While Facebook is for friends, think of Linkedin as the social network for your career.
Part job board and part social platform, on LinkedIn you can make industry connections, do employer research, share updates and post a multimedia resume.
Many students ignore the site until after graduation, mistakenly thinking it is just for job seekers. As a result, those few who start developing their LinkedIn network early (even before graduating from high school) have a distinct advantage when it’s time to apply for colleges, awards, grad school, internships and jobs.
With over 250 million users, LinkedIn is an obvious platform for recruiters to source talent. Case in point: 90% of Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn to find future hires. But even if by some chance the HR department or selection committee that matters to you is not actively recruiting on LinkedIn, there are still two very good reasons to establish your profile there.
Does the size of your LinkedIn contacts list really matter? Many professional networkers say it absolutely does.
#1: Today, many hiring and admissions committees are using social screening to vet candidates. If your Facebook profile is set to “private” (as it probably is and likely should be) then your LinkedIn page becomes more visible and important to someone Googling you.
Build your LinkedIn profile by including a list of all courses completed, your extracurriculars, and volunteering activities. Held a leadership position on or off campus? List it. Won (or shortlisted, even nominated for) an award? Let LinkedIn know.
#2: Prepping for an interview means finding out everything about a company, especially all their most recent initiatives – such as social media marketing campaigns and social good activities, awards and newsworthy happenings.
Every candidate is asked, “do you have any questions?” and you always have to have some – LinkedIn is a valuable interview prep research tool.
You might have a large social network of friends and personal connections on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
But if you want to make a professional impact, start growing your LinkedIn network today.
Using social networking platforms has already taught you many of the skills you need on LinkedIn.
Compare yourself: in 2013 the average network size of a LinkedIn member was between 200 and 1000 connections – and fewer than 10% of users have less than 50 connections.
After you make the 500th connection, your LinkedIn profile will simply display the size of your network as “500+,” so this is an obvious goal to strive for as an active LinkedIn networker.
Does the size of your LinkedIn contacts list really matter?
Many professional networkers say it does.
If you want to take full advantage of the professional opportunities on LinkedIn and get the maximum return-on-investment for the time you spend using it, you must be proactive about establishing many relevant, valuable connections.
If you’re (even partially) convinced that LinkedIn is a good idea for you, here are three things you can do to develop your professional profile:
1. The Non-Selfie: Get A Real Headshot
Ever noticed the profile photos students have on LinkedIn? The most common headshot used is a selfie, a prom photo, or a cap-and-gown graduation shot. By comparison, you’ll instantly look more professional if you invest some time and money in getting a great headshot by a professional photographer.
Once you have the perfect photo, increase your recognizability by consistently posting it on your Twitter, your blog, or anywhere you think employers might be looking for you.
2. What’s Your Tagline?
By default, your LinkedIn profile headline will list your most recent job title. So instead of advertising yourself as “XYZ Student at ABC University,” swap the generic description for a keyword-rich one that will increase your discoverability by LinkedIn and Google searches.
Think up with keywords to describe your job history or career aspirations. Then use that creative description as your (120 character max) profile headline instead.
3. Visually Signal Professional Memberships
LinkedIn facilitates a variety of connections. Join professional groups on the site. Follow companies or organizations that matter. Subscribe to updates from LinkedIn influencers in your field. Thinking strategically, not only will these affiliations increase the relevance of your LinkedIn newsfeed exponentially, they will also be displayed on your profile.
On the social web, visual communication matters: make it obvious to those who glance at your LinkedIn profile that you are connected, informed, actively engaged and interested in your chosen field or industry.