LinkedIn, which was founded in 2002 and launched in 2003, reported an increase in users last year. As of January 2013, the social networking site for professionals had 200 million registered users. It may not be in the league of social media giants Facebook and Twitter, but there’s nothing quite like LinkedIn, which is considered the best professional social network we have today.
Individuals who sign up with LinkedIn can connect with business colleagues, classmates and people who share the same professional background. Job-seekers and employers make up a good number of the site’s users. Employers can post jobs or projects and search for people who may qualify for them. Job-seekers can view job openings and employer profiles. Additionally, users can follow groups and companies signed up with LinkedIn. The groups are classified mostly according to a common interest or skill (like journalism or SEO). Likewise, there are tools that can open up opportunities for connecting with a diverse group of people.
These features are why LinkedIn is a good tool for recent college graduates. Like the most popular social networking sites, it is a good way to meet people. And building connections with professionals is what new graduates need to do to establish a personal brand, plan a career and improve job opportunities.
To get the best out of LinkedIn, there are things you need to do. Here are 25 tips new graduates can use to leverage their account and achieve superb professional goals.
1. Don’t just create a profile; create a profile that dishes the most impressive things about you. You should be willing to give information about yourself, specifically your preferences, achievements and interests, that will help you connect with others. If you skimp on your self-descriptions, LinkedIn users may not find enough reasons to connect with you.
2. Open your profile to the public. If you keep your profile private, you won’t be able to find people to connect with. If you’re concerned about your privacy and safety online, you don’t need to shut out the LinkedIn world, but you do have to practice caution and choose what you share.
3. Put a face to your profile. Choose a professional-looking photo. People want to know what you look like. Be sure to use a shot of just yourself, not a group or family photo. Make sure it’s a clear one.
4. Connect with as many people as possible. Even if LinkedIn is a professional social network, you should reach out to former classmates and schoolmates – especially your fellow graduates. Many of you will be in the same boat, searching for job opportunities, so connecting with them will help you. You can discuss professional goals and share job-hunting stories.
5. Aside from the people in your school, you should reach out to former professors and fellow alumni. Your professors can advise you as you move about LinkedIn and try to network with as many people as possible.
6. If you have previous work experience, connect with past employers and co-workers. Of course, choose only the ones you know will give you a good review. You’ll never know how helpful they can be in the future.
These connections can post recommendations about you and your skills. Once people know where you excel, they’ll start considering you for certain jobs or projects.
7. Look for people you can connect with, even those you barely know and maybe met through LinkedIn. Choose those who share your interests and passion. They might have connections that can benefit you later. Additionally, you should act as a connector. That is, connect two or more people in your list by introducing them to each other. Do this only if you are sure they share the same professional ideals, interests and goals.
8. Get into Groups. One way of expanding your connections on LinkedIn is by joining Groups. This is the best thing to do if you want to meet people who move in the same world you move in. Group members constantly update each other with the latest job opportunities. Likewise, many also use Groups to share developments about the industry they are in, as well as offer some tips, tricks and career advice. Find the right group by identifying your interests and the niche that you like the most (example: WordPress theme development, online marketing, telecommunications, banking, among others).
9. When asking someone to connect with you, be sure to add a personal note. Don’t simply send a template-like invitation that says “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” Give your potential connection a note that describes who you are and what makes you think the two of your should be connected on LinkedIn. In other words, customize your invitation.
10. Use introductions to meet people. LinkedIn’s Introduction feature will help you find an individual, group, organization or company that interests you. Between you and this individual or company, you’ll find other connections that can help expand your network. Use the Introduction feature to communicate with others outside of your network.
11. Throw aside all feelings of shyness and ask your connections for recommendations. Get in touch or connect with school or college classmates, former professors and mentors, former work colleagues and previous employers. Ask them to give you a recommendation based on the professional skills you indicated in your profile. Recommendations will help make your profile more interesting and your chances of attracting an employer will greatly increase. Think of Recommendations as testimonials from your network.
Content and Frequency of Use
12. Use your LinkedIn account regularly. Think of it as the Facebook that can give you a job. As much as possible, log in and update your account every day. There’s always somebody new to connect with; something new to discuss with your Groups and there’s always a new company or group to discover. LinkedIn also has tons of self-help articles (in the areas of career, family, business, technology, spirituality, among others) you can read every day. Prominent gurus such as Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins all have posts that will keep you visiting the website regularly. If you’re not on LinkedIn as often as you should be, you’ll never be able to reach the goal you desire.
13. Post new content every day – or at least every time that you log in. This will keep your connections glued to your updates. Share news about the industry or niche you move in. Post some interesting trivia that your groups might find interesting. Repost or share relevant blogs, especially posts you own or were written by you. Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences. Just like any other social media platforms, content is king.
14. Use keywords in the best and most natural way when posting. Add keywords to your profile or use interesting, relevant key phrases in your posts and comments. This will make it easier for people to find you. Be sure the keywords you use are relevant to who you are and what you are offering. Keyword stuffing or spamming is a big no-no.
Use LinkedIn’s Answers Tool
15. LinkedIn has an Answers Tool. Use this to establish yourself as somebody who can be trusted in your area of interest. This will also help show potential employers or clients how dedicated and reliable you are. The Answers Tools can show off your potential. It will make you an authority on your selected niche. Be sure that you don’t overdo it and appear too boastful. Potential employers don’t like a know-it-all.
Other Tips and Resources
16. LinkedIn has resources especially made for fresh graduates looking to score a significant job offer. Use these resources to the best of your ability. Personalize your profile so you can list all of your accomplishments, honors and awards, the courses you finished, as well as other experiences that might give you some points.
17. When writing your profile and posting updates and comments, exercise professionalism. Use the right words and correct grammar. Avoid using slang or writing in phrases. Text speak should be avoided.
Employers look for people who know how to express themselves in complete sentences. If you’re not sure about a certain word or spelling, use a dictionary or online thesaurus. Look at other people’s profiles to get an idea of what you should do.
18. Make sure your LinkedIn connections can also be your friends. As much as possible, get to know them in person (if you do not know each other yet) and spend some time with them. You can invite them to coffee or socialize at a conference. This will help strengthen your connection and give you the chance to exchange stories, tips, goals and experiences.
Groups You Should Join
As I mentioned earlier, LinkedIn Groups can help expand your connections. Here are some Groups you should consider joining. They are specifically for new grads. Be sure to check with your Groups regularly, because there will be updates, news and tips. And, of course, you wouldn’t want to miss the latest job openings and opportunities, would you?
19. Your College Alumni Group. If your college doesn’t have one on LinkedIn, you can start it and connect with your fellow graduates and classmates.
20. If you want useful discussions and tips for job-seekers, including tips for nailing job interviews, the New Grad Life Group is an excellent choice.
21. Another group with a similar concept is the College Graduate Job Hunters Group.
22. You can always search for a professional group focused in your interests and skills, like a Fashion Designers Group or a Creative Writers Group. You can use the Search feature to look for the Group you want to join.
23. The Student and New Grads Group is perfect because it will connect you with people who can share tips about getting into entry-level jobs.
Finally, Use LinkedIn Tools
24. The Creative Portfolio Display can give connections an idea of your work. They’ll get a peek at what you’re capable of doing. It’s an online portfolio of your best work.
25. LinkedIn Student Jobs is a tool that helps new graduates find entry-level jobs. Companies looking for fresh faces and new graduates abound in this tool. So be sure to make the most of it.
These are just some of the tools that new graduates like you can use to make as many connections as possible on LinkedIn. If you have a keen desire to get on top of things and find what you want or need, get the best tools and put them to good use. They’re all over LinkedIn and easy to find. All you need to do is search.
There are many more things you can do to make good use of your LinkedIn account for your job-hunting needs. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is: build connections and make these connections work for you. Make potential employers believe that you are what they want; that you have what it takes to help their business achieve their goals. All in all, what LinkedIn is all about is selling your best professional skills and assets. So before jumping onto the LinkedIn bandwagon, learn how to market yourself. If you do this, you’re in for a lot of wonderful professional surprises.
Published or updated May 15, 2013.