What is LinkedIn? An introduction for students and graduates


We were recently approached by some students from the Business school who produce a newsletter – e-Financial – which aims to help keep students up to date with the latest business news.  They asked for an interview about LinkedIn to include in the first edition of their newsletter.  As these questions were posed by students, we thought this feature might also be of interest to other students so are re-publishing their article here with their permission.  You can find out more about e-financial, including ways to contribute and sign up to their newsletter, on their Facebook page

1. What is networking and how does it benefit your career?

A simple definition of a network in this context, provided by Oxforddictionaries.com is

“A group of people who exchange information and contacts for professional or social purposes:”

So networking simply means interacting with your network to exchange information and contacts. It is especially useful to notice the use of the word ‘social’ in this definition.  Networking is something we all do everyday, whenever we interact with anyone else. Networking in career terms may be done with more of a purpose in mind but the principal is exactly the same; it is about interacting with others and sharing information.

In career terms, networking can help you;

  • Find out more about certain careers or sectors to help your career decisions
  • Get advice from people in your preferred sector about required skills, experience, applications, interviews and more
  • Find out about the many opportunities which are not widely advertised
  • Get a ‘foot in the door’ with target employers or industries

2. What exactly is LinkedIn and why is it important for students?

LinkedIn is a global online network of professionals (currently nearly 350 million members), across all sorts of sectors. At a basic level it enables you to create a profile (like an online CV). This can help you be ‘found’ by recruiters searching for potential candidates with your skills and experience.  Whilst I know of many students who have been contacted about opportunities on the basis of a strong LinkedIn profile, I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be approached by recruiters just on the basis of your profile; you can use it in so many more ways too.

For example, you can use it to;

  • Explore the career paths of nearly 350 million people worldwide
  • Get career inspiration; explore the range of things graduates of your subject go on to do
  • Identify potential employers in your sector/s of interest
  • It makes your extended network visible; see if or how you’re connected to target companies or individuals and if anyone you know could introduce you
  • Expand your network; reach out for advice from people working in your sector of interest
  • Leverage the network of over 110,000 Leeds Alumni who are on LinkedIn already
  • Develop your commercial awareness

3. What information should be included in the ideal LinkedIn profile?

Information about previous experience, employment, education, skills and achievements primarily, and LinkedIn prompts you to complete all the key sections.  In terms of experience in particular, think as broadly as possible. This might include positions of responsibility, involvement in clubs and societies, voluntary work, part-time jobs and so on.  Provide a brief description for each experience you list and, as with a CV, focus on skills and achievements when discussing what you’ve done. Focusing on using keywords when completing your profile will mean it is more likely to rank highly in search results.  Think about the words recruiters might be searching on if they looking for someone in your sector of interest and try to include these in your profile.

4. What is the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook?

LinkedIn is purely professional and should be approached as such. This means communicating professionally, observing etiquette and keeping discussions, status updates, comments etc. professionally focused. One important point to note is that even though LinkedIn is a professional network, this does not mean that you should only connect with people you know in a professional capacity.  A wide and varied network is advantageous, so there is nothing to stop you connecting on LinkedIn with people who you already know on Facebook (or in any other capacity), providing you observe the different communication style.

5. How to use LinkedIn effectively to build a successful career? What are your top 3 tips?

  •  Strong profile: If you are on LinkedIn, you might as well do it well.  Use the profile strength gauge on the top right of your profile (visible only to you) to get an idea of how ‘complete’ LinkedIn deems your profile to be.
  • Join – and participate – in groups: Groups are incredibly useful to stay up to date with industry or sector specific developments. Actively participating in, contributing to, or even starting discussions in groups, will help get your name on the ‘radar’ of professionals in your sector of interest. It also demonstrates that you are taking an active interest in your professed sector of interest.  You could also post questions asking group members for their tips or advice on getting into that sector or field.
  • Explore the advanced features: There is a lot more to LinkedIn than meets the eye.  Company pages, Advanced Search, Alumni and Fields of Study tools, can all be particularly useful and are all available with the basic (i.e. free) account.

6. How can LinkedIn help improve commercial awareness?

In a whole range of ways:

  • As outlined above, groups are a great way of staying up to date with industry news and ‘hot topics’
  • You can follow individual companies (works similarly to ‘Liking’ a company page on Facebook)
  • LinkedIn Pulse (accessed under the ‘Interests’ tab) allows you to personalise your newsfeed.  You can follow industries, sources, or individuals of particular interest.

Further information and advice

Remember we are here to help Leeds students and graduates with all things career-related.  Whether it’s deciding what to do next, thinking about further study, starting a business, finding a job or work experience or help with CVs, applications and interviews, or anything else, talk to us to find out how we can help you.

1 Comment

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One response to “What is LinkedIn? An introduction for students and graduates

  1. Pingback: How to impress at the Graduate Jobs & Internships Fair | University of Leeds Careers Centre Blog

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