LinkedIn has always been somewhat of an enigma within the adolescent and young adult groups, typically seen as the “other” social networking tool or only for “grown-ups.” However, you shouldn’t brush this networking tool off as either irrelevant or daunting. Although it cannot guarantee a job offer, LinkedIn can help facilitate the job search through group discussions & forums, connections with co-workers and peers, and provide a positive web presence.
Whether based around a company, university, interest or location, groups provide a forum for participants to share news and, most importantly, job references. By joining groups, you give yourself the advantage of hearing about jobs – either in your group’s industry, location, or at your school! Instead of fostering a competitive atmosphere between job seekers, all of the LinkedIn groups I have been a part of were a place for employed members to help out the job searchers. Especially if a group is connected by a common interest or location, members want to see other fellow members succeed in their job career.
If you have the chance, “link-in” (connect) with your fellow co-workers. Although they may not be potential employers, they can send job opportunities your way, grow your network of friends, and provide recommendations. LinkedIn allows people to “recommend” your work; so those you have worked with, or for, can comment on one of your positions with praise for your character, work ethic, etc. They are the ones who actually know your job skills and can provide a legitimate reference when future employers are checking your job history. If you have a close relationship with your boss, be sure to ask for a recommendation – even a sentence or two of praise could go a long way. Also, as you gain more and more connections, you are more easily searchable within the LinkedIn database.
Most importantly, with the proliferation of Facebook and Twitter, it is essential that young adults have a positive image projected on the web. I have heard countless stories of employers ‘googling’ potential hires and what better place to steer them than LinkedIn (and away from Facebook!) Keeping your page updated and professional, although similar to your resume, illustrates that you care about your professional success and that you are able to present yourself well. Using the recommendation tool and filling your profile with responsibilities or skills lets you go beyond what could otherwise fit on a one-page resume.
I was highly skeptical when I first joined LinkedIn, but the help it’s provided in job searching and networking with senior executives has convinced me that it is essential for any college student looking to join the professional world.