While Facebook is great for keeping up with friends and family, following products and services you’re interested in, and even connecting with your online classmates, it’s not the ideal social media tool for promoting yourself professionally. If you haven’t yet set up a LinkedIn account, or haven’t really put much effort into fleshing it out, it’s critical that you do so before graduation.
Why? According to a report from ABC News, more than 80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking. While some of that networking can happen the old fashioned way, a lot of it occurs online and if you’re out of the game, you won’t have access to these important opportunities which can make it much harder to break into a new industry or to land that critical first job after graduation.
So how to do you make the most of what LinkedIn can offer you as a soon-to-be certified professional in your field? There are a few ways you can do the work now of cultivating your profile that will help you reap big benefits later on.
Connect with professionals.
No matter what field you’re going into, there will be plenty of professionals already in it who have profiles on LinkedIn. While not everyone will have the time to connect with you, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to working professionals in a message to ask them questions about the field or find a mentor. Met some great pros at an in-person networking event? Add them to your LinkedIn network–it will make it much easier to keep in touch.
Curate your web presence.
These days, if you apply for a job, the company is going to do a Google search on you before hiring you. Unless you have the world’s most common name, a lot of things related to you are going to come up. Make sure these are good things. LinkedIn is a good place to start, allowing you to create a public-facing site focused on your professional accomplishments. You can link this to professional Twitter accounts or your own webpage, but use it as an opportunity to create results (LinkedIn profiles are often some of the top search engine results) that will put you in the best light possible should an employer go Googling.
Find job listings.
There are lots of places to look for job listings, but LinkedIn can be a great starting point. In fact, SocialMediaToday reports that 77% of all job openings are posted on LinkedIn (and 48% are posted by recruiters on LinkedIn and nowhere else). This is a great opportunity for you to browse them, see what’s out there and figure out what kind of position you want or will qualify for, even if you’re not quite ready to dive into a full-time position.
Using the recommendation feature on LinkedIn, you can request recommendations from your supervisors at work or an internship. These can go a long way in helping you create a profile that will impress prospective employers. If your relationships merit it, you can also see if professors or those you know from volunteering or other extracurricular activities would be willing to give you a recommendation, too.
Let companies find you.
While LinkedIn is a great place to go searching for job opportunities, it also works as a place for employers and recruiters to go searching for you. Just make sure your profile is up-to-date, your summary is engaging, and you have a professional and high-quality photo.
Connect with your classmates.
Don’t let your connections with classmates fall away after graduation. Instead, keep in touch over LinkedIn. This not only helps you build a better professional network, but can come in handy if you’re looking to do collaborative research or are trying to find a job– connections count.
Cultivate your personal brand.
Depending on your industry, having a strong online presence that represents your personal brand can be really important. LinkedIn is a great place to start doing this. Work on strengthening your headline and summary, show off elements from your portfolio of work, and share really useful, on-topic status updates (even ones written by you) that can showcase your expertise in your field.
Join professional groups.
You may not be a professional yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start keeping up with your industry. There are thousands of professional groups on LinkedIn, so there’s undoubtedly something that will apply to your future career interests. Use them to learn, ask your own questions about the field, and make sure you know the latest and most important information about working in your area of interest.
Find an internship.
Internships may not be super glamorous (being the lowest on the totem pole rarely is), but they can be an excellent way to help jumpstart your career. Forbes reported in 2012 that as many as 69% of interns working at companies with 100 or more employees were offered full-time positions at the end of the internships. That’s a great advantage to have. If internships are something that are relevant in your industry, LinkedIn can be a great place to start looking for upcoming opportunities so you can get your foot in the door and your career off to a great start.
Ready to get started? You can sign up for a student account here and start building your professional connections ASAP.