Attention college students. Why aren't you on LinkedIn yet? I am often hired to speak at colleges and universities about business networking. When I do, I always conduct an informal poll of the students to see how many have a LinkedIn profile. The result is usually less than a quarter of the attendees. This is troubling to me.
LinkedIn is now over 238,000,000 members strong, with more than 84 million in the United States alone. The professional social network has 30 million students and recent graduates. LinkedIn claims students are the fastest growing demographic, and yet I'm not seeing this as often as I would like. Savvy students are jumping on board, something I recommend you do too.
LinkedIn is often mistaken as a place to look for a job. You may vary well find employment, but it is also a powerful networking tool. One point I reiterate in my book, New Business Networking, is you must build your network before you need it. This is why every adult should have a LinkedIn profile and be actively growing their connections.
10 Ways Students Should Use LinkedIn
1. Use a professional photo. Most students own a smartphone, so it is relatively easy to create a decent headshot. Avoid cropping someone out of the photo. It just looks weird to see a random hand on your shoulder. Keep the goofy photos to Facebook or Instagram. Remember, LinkedIn is for business.
2. Grow your network. Begin by connecting with your friends and family by sending them connection requests. Connect with your classmates, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, faculty, and guest speakers.
3. Avoid generic connection requests. Remind the person who you are and how you met by writing a custom connection request.
4. Write recommendations. Reward your best group project members by publicly posting how they were great to work with. Consider writing a recommendation for guest speakers and faculty who you most enjoy. Never write a recommendation expecting one in return, but you may just receive one.
5. Claim your custom URL. Just like a dot com or Twitter handle, it is more professional to own your own URL.
6. Use keywords. Think like a search engine user and add keywords and terms to your profile. Focus on your Skills & Expertise section to include your keywords. You want recruiters to be able to find you, right?
7. Find and join Groups. There are more than 2.1 million groups on LinkedIn. Search for groups dedicated to your area of study, join them and participate in the discussions. Don't discredit your education with your perceived lack of professional experience. In many cases, you can become the expert in the group, because you are living and breathing the latest information from your studies.
8. Create a group. If you cannot find a group you wish to join, consider creating your own. Your group can be about a topic of interest from your curriculum, industry, or perhaps it is a group specifically for members of your fraternity. Groups can be public or private, so decide what type best suits your members. I run a private group for networking professionals you should join us.
9. Share great content. Find and share interesting articles that pertain to your professional area of focus. Find stories to share using free sites and apps like Zite, Flipboard, Feedly, and of course the Tennessean.com.
10. Promote your work. Share your best work on LinkedIn by posting a link to the content. Post your presentations to Slideshare.com and include them on your profile. Why limit your finest assignments and projects to within your classroom? Share your knowledge with the world and your growing LinkedIn professional network.
Using LinkedIn won't guarantee you a job right away. The point is to build your network today, so when you are ready to embark on your career, you will have a network of peers to reach out to. A large, solid network on LinkedIn can open doors for you by providing introductions to people at companies you wish to work with. Be a savvy student and visit university.linkedin.com to learn more about how LinkedIn is focusing on students and why you should join too.
What tip would you add for students using LinkedIn? Leave a comment below.
This article, "LinkedIn can be crucial for students in building network", originally appeared in the Tennessean.
Photo from Flickr by: smi23le