"Every student is blindly trying to make a resume, but surprisingly many don't have great LinkedIn profiles," says Peter Elbrank, president at the Sawhorse media. "I often hear, 'Here's my resume. My LinkedIn isn't great, but here's the link.' I usually respond, 'Make it great, and then get back to me!'"
Forty-seven percent of Job hires identified social professional networks as one of the most important sources for hiring. Social professional networks are also the Quickest growing source of quality hires. That's Powerful!
Still not convinced? Ninety-Four of the Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn's corporate talent solutions to find future hires.
"Employers are looking for recent graduates," says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's Career Expert and the founder of works by Nichole Blanche, a lifestyle brand for young, career-driven women. If you're active on LinkedIn as a college student, "you may be able to be identified as a college student, and as a potential candidate, passively," she says. Being identified "passively" means job recruiters could find your profile and consider you for a position, without you even having to apply.
But how do you actually build a great LinkedIn profile as a college student?
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Some college students are wary of including their profile pictures on LinkedIn for fear of looking too young. But Williams explains a profile picture could actually work in your favor. A photo provides a face for your digital personality and helps recruiters see you as a human, rather than a hyperlink.
Your LinkedIn profile should weave together the story of your professional development, so it's good to be as detailed as possible. Include information about relevant coursework, clubs, and organizations in which you've participated at school. If you've done any internships or gained work experience, be specific about what skills you developed, how many hours you worked or how many students you tutored.
"Part of your differentiator as a college student is that you know technology and you know how to build a professional brand," says Williams. "Employers want to know that you can bring that to their company."
You can now with rich media, such as pictures and videos. If you have a presentation you're especially proud of, or a design project you executed for an internship, include it on your profile to help recruiters visualize what type of talent you bring to the table.
*Ask professors and advisers for recommendations*
One common misconception of LinkedIn recommendations is that they have to come from previous employers. A recommendation from a university professor or academic adviser, especially one with experience in your desired field, speaks volumes to your ability to stand out from the crowd. Aim to get recommendations from professors who know you personally, or who have a good sense of your work ethic, and can speak specifically to your accomplishments in the classroom.
When you post industry-specific articles, you prove you are passionate, engaged and paying attention to your career of choice.
Avoid including controversial or personal opinions on LinkedIn, unless you want that opinion to be associated with your professional persona. Instead, suggests Williams, offer a professional take away or ask a thoughtful question. This shows that you are not just reading industry-specific news; you are also engaging with it analytically.
LinkedIn groups are a great way to engage directly with people in your industry and establish yourself as a contributor rather than a passive reader.
"One of the best ways to get noticed is to elicit conversations and ask smart questions," Williams advises.
While the saying "there are no stupid questions" may ring true in most situations, be conscientious of what you ask in groups. Do a bit of research, or at the very least a Google search, before you ask a question. This will ensure you convey an informed professional persona, and your questions will most likely be stronger if they don't have an easy answer.
LinkedIn lets today's college students access information on career paths in a way no other generation could. Now, you not only see where someone has gotten in her career, but how she got there. More often than not, people are surprised to see how other careers are today. And who knows, looking at someone else's career path may inspire you to take a chance you otherwise wouldn't.
As is the case with any professional work, your LinkedIn profile should be error-free. After you've combed through your profile for spelling errors, ask a friend to look it over for unclear phrases or grammatical faux pas.
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