Job search strategies rarely change despite shifting economic times.
To nab a solid position, you still have to research the industry you want to enter, understand all the players, network with those on the inside, and follow up to keep your name in the air.
All of that typically takes a lot of time and endurance. The job hunt is neither quick nor easy.
The professional networking website has been around since 2003 and is currently the world’s largest website of its kind with more than 175 million members. Now, LinkedIn is a critical part of job seeking.
It’s so important that Gordon and her colleagues at the Career Center host workshops on how to use LinkedIn and counsel students one-on-one on how to leverage the website’s features for their benefit. Online branding has become an integral part of the Career Center’s playbook to help students.
"LinkedIn is a tool to see who is in your network. Before this, the problem for job seekers was not knowing who was in their network," said Gordon, director of career development. "This really makes networking so much easier."
As LinkedIn’s influence grows, so too will the need to use it. Having a professional LinkedIn profile is essential for students, Gordon said.
Unlike a Facebook profile or a Twitter account, LinkedIn is meant to showcase you as a professional, so no photos of last Saturday night or a 140-character accounting of your most recent date. Instead, LinkedIn allows you to do the following, Gordon said:
- Build and manage your professional presence
- Connect professionally with classmates, faculty, family, work, or internship colleagues, and other important contacts
- Find new career opportunities
- Manage and maintain your list of professional contacts
Before students can take advantage of all that LinkedIn offers, they first need to set up an account. We asked Gordon for her tips and tricks to make a profile sing and use it to help land your dream job.
1. Create a profile
A LinkedIn profile is a summary of a student’s professional experience, interests, and capabilities. Prospective employers check out an applicant’s profile after they’ve applied for a job, so keep it professional. "I strongly feel that [not having a LinkedIn account] is not an option," Gordon said.
2. Be comprehensive
Once you’ve created the profile, take the time to fill it out in its entirety. Copy and paste your resumé, choose a professional photo, outline your skills, write a profile headline and a succinct summary, and post any portfolio work you think is relevant. Check out the profiles of mentors or others in your field of interest to see what they’ve chosen to include. Do not forget to proofread your profile before letting it go live.
3. Make connections
The American University alumni group on LinkedIn has more than 15,000 members. Join it and look for alums in your field. Also, join groups for professional organizations pertinent to your field. These strategic connections are crucial for online networking. But allow your connections to grow naturally by starting with people you already know. "The value comes from seeing who your connections know," Gordon said. "Building connections is extremely important." Be sure to personalize your invitations to connect.
4. Get recommended
Increasingly, Gordon said, employers are looking to see if candidates have recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles. While these might seem like Yelp reviews for individuals, they’re important because they’re used. They tell an employer that you have people willing to recommend you. Ask people who might serve as a reference to write a recommendation — previous employers or internship supervisors, professors, etc.
5. Start reaching out
Maximize LinkedIn’s networking possibilities by contacting people you’d like to know. There are a couple ways to do this. You can ask a mutual contact to introduce you. Or you could contact the person with whom you’re interested in corresponding directly. "You could say something like 'I’d love to pick your brain about what it’s like to work for your company,'" Gordon said.
6. Check in regularly
Once you have a profile set up and you've started to make connections, don’t let your profile lie fallow, Gordon recommends.Update your status. Go to pages of the groups you belong to and see what’s being discussed. Possibly post a question or make an endorsement of someone's skills (on LinkedIn, users have the option of "endorsing" another user's listed skills as a way of authenticating). This helps get your name out in front of users who are in the field you want to go into.
The online job search is a numbers game with hundreds of people applying to each position. Even just getting an interview after applying online can feel like winning the lottery.
If a student is organized, proactive, and persistent, and makes LinkedIn a big part of the job search, Gordon said, it might help get the student’s name pulled out of the pile and onto the hiring manager’s desk.