As a careers consultant I see a lot of students who are struggling to get work experience or a foot in the door in their chosen job sector, whatever that happens to be. Most have never heard of the professional networking site LinkedIn (according to a survey we ran last year only 8% of Manchester students used the site on at least a semi-regular basis). But when I actually show them how they can ‘career stalk’ (one of my students’ words, not mine!) industry professionals and make great contacts to help them in their career, they’re usually convinced. As a result, I’ve started doing training workshops for students (and also other careers advisers!) on how you can use LinkedIn for careers networking/job hunting.
I’ll be saying more about LinkedIn over the next few months, but to get you started, here are 3 quick(ish) steps for using LinkedIn effectively as a student:
- Register with LinkedIn and create your profile. This is a bit like an online CV – you include details of your education and qualifications, work experience (this can be part-time jobs and volunteering as well as formal internships), and links to any blogs, your Twitter account if you have one etc. (Be careful which links you include though – just make sure they’re reasonably professional!) Try to create a keyword-rich ‘summary’ so your profile comes up in searches both on LinkedIn itself and in search engines. I’ve found that many students are not sure what to put in their profile, so we’ve created an example ‘typical student’ LinkedIn profile to give you some ideas. Don’t forget to add a photo (keep it fairly formal).
- Join groups. If, like many students, you don’t already happen to have loads of professional contacts in your chosen sector, you can make new contacts via LinkedIn. The way to do that is by first joining relevant groups. Say you want to get into marketing or law, you can simply select ‘Groups’ from the dropdown menu next to the search box and use relevant keywords to search for sector-focussed groups and alumni groups to join.
For example, for marketing, you could try ‘The UK Marketing Lounge’ (25,80 members) or ‘UK Marketing & Communications’ (2,391 members). The University of Manchester has a thriving alumni group on LinkedIn (over 6,000 members) which current students can also join – many of our grads are happy to help current students, so this could be a good source of ‘warm contacts’. One of the best things about joining groups on LinkedIn – and you can join up to 50 – is that you can usually send messages to and see the full profiles of fellow group members (i.e. professionals!), so it really starts to open up your potential network of useful contacts.
3. Search for people and companies. Use the search box as above to do sophisticated searches (by location, industry, keyword etc) for people to contact. You might just send a message asking if you could have a quick chat with them on the phone to pick their brains initially (always best to “push the door open slowly” – asking for something small to begin with), before broaching the subject of opportunities for work experience/jobs. See our general ‘Networking’ guide here for more ideas about what to include in your contact message. NB: Once you have joined groups, your group contacts will appear in these searches too, so make sure you join the groups first. You can also follow companies on LinkedIn and get notifications of opportunities – this section of the site looks set to grow in the coming months.
I’ll write more soon about different searches you can do and how you can build your profile on LinkedIn and find and make contact with people who can help you in your career, so watch this space.
In the meantime, LinkedIn also has a set of quick video tutorials to help students and graduates get started with the site – only a couple of minutes long each, they’re a bit Americanised, but worth a watch.