The only social media application for college students and young professionals is Facebook, right? Wrong!
While Facebook offers an always-on way to connect with friends and build a community, LinkedIn presents the professional side of social networking. There are no games, personal photos or lists of favorite movies like there are on Facebook. Instead, LinkedIn offers a viable path to professional networking through integrated connections and activities, all designed to boost your circle of contacts.
There’s no doubting the success of LinkedIn. According to the Global Recruiting Roundtable, there are approximately 33 million users in the United States, with 27% of the users ages 18 to 34. Yet, LinkedIn is often neglected by college students and recent grads as a viable means to establish connections that could lead to a first job, career advancement and even a higher salary.
Here are five simple, practical ways to use LinkedIn to your advantage...
Increase your visibility
By adding connections, you improve the odds of people seeing your profile first when searching for someone to hire or network with for a mutual outcome. LinkedIn is designed much like a physical meeting room; you “work the room,” by connecting to connections you already know.
Improve your ability to connect
Most students and recent graduates only put their current school or company in their profile. By doing so, they severely limit their ability to make more connections. You should fill out your profile like it’s an executive bio, so include any employers, education, affiliations and activities. In addition, include a link to your profile as part of your email signature. The added benefit is that the link shows your credentials. And, don’t forget to upload a professional photo!
Improve your Google PageRank
LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high PageRank in Google, this is a good strategy to influence what people see when they search for you. To do this, create a public profile and select “Full View.” Also, instead of using the default URL, customize your public profile’s URL to be your actual name. To strengthen the visibility of this page in search engines, use this link in various places on the web. For example, when you comment in a blog, include a link to your profile in your signature.
Enhance your search engine results
In addition to your name, you can also promote your blog or website to search engines like Google and Yahoo!. Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publicize websites. There are also a few pre-selected categories like “My Website“ and “My Company.” If you select “Other” you can modify the name of the link. If you’re linking to your personal blog, include your name or descriptive terms in the link, and you’ll have instant search-engine optimization for your site. To make this work, be sure your public profile setting is set to “Full View.”
Check out LinkedIn’s various applications
Similar to other social networks, LinkedIn offers applications designed to enhance the user’s experience. The most obvious app is "Jobs," but there are others that are very beneficial. For example, “Answers” enables allows you to broadcast your business-related questions and answers to your network and the greater LinkedIn network of users. The premise is that you will get more high-value responses from the people in your network than through open forums.
“Groups” is another application that is ideal for networking because it gives you access to an even larger number of potential contacts. You could choose a group based on your college, employer, industry, hobby and many other variables. Most of the time, Groups offer information based on discussions of specific topics of interest to the entire group.
Similar to any social network, the more you participate, the greater the odds that results will occur. If you only lurk and do not actively participate, you’ll be a fringe member and won’t get noticed.
Start with the basics by creating a profile and set a goal of “x” number of connections within a week or month. You’ll soon find you’re building a valuable network that could lead to that next great opportunity.
Resources for more information
- ThisWayToCPA on LinkedIn – officially sponsored by and facilitated by staff of ThisWayToCPA
- LinkedIn Learning Center – more than just a Help function, the Learning Center offers a full range of tutorials and guides, and even offers LinkedIn mobile for an iPhone or BlackBerry
- LinkedIn for Students – step-by-step video guide designed just for students