I believe that colleges should be teaching courses on LinkedIn and make them mandatory…for every student. Although this might seem extreme, the fact remains that increasingly more employers are using LinkedIn to search for talent.
Some sources like Jobvite.com estimate as high as 94% of recruiters search for and contact employers by using LinkedIn. To some recruiters, LinkedIn is their main tool for sourcing job candidates.
For two years I’ve been trying to impress upon my college-age daughter that she should take advantage of LinkedIn, especially at her young age when she can get on the bottom floor.
If you’re a college student, you should be building you network before you need it. This will take time, but you’ll realize the advantages your generation has over job seekers who are scrambling to join or strengthen their LinkedIn strategy.
As a college student, you can join the party early, but you’ll have to do the following to be successful:
1. Learn about LinkedIn. Learning about LinkedIn will give you a huge advantage over people already in the workforce. What has taken years for workers of all ages, including myself, you can get a head start on the learning process.
The purpose of LinkedIn is the first topic that should be covered. LinkedIn isn’t only an online Rolodex; it’s the best way to network online, a great source of relevant information, a way to build your brand, and most importantly how hiring authorities can find you.
2. Begin constructing your profile. Now, if you’re thinking you’re too young; keep in mind you need to produce a résumé for when you enter the labor market. This is just a start, but with guidance you can do it correctly.
A former friend of my daughter began constructing his profile after his senior year of high school, and it was pretty good for a graduating high school senior. Granted he didn’t have a lot of accomplishments to tout, but he made the best of what he had.
I wouldn’t expect you to have a profile made for prime time. You have accomplishments to accumulate; recruiters realize your career is in its infancy.
3. Develop a quality network. This network will consist first of peers in your discipline, college professors, colleagues of your parents, and like-minded students at other schools. It’s just the beginning.
My daughter is considering becoming a nurse. I’ve suggested she talk with nurses I know. And while she’s at it, connect with unfamiliar nurses on LinkedIn. “Won’t that be creepy,” she complains. No, this shows initiative.
4. Connect with alumni. This is a treasure trove for college students. Alumni are currently employed and want to pay back the school that played a part in shaping their lives. Yes, alumni are complete strangers, but the goal is to turn strangers into networking contacts.
You and my daughter need to get outside of your comfort zone and reach out to your alumni if you’re really interested in achieving success. It’s that simple. Read this article: Use See Alumni to connect with your alumni with 3 easy steps.
5. Start their research earlier. Astute college students will use LinkedIn’s Companies feature to follow target companies. When they graduate, they’ll have more knowledge of these companies than their classmates.
Further, they can identify top players in their industry. It is highly likely a college student won’t have a first or second degree connection at a company or organization; so an introduction or bold connection request will be required.
6. Start engaging with their connections. This might seem scary for some college students, but they can start slowly and build up their engagement to the point where they’re sharing articles, commenting on the, and even writing their own posts.
College students, like my daughter, have to realize that what they’re learning in school can be of interest and value to their peers, or tribe. The posts they write will impress recruiters if not for the fact that they’re taking to bold step of sharing them.
7. Building their brand early. If the foundation of your brand is your reputation, your years in college is the best time to establish a solid reputation. This is the time for you to repair your reputation.
Keep in mind that branding also means being consistent in presenting your value to future employers. Be all in when you decide to create your LinkedIn profile, build a focused network, and engage with your connections. If your connections aren’t as dedicated as you, weed them out.
You might be thinking making it mandatory for college students to take a course on LinkedIn, regardless of their major. extreme; but consider the advantages of learning about this premier networking application early in their lives. It’s hard to argue against this idea.
Photo: Flickr, Chris.OKeefe