Like many students, you may have joined LinkedIn based on a recommendation from someone you know, or simply have heard about it and wanted to explore it further. I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of students aware of LinkedIn over the past couple of years, but I frequently hear statements like the following from students
- “I created a profile/ account but haven’t really done anything else”
- “I don’t know what to do now”
- “What is the point of LinkedIn?“
All valid questions which I aim to help you with in this post. Incidentally, if you have no idea what LinkedIn is, in its simplest form it is a professional online network whereby you create a profile (like a CV) and can then connect and stay up to date with people you know. You can however, use LinkedIn for so much more than this, including finding jobs, joining industry-focused professional groups, conducting careers research, expanding your network and developing a strong personal brand.
So, how do you get the most out of LinkedIn?
1. Complete your profile
It is in your interests to complete your profile as fully as possible. LinkedIn measures this in terms of ‘profile strength’ and you can find yours on the right-hand side of your profile.
I know many students and graduates who have been contacted about potential job opportunities on the basis of having a good LinkedIn profile. Whilst there are no guarantees, the stronger your profile is, the more likely you are to appear in search results (both within and outside LinkedIn) and others (who could be prospective recruiters) will get a better impression of you when viewing your profile. Profile strength will increase the more content you add. LinkedIn will guide you through some ways of improving this if you click the “Improve your profile” option when viewing your own profile.
2. Connect with people you already know
Another common concern I hear from students is that they “don’t know anyone (in their sector of interest)”. My usual response to this is “it doesn’t matter”. There are 3 things you need to know here
- The power of networks lies in the ability of people you know to connect you with others they know
- LinkedIn makes your connections’ contacts visible
- You already know hundreds of people (how many friends do you have on Facebook?)
Whilst LinkedIn is a very different platform to Facebook (in that LinkedIn is purely professional), there is no harm in connecting with people you know in a personal capacity through LinkedIn also – you don’t know who they might know – but bear in mind that how you communicate with them on LinkedIn should be strictly professional.
Alongside this, consider connecting with
- People you know from previous/ current jobs/ work experience (regardless of the sector/ type of job it was)
- People you’ve met through other activities, for example volunteering, clubs or societies
- If you’ve had a positive meeting with an employer at a Fair or Networking Event, they may be willing to connect with you on LinkedIn
3. Personalise connection requests
When inviting others to connect, please, please don’t simply send the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”; personalise it. Tell the person why you want to connect. If you’ve met them, remind them when and where. Whilst some people are happy to connect with anyone and everyone, many people are more selective and when considering your request will want to know why you’re interested in adding them to your network. There is little that I find more frustrating than these generic connection requests from people I don’t know (or can’t remember!), and I know that many other people share my feelings on this. See this post from Youtern for more on this as well as some ideas on what to say when inviting people to connect.
4. Use the Alumni tool to find out what Leeds Alumni are doing
LinkedIn’s Alumni Tool enables you to search profiles of other users who studied at your university. You can access this directly at http://linkedin.com/alumni or by hovering over the “Contacts” option from the main toolbar when logged in and selecting the appropriate institution – e.g. University of Leeds – from the drop down menu.
You can filter results by “Where they live”; “Where they work”; “What they do”; “What they studied” and more, as well as by the dates attended (NB: results will default to be shown for the years you attended the relevant institution, but you can change the dates you search from the drop-down lists in the black toolbar). You can further refine results by using the keyword search box in the bottom right.
If you are not able to see many full profiles in your search results, watch our screencast on how to reveal more expanded profiles.
5. Use company search and company pages
If you’re looking for work or opportunities in a particular sector and/or location, try an advanced company search to identify relevant organisations. Access this by selecting “Companies” from the drop-down list in the main search box at the top right of the page and clicking on the magnifying glass to the right before entering anything. This will then bring up options to specify your search criteria.
Many companies provide useful insights on their company LinkedIn pages as well as advertising job and internship opportunities. You can also see whether anyone within your network currently works (or could potentially put you in touch with someone who works) at that company.
6. Join – and participate – in sector-focussed groups
LinkedIn has millions of professional networking groups. These are useful for staying up to date with industry trends, making contact with people in your preferred industry and getting yourself ‘known’ within relevant industries. See our screencast on LinkedIn Groups for tips on finding relevant groups and how to make the most of them.
7. Use advanced people search
At the time of writing, LinkedIn has over 200 million members from over 200 countries Worldwide. As LinkedIn members are encouraged to complete their profiles as fully as possible, this means you can potentially explore the career paths of over 200 million people in a whole range of occupations globally. This is great for identifying potential employers, or seeing what path others have taken in the sector you are considering.
See our screencast on using advanced people search to research careers for more information on how this feature can help you.
And finally…….. a couple of pointers on networking
LinkedIn and other digital platforms are great ways of networking. As with any type of networking, there are a few top tips to bear in mind
- Be polite – remember to thank people for their time/ advice – please and thank you go a long way!
- Build your network before you need it – effective networks take time to develop and require nurturing. Building and maintaining your network will be incredibly useful throughout your life but is not a quick fix to finding a job.
- Mix it up – networking needs to be done on and off line and they should complement each other; neither one is a substitute for the other.