting business and list it. List your internships and volunteer work and ask mentors for online recommendations and connections. If you're lucky and you parents or other people in your family are well connected ask them to connect on LinkedIn.
Here's why: A candidate who demonstrates they understand the social media world is far more attractive to an employer than one who is still waiting for a call back from that resume they sent two months earlier, on fancy paper with a beautiful cover letter.
Finding a job is also much more of a numbers game than when your parents looked for their first job, so do use connections, tap into family friends who work at a company you like, and most definitely put your name forth for lots of positions. Waiting for that perfect job is the way to end up in your parents' basement after college and that's not for you, is it?
Finally, a warning: whether it's legal or not, employers are frequently checking out candidate's social profiles to see if they are mature or might embarrass the company. This means smart people are keeping their Facebook updates, photo album and "likes" clean and professional. Facebook started out as a college networking tool but things change. Don't do something stupid!
If you are seeking to have a larger network on LinkedIn, why not connect with me? You can find me on the site here: Dave Taylor on LinkedIn.
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