Why all students and recent grads should have active LinkedIn profiles

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I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard the age-old mantra that “It’s not what you know but who you know.” When it comes to searching for a job, deciding on a career and building a network, this mantra couldn’t be more accurate.

Today, social media has become ubiquitous. Check out these interesting stats from Socialnomics.net:

  • 96% of GenYers are on a social network
  • Over 100 million users are on Facebook
  • 80% of Twitter usage is via a mobile device
  • 80% of companies use LinkedIn as their primary tool for finding employees

So, therein lies the importance of LinkedIn.

My first job out of university was through a professor of mine. If I was using LinkedIn then, he would’ve been in my network.”Then” was two years ago – a lifetime for social media.

I rely heavily on my LinkedIn network to keep me connected with those I went to school with, worked with or met through an acquaintance. Those connections are priceless whether or not you’re a recent grad.

Right now – while you’re still in school or recently graduated – is the most difficult time to build a network. At least that’s the perception. Your friends, peers, professors, TAs, counsellors, part-time bosses, internship connections, etc., are all possible candidates for your network.

Just run through that list in your mind and realize the potential of that network. Imagine how that network branches out and how many professionals they know.

There are 6,300 people who are two degrees away from me on LinkedIn – that means that they are friends of friends. 630,000 are three degrees away. I don’t know any of them, right? But, given enough time, I could.

LinkedIn allows you to create and maintain a professional network. The real power is in your ability to sustain a good relationship with your network at a personal but professional level. So, when you’re in the midst of that job hunt you can reach out to that network and let them know you need their help.

I would help you. Why? Because any network is built on the simple principle of reciprocity. Those who are part of my network are people I can offer value to and vice versa. Remember, in order to strengthen your network, you should not aim to abuse its power and connectivity, but rather offer as much as you expect in return.

Tips for starting (or reviving) your LinkedIn profile

If you don’t already have a profile, visit LinkedIn.com and join. Do not set it up in a hurry. Give your profile the same time and courtesy you would give your resumé. It is, in effect, your online resumé and should be professional.

Complete your profile to 100%. This is not an easy task. Take a look at my profile completeness indicator to the right: it’s only at 90%. What I like about this is LinkedIn encourages you to complete your profile to ensure that you represent yourself accurately and the content is high quality. The higher your percentage, the more likely you are to come up in relevant searches and the better impression you’ll make on prospective employers.

Setup your public profile. Once your profile is complete to your liking, setup a public profile with a unique URL, preferably with your name. Here’s mine: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/simrendeogun

Send out invitations to connect. Look up everyone you know and want to connect with professionally. Find out if they’re on LinkedIn, if so, ask them to connect to your network. LinkedIn also allows you to send them a customized message, which is extremely handy if you want the invitation to be more personal or if you’re reaching out to someone that is only an acquaintance.

Join groups relevant to your career. Groups are professionally-oriented discussion forums. You can setup your own or join existing ones. They offer the opportunity to engage in conversation, pose and answer questions, and connect with a completely new network of people with which you may have no affiliation.

Add applications and Twitter. If you have a professional blog or website, link to it. If you have a Twitter feed that is professional, link to it. LinkedIn offers applications for WordPress, Blog Link, Events, Tweets and more.

Never stop connecting. Continue to update your profile regularly. As you meet new people or reconnect with others, keep building your network. And integrate LinkedIn with your current social media and online job practices. Just remember to keep it professional.

Lastly, don’t be afraid. It may be intimidating to ask someone to join your network. But what’s worse is never asking and missing out on an opportunity. You never know who knows who but LinkedIn can help you find out.

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About the author

Simren Deogun recently graduated with high distinction from the management and English programs at the University of Toronto with a CGPA of 3.6. Her career goals include establishing herself within the field of marketing and communications, and engaging in writing or literature-related ventures in her free time. She enjoys dabbling in graphic design and is always finding new ways to enhance her skill set. She also developed and runs her own marketing blog.