It’s no secret that LinkedIn is growing; there are now 364 million members using this social media platform to make connections and apply for jobs. Yet, according to a study conducted by Millennial Branding and AfterCollege, 46% of students have never used LinkedIn.
As a big fan of LinkedIn, I find this statistic surprising. There are a large percentage of students who will soon be entering the workforce who could be engaging in online conversations and benefiting tremendously from LinkedIn. As I’ve written and talked about before, your LinkedIn profile is where your personal brand can grow and really show others what you do and how well you do it. Starting a LinkedIn page after college is a step that is three years too late.
There are many reasons why college freshmen should be joining and exploring LinkedIn now and why every senior should be utilizing its features as a Launchpad for their future career plans. For parents, college students using LinkedIn is in their best interest as well since it will help student make early connections that can play a pivotal role in their eventually getting a job. Here are some of the reasons why college students must be on LinkedIn:
1. LinkedIn assists in turning a passion into a college major and later, a job
On LinkedIn, students can explore all of their interests and discover the types of jobs that exist in any field. College students, especially first-year students entering college as “undecided” majors, can learn more about, for example, how their fascination with photography or travel could lead to a job in photojournalism or the travel industry. If students join LinkedIn today and gain the advantage of discovering career interests, they can avoid the stress of changing their major several times or not knowing what to do with their major once they graduate. LinkedIn profiles and groups sharing similar interests can offer insight into possible jobs and career paths, providing students with helpful information about where their major can lead them. If they start this process early, the job search will be less overwhelming by the time senior year rolls around.
2. Your brand lives through your content
Students are usually taking three to five classes a semester, completing a number of PowerPoint presentations and creative projects. LinkedIn is the perfect location to post and share these finished assignments. Since students invest hours of hard work into these projects, they should show them off. A description of the class, task assigned and any leadership role that the student held in a group project will demonstrate to recruiters and any future employers how he or she was able to effectively apply what they learned in class as well as manage an successful presentation. This is a beginning point for creating a personal brand and reputation as a hard-working, motivated student. Throughout the four years of college, a student will produce a considerable amount of original content to display as part of their portfolio. I view LinkedIn as a platform for sharing content and enhancing reputations. The projects area of LinkedIn is where these examples of work will be published. Recruiters and potential employers will look at this content.
3. Alumni networking assists in relationship building
Networking is one of the main purposes of LinkedIn and your connections on LinkedIn are the key to success. One way for students to increase their number of connections is by joining their university groups and sending requests to alumni. Students can send messages to recent graduates who have accomplished exactly what they are planning on doing and ask how they landed their current job and for any recommendations. These alumni are professionals who know a number of people in the field and can share their direct knowledge and possibly contacts. Alumni often want to maintain a connection to their alma mater and when a student reaches out about professional advice, they are often flattered and willing to assist. This action builds important relationships. Don’t forget to also connect to all your friends and professors.
4. The Student Jobs Portal is full of opportunities
On LinkedIn, there is a specific Student Jobs Portal that offers students and recent graduates a listing of available entry-level jobs and internships. Students should take advantage of the postings from jobs around the world and apply to ones that interest them. Even if students are not applying now, they can just look and gather information. Again, this is an action that can be taken at any point during college. Students should be looking at what is out there and learning about how to make themselves attractive to employers for landing the jobs they want. Once they’ve seen what companies are looking for in applicants, they can adjust their profile accordingly or enhance their profile with relevant content such as videos or blog posts. An informed and focused student will have a competitive advantage.
5. Updated profiles attract recruiters
According to LinkedIn, completed profiles get 40 times more opportunities than incomplete profiles. One of the best ways for students to attract and impress recruiters and employers is by including descriptions of any and all experience as well as any leadership roles they’ve had with organizations, on and off campus. These positions, especially leadership roles, awards, and honors, will distinguish one student’s profile from another. Also, if a student is consistently updating their profile through statuses, sharing articles, or writing blog posts it shows employers that this student is professional and aware of trending topics in their field of interest. Simply understanding how LinkedIn works and how relationships are built is an advantage. Recruiters will notice and remember student profiles that are thorough and actively used. Students who create videos will rise to the top of recruiters and employers lists. Videos will educate profile viewers, build credibility, and make you more memorable. Remember that in order to be memorable, you must be remarkable. Video content must be well thought out, practiced and be of good quality for accomplishing this.
The economy is improving but students graduating are still facing challenges. There are many qualified candidates and students from the past five years who have not secured the job that will launch their careers. With a quality LinkedIn profile that has been built and nurtured, a student will have more opportunities. If they take the extra steps to connect with dozens or hundreds of people, create a video and post quality content they will stand well above the tens of thousands of competitors that will looking for employment alongside them.