“Mom and Dad, it’s just so hard to find a job these days..” Sound familiar? If you’re a recent graduate like myself, you’ve probably used that line, or have friends that have used that line. We do have a huge advantage, though. I’ll give you a hint at what it is: it’s the business-oriented social networking site with the little blue and white logo. It’s…LinkedIn! While we might not be dealing with a booming economy, we also don’t have to deal with circling jobs in the newspaper anymore. Better yet, we can apply to jobs, network, connect with others and be recruited all in one place. I wasn’t always a believer in LinkedIn, but in during my senior year of college, I realized just how useful it is.
During the fall of my junior year of college, one of my journalism professors stopped in the middle of his lecture and said, “Everyone who doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile—I am giving you all ten minutes to create one.” I was sitting between two good friends, and none of us had LinkedIn profiles, so we utilized that ten minutes of class time to create an account with LinkedIn and began importing our resumes and information. I recall wondering how the website would help a college student—or really anyone. Couldn’t I just use my resume? How was this website going to help me find a job?
My amateur LinkedIn profile merely reflected the content of my resume, sans the descriptions. It stayed that way for most of my junior year. After perusing other classmates’ profiles, I noticed that most looked just like mine, so I left mine as it was. It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned how a professional, eye-catching profile should look. One of my professors last fall told the class that we all needed to go over our LinkedIn pages and add summaries, headlines and detailed descriptions of all of our experience. His goal in the class was to encourage us to create and promote our personal brand through social media, and LinkedIn is a powerful way to brand oneself. So, I began work on a massive profile makeover with hopes of transitioning it from drab to fab (or forgettable to memorable).
The first part that I tackled was the summary. I previously had left this blank because I thought my career goals were pretty self explanatory from my work experience and activities. That was wrong. The summary is a great place to let your personality shine through, while also highlighting your skills. It’s a mini sales pitch.
With that in mind, I added a summary explaining the qualities that make me an appealing candidate for public relations positions and also included my career goals. In order to increase the likelihood of coming up in search results, I went to the LinkedIn pages for various PR agencies and looked for industry buzzwords to include in my summary. After that, I added links to my personal blog, my about.me page, my resume, and my projects. Finally, I added detailed descriptions to my relevant experience and activities.
The makeover was complete—for the time being. Soon enough, I was noticing results. The “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature on LinkedIn is a great way to see if you are attracting your target viewers. You can also see how many times you’ve come up in search results, which is another way you can assess your profile’s success. I noticed that my weekly viewers jumped from an average of one or two, to ten to fifteen.
I quickly became a believer in LinkedIn. Within several weeks, my profile views had increased—and many other classmates had the same results. In early May, I walked out of an exam and had an InMail from a recruiter at a great global communications agency and have since pursued the interview process. If your profile stands out, recruiters will undoubtedly reach out to you, and it’s a great feeling to have someone seek you out. Recent graduates and college students have the opportunity to really sell themselves on LinkedIn, and it’s a great tool to show recruiters more than just your resume. Have you done an awesome project in a class? Include that PDF on your profile. What about your blog? Make sure to display that, too.
While a perk of LinkedIn is being “found” by companies, a wealth of opportunity lies in your connections. Us millenials have a bit of a stigma toward “cold messaging” people—AKA messaging strangers. In our eyes, messaging people who we don’t know personally, or know through another close friend, is “creepy.” However, it’s time to leave that mentality in the dust (maybe not for Facebook, though). Lets say you know you want to work for a company, but you don’t see any available positions on their website. You’re discouraged. But you shouldn’t be because you can go on LinkedIn, search the company, and find connections that do work there. Maybe a fellow college alumnus is an account supervisor or a friend-of-a-friend is an intern. Almost 100 percent of the time, you will have some connection that can help you out, so be creepy and send them a message. It won’t be creepy on the receiving end.
It is no secret that the job search is difficult. Whether you’re a college student, a recent graduate, or a seasoned professional seeking a new position, LinkedIn is an invaluable platform. Personal branding is the buzzword of the time, and there is no better way to show off what you can do than on your LinkedIn profile. So, take ten minutes a day for a week and perfect your profile—read over everything again—and again, add links, include quantifiable results, and create a killer summary that reflects who you are as a professional. Then start connecting and following companies, and in the meantime, you might get a few InMail messages from recruiters. Unlike Facebook and Twitter the psychology of LinkedIn is that of a business mindset. Users know it is all work and no play. This is why it continues to offer unique experiences for recent grads.