Maybe you’ve created an account on LinkedIn and made some contacts, but haven’t really been active on it on a weekly basis. Maybe you’re not on there at all. This is a HUGE mistake for college students (or anyone in the job market). Don’t slack on your presence on LinkedIn – if you don’t want to be stuck without a job for months after college, you should consider staying active on LinkedIn. Believe it or not, companies, employers, and headhunters are looking for college students like you even before you graduate. In fact, LinkedIn provides a basic profile checklist for college students to follow to make sure that you set up your profile properly, professionally, and attractively.
Why bother with LinkedIn while in college? Well, for starters, it will get you thinking more about areas where you may want to focus on, be it internships, learning a second language, or classes you want to take to beef up your skillset. Most of you may not have a lot to put on a LinkedIn profile at this moment, but that shouldn’t stop you from starting this valuable online resume. Noticing the areas that are emptier than others will encourage you to fill it out with college internships, volunteer work, and even joining clubs.
You may be thinking, “Won’t my resume suffice for applying to jobs?” For some employers, maybe, but a LinkedIn profile offers so much more than a piece of paper. Firstly, a LinkedIn profile offers flexibility – you’re not forced to fit everything within the dreaded confinement of a 1-page resume. Plus, you can further elaborate on areas that employers are specifically looking for, such as job skills, volunteer work, honors, awards, and other college highlights that are happening to you RIGHT NOW.
Secondly, beyond just listing references, your contacts can provide “recommendations,” which essentially are a glowing review for you. They vouch for you and your abilities, not something that’s feasible on a paper resume. Speaking of contacts, as you stay active on LinkedIn, you begin the time-honored tradition of networking – meeting new contacts or reinforcing previous ones, which can lead to career paths might not have found on your own.
Lastly, a LinkedIn profile offers more personality. When a headhunter is inundated with a sea of paper resumes, it’s good to see a face on your online profile, contacts you associate with, and the path you’ve taken from school up to this point. In order to make an informed hiring decision, employers are searching and checking your online social media profiles (do you have a good online presence?). With reports of employers passing over candidates because of an unfavorable or non-existent online profiles, it’s imperative that you build the best darn LinkedIn profile you can make.
Building a Tip-Top LinkedIn Profile
Where to start? Of course, regardless if you have a profile yet or not, start with LinkedIn’s basic profile checklist to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. There are areas on your LinkedIn profile to highlight the best of your college career, including activities like being an active student government member, or a project that you’re proud of contributing to. You can even include links and samples to your work. This is a great way to marry your resume with the beginnings of your portfolio.
If you don’t know what to write in your summary section, if you have very little idea what direction your career may take at all, or if you’re looking at your profile and you feel it’s very paltry and needs more, don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to help you down the right path.
Take a Career Personality Test
Not only can this help you hone in on the careers that may mesh well with your personality and the way you work, this will also help give you ideas of what to write in your LinkedIn Profile Summary. Prefer to work in groups or alone? Do you naturally lead or do you excel at providing support and being a team-player? Some employers look for specific types of employees, and knowing your strengths and areas where you thrive can help you write about yourself and what to focus on in your profile. Some popular career personality tests include MAPP and 16 Personalities.
Beef Up Every Section
Don’t lie on your resume, and don’t add frivolous things (like how you can make a mean pot of chili). Every section is important for virtually every employer. That means you should put in all the important stuff, and take stock of your experiences, job skills, and strengths. Do you see any areas lacking? Lucky for you, you’re in college to fix any area. Need more job history? Consider volunteering on the weekends, or getting an internship – these are great ways to strengthen your skillsets and find out what you like (and don’t like). Lacking certain essential job skills? Look at what classes your school offers that can help fill in those gaps. Want to add more flair and “wow” to your resume? Take a second language class or an extra elective like learning Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. There is a section on your LinkedIn profile to highlight these to show that you know your stuff.
Follow Companies on LinkedIn
By now, you may have an idea of what jobs and companies might interest you. Perhaps you heard about the benefits a company offers its employees, or admire and respect the work of another. Fortunately, almost every company has a LinkedIn profile. You can “Follow” the company’s LinkedIn profile and receive any updates they post about their company, including job opportunities! You may even be able to see some current employees and message them to connect (depending on their privacy settings). Ask them about an open job posting you’ve seen, or see what they think about their company (“I’m interested in applying in your company – Can you share what you think about working for them?”). You’ll find that some are more than happy to divulge, especially when they’re satisfied to be working for that company.
At any rate, we hope that this all gives you a leg-up on your LinkedIn game. Stay active on LinkedIn, find content, companies, and groups that interest you, and you’ll be ahead of the pack by the time you get out of college. Have we helped you with this article? What tip is most helpful to you? Tell us!