Last week I attended a conference where I served as a co-chair of a roundtable. The conference delegates were all undergraduate students, who were representing their respective universities. The students were a truly impressive group and at the end of the conference, I told my students to stay in touch and to request me on LinkedIN. However, some of the students expressed uncomfortability with LinkedIN. This post is designed to give you a brief introduction to this important and necessary tool.
Why You Need LinkedIN
LinkedIN is a critical networking tool for professionals, but it’s also a really important tool for students as well. LinkedIN is a professional social networking site. The benefit of using LinkedIN is that it allows you to stay in contact with professional contacts. It’s useful for keeping up with where people work or attend school, finding their most current email address, etc.
But the most useful part of LinkedIN is that it allows you to engage in social networking in a strictly professional setting. You can engage with people you meet without also sharing the broader aspects of your life that you might share on other platforms like instagram or facebook. That’s because LinkedIN’s profile functions like a digital resume. You can list past employment and educational history, skills you’ve gained, and even give and receive recommendations.
How to Set Up Your Profile
LinkedIN’s basic features are free to use. You simply need to create a profile using your email address. I would recommend using your school email address and not your personal email address, as your school email address is your “professional” email address now.
LinkedIN will walk you through setting up your basic profile. However, sometimes LinkedIN’s profile functions can be confusing at first. Here are some simple rules of thumb as you fill out your profile:
1. For your position, you want to list “Student” at your University, even if you also have a part time position or are working while in school. If you are a part time student who also works full time, you have the option of listing your permanent position instead.
2. You also want to provide a summary. This section is open to some interpretation. However, some things you may want to consider listing include your major and minor, if you are looking for employment or an internship, and if you have a portfolio or personal website, this is an excellent place to list that as well.
3. Work Experience is the next major section that you’ll want to be sure to fill in. In this section, you will want to list places you have worked. (Told you this functioned like a resume). In this section, you also get the opportunity to write a brief summary of the job. In this area, you’ll want to give a brief description of your job responsibilities. You can do this in narrative (sentence) form or with a series of bullet points. Keep the description concise and to the point and be sure to highlight areas of leadership and particular skills you used/learned.
4. The education is the last section you should definitely fill in in an initial profile set up. This section should be fairly self explanatory, and most of the time need only list universities. You’ll have the opportunity to list additional information for these entries as well, and this can be a good place to put your major, or any major honors (for example, if you graduated cum laude).
If you fill in the four sections of the LinkedIN profile suggested above, you will have a profile that you can feel confident having people see. So, the next step is requesting connections. LinkedIN will automatically suggest connections for you (even if you do not give them access to your contact list). As you scroll through the list of suggested connections, click on ones for people you know (really know and not just know OF). I do not generally recommend requesting to connect with individuals you have not met simply because they are suggested.