A Careers Consultant colleague of mine has over 200 LinkedIn connection requests from students in her inbox while she decides what to do with them. The delay is because, contrary to what LinkedIn recommends, most of the requests arrived without a personalised introduction – a short note explaining why the student thought the connection might be useful or how the student had become aware of the consultant. Probably because the connection requests were sent from LinkedIn’s mobile app which does not have this facility rather than its desk top version.
This was just one point highlighted by Charles Hardy of LinkedIn during a webcast on how students can use the site more effectively. LinkedIn is moving rapidly on from its misleadingly reputation as ‘Facebook for adults’. It is becoming a jobs and internships board, a research tool, a discussion forum for groups of all kinds, a recruitment platform for small as well as large companies and an increasingly important resource for students looking to forward their careers.
Advice for students
Identify – Create a clear identity and when you are ‘found’ on LinkedIn make sure what is found is impressive. ‘Be found and be great’ in Charles’ words.
- Identity. Create an identity that makes it clear who you are, what you have achieved and what your aspirations are. Qualifications and even experience alone don’t differentiate you.
- Be found – Keywords. Consider the keywords you want to be found by on searches. Especially in ‘Headline’, ‘job titles’ and skills section. For example the ‘Headline’ phrase ‘student at Queen Mary University of London’ won’t make you stand out – nor will ‘Business Studies Student at Queen Mary, University of London’. Consider something like, ‘Business Studies Student with accountancy, audit and client experience’. What are the keywords used by people in the roles you aspire to? Do a search yourself and see who is coming on top of the searches and why they might be there.
- Be found – summary section. The first three or four lines of this section especially are the opportunity to make your ‘elevator pitch’. Showcase your aspirations plus a link or file in your summary.
- Be found – skills and endorsements. Skills are super powered keywords. While endorsements may be issued too easily having them can still help get you further up search results. They at least testify to your networking capacity. Recommendations, on the other hand are very important. Make an effort to acquire them – from lecturers, placement supervisors and employers because recruiters do look at them.
- Get connected. Students should aim for breadth rather than depth at the early stages of their career. You may not have much common ground with people in business but you should still try and build a network of connections. You could at least connect with your tutors and it is recommended to do this from early on in your course. It won’t help with your grades but could help to keep you informed. Make sure you have an extended network by connecting with your peers, friends and family. Your Aunt may have some fabulous connections. Students should also join groups – this helps you become more informed about sectors and individuals working within them. And of course once you create your profile that includes Queen Mary you automatically become a follower of the official Queen Mary University of London group
- Aim for 100% complete profile. Fully completed, 100% profiles are 40% more likely to receive job opportunities. Your profile is so much more than an online CV. Go beyond work experience. Consider projects you have been involved with, languages you speak (a prized skill), voluntary work you have done. Flag up specific research you have done or even include a video introduction – make yourself eye catching. Consider what attachments you can include. Consider what is particularly relevant about your education and what keywords you can include?
- Have an appropriate photo. Charles gave us another powerful fact. You are 7 times more likely to get a response with an appropriate photo.
Research destinations. You can find out what students on LinkedIn from your university and course have gone on to do and possibly make a connection with them. For example you can visit the Queen Mary University of London page, click on ‘Students and alumni’. Scroll along the interactive graphs for ‘What They Studied’, click on the subject you are interested in and then you can further select on criteria such as ‘where they work’ or ‘what they do’ to get a selected list of potential contacts. You may find you are already have some connections with them or are in some of the same groups.
Manage your settings. Review your privacy and settings . There are advantages in being completely open. Not least because people are curious about who has viewed them. However, you may not want people to know when you have been viewing their profiles. Reviewing your settings will also allow you to cut down on the amount of emails you get from LinkedIn – by default many of their services are designed to send daily updates but you can change this.
Finally – remember when making connection requests use the desk top version because this will allow you to make personalised connection requests.
LinkedIn have also produced a guide for UK students where you can get more advice on using the service.
Careers Consultant, Careers and Enterprise Centre