LinkedIn can be described as Facebook for adults, and that in and of itself is powerful. Why is Facebook so popular? Because people use it to connect and share with people around the world and from different walks of life.
So if one uses this same analogy and applies it to a business environment, it’s clear how effective a tool like LinkedIn can be. But that’s old news to the tech-savvy business person. Where there is huge scope for growth in the LinkedIn space however is within the student environment. And we’re not just talking about people about to graduate either. With tools like the new university pages, there’s no reason for people not to be familiar with LinkedIn by the time they leave high school.
The common perception of LinkedIn is that it’s a professional network and hence, is meant for the sole use of professionals. Wrong. LinkedIn is a professional network but is a great platform for young, ambitious students to launch their career and start making connections within their desired industry.
It can seem quite intimidating for a student to start engaging on a platform that is perceived as a place where the CEOs of the world hang out and share deep meaningful conversations about world economies and how this impacts their business strategies. Although this is true, and these conversations do happen, LinkedIn has become one of the most successful recruiting tools available. Recruiters, companies and individuals are using it to connect, find and engage with potential employees, employers and companies.
So why should students be using LinkedIn? Here are five very good reasons they need to be on the professional social network.
1. Let people know who you are and what you’re about
As a student, the chances of you having a vast networking of potential business partners is unlikely, not because you’re not good enough, but because you haven’t had the experience or exposure.
By creating a profile on LinkedIn you are able to showcase who you are, what you know and what you’re interested in, which is the first step in the right direction of finding your perfect career path.
The first step is to create as a robust profile as possible where you essentially have a platform to tell the business world how great you are and why they should hire you.
2. Be visible to potential employers
In order to win you have to be in the game. In order to get noticed by your dream employers you need to get on their radar and that means making sure you are where they expect you to be.
One you’ve set up your profile it’s key to start connecting with people and companies who you see as being instrumental to your career. That might entail following companies you wish to work for, engaging with the CEO and divisional managers or seeking out the right HR person.
Once you start building your connections, you will become more ‘searchable’ which means that when recruiters are looking for candidates (like you) you will start registering on their radar and coming up in search.
3. Grow your network
Pay specific attention to connections of your own connections and start looking for key people who could help get your foot in the door.
Start by connecting with people from your university or college, but then go further and look for past pupils or alumni groups and start engaging in those spaces.
You might discover that one of your fellow university alumni now holds a position in the exact company you have your eye on. Having studied at the same institution you already have something in common which you can use to make your introduction. Even if fellow alumni don’t hold positions of power, they may be able to introduce you to the people who do within their networks.
Although growing your network is important, make sure you are growing it with the right people. Don’t just send out invitations to connect (or accept them) from just anyone. You may do this on Facebook, but on LinkedIn you need to think with a business mindset. Every time you send out an invitation, or receive one, think about how this person could make an impact on your career and whether they are someone you want to have in your network.
4. Access to industry thought leaders
Besides connecting with business dynamos, LinkedIn offers you an opportunity to grow your knowledge in a number of different directions. As much as you think you learn everything about your major at university, the truth is that when you enter the working world you pretty much know nothing.
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to start learning about the real business world from those who have been in it for a number of years.
Start following renowned people within the industry, thought leaders and experts and engage with the content, insights and ideas they share and talk about on LinkedIn.
Join groups and discussions and pay attention to the topics and issues they are discussing. Research and make sure you are clued up on these topics, and then when you find yourself in your interview chair it might be a good time to pull up one of these insights when trying to impress your potential boss.
Not only will they be impressed at your knowledge but you will stick out as the kind of candidate that they want on their team.
5. Stay ahead of the curve
Being active on LinkedIn allows you to gain insightful knowledge into different aspects of your specific industry and shows that you are interested in, and mean, business.
The business world is cut throat and you need to have one up on the guy (and the hundred others) you’re competing with for that one sought after position. Take note of who your classmates are engaging with and make sure you’re not left off the list.
Through following discussions and being part of groups you will be able to gain insightful knowledge that your competition, who is not on LinkedIn, would have little idea about. Stay in touch with those key people in your network. Send a (non-obtrusive or annoying) update when you have something you’re proud of to share. And make sure the people who count are aware of your successes.
Most importantly make sure you profile is always up to date. This is your first interview and people will quickly form a perception of you without you even having met them, so make sure your profile is a perfect reflection of who you are, and why you’re the best candidate for the job!