First-Years' Guide to LinkedIn
The world is changing really fast! Things exist today that we probably couldn’t have imagined twenty years ago. Social media is one thing that has really popped off in the last decade or so. Everyone is familiar with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat these days, and if you are a university student right now these apps and websites probably helped you procrastinate endless hours away (and will probably continue to do so!).
However, there is another more specialized social network that high schoolers may be less likely to pursue and yet this is a network highly relevant to university students – this is, of course, LinkedIn! Chances are, if you are reading this article, you’ve heard of LinkedIn and have either already constructed a profile, or are planning to make one. While not quite as iconic as Facebook, LinkedIn is something most university students do end up using, and it’s a platform that will be brought up time and time again throughout your university journey. Honestly, it’s everywhere!
What is LinkedIn?
For those of you who do not know, LinkedIn is an employment-oriented service. Functionality-wise, it is essentially a social network; however, it is used almost entirely for networking and job-seeking purposes and as such the decorum and presentation of profiles might be far more professional than you might expect than the social networks mentioned before. Rather than having ‘friends’ or ‘followers’, LinkedIn allows users to ‘connect’ with others, helping to build a network that will aid you in the corporate world.
LinkedIn has over 100 million active users, and it’s become mandatory for high-achieving students to create a LinkedIn profile, due to the platform’s level of use by recruiters and employment agencies. As with other networks, joining LinkedIn is easy and free, and maintaining an updated LinkedIn profile is a simple method of listing your educational history, skills and work experiences, just like a constantly updated resume.
How do I use LinkedIn?
The main thing you want to remember is that LinkedIn is a professional network, and therefore the way you present yourself should be very different to how you are on Facebook! (unless you’re just a natural born professional, job-seeking drone in which case you can probably carry on). Try and maintain an air of professionalism in your posts and your profile presentation, and bear in mind that prospective employers or future coworkers can see what you are writing. Remember all those warnings teachers used to give you about keeping your Facebook profile clean? Yeah, well, increase that 10 times for LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a good means of sharing professional-related stories you might have, like winning a case competition, or attending a youth summit – not so much brunch photos, or shots of you going hard at your mate’s 21st.
Once you’ve established that air of professionalism and made a strong profile (more on this later!), the world of LinkedIn is yours to explore. There are many different ways to use LinkedIn, and in all honestly, once create your account, how you use the platform is up to you. However, aside from the role of being an active resume, we’d probably say that the key uses of LinkedIn for university students are:
- To form corporate connections. This is pretty much the point of LinkedIn. From a university student’s perspective, you’d want to develop connections with people that you meet over time (at networking events, through an internship or whatever) and similar to adding someone on Facebook, you can ask to ‘connect’ with them on LinkedIn. (Or maybe you’re just really likeable and they ask to connect with you!) When you are connected with someone, you’re able to freely message them, and this is a good way of keeping in touch with and being able to ask questions of someone who is in an industry you are looking to get into.
You actually can’t message people on LinkedIn that you are not connected with (more on this later). However, if you happen across someone’s profile, and it looks like they do work highly similar to your interests, you can always send them a connect request and attach a small message to it (e.g. ‘Hi, I was really interested in the charity program you’ve set up! Mind if I ask you a little about it?)
- To discover professional opportunities. Now, this one may be a little more relevant for graduates who haven’t found work yet and don’t have systematic vacation/grad roles to apply for, but you can always start discovering job opportunities in university. On LinkedIn, this is super easy. Once you’ve developed a strong profile, head over to the Jobs tab and find opportunities that suit your preferences.
- Get industry news. You can tailor this to your personal interests. Simply follow companies and join groups that you are interested in, and you’ll see updates from those companies and be able to take part in discussions relevant to your interests. Wow! Almost like Facebook news feed but with potential business dreams instead of funny memes.
- Promote your business. This is a little bit more ambitious, but if you do create your own startup or your charity or something similar, you will want to make a LinkedIn page for it at some point. This is the reverse of getting industry news, in that you are creating your own company page on LinkedIn. We won’t go into it here, but running a company page on LinkedIn is a little bit different and something you may want to look into.
As a note, you will also see that there are paid features on LinkedIn. LinkedIn Premium has benefits such as allowing you to message anybody through InMails or granting access to a better search function. We recommend that you do not buy these yet, and simply focus on maintaining an updated profile throughout university.
Building a Profile
Joining LinkedIn is really easy. Just go to the website, click ‘Join LinkedIn Today’, confirm your email address and you are ready to go. There’s a few things you definitely want to do when creating your profile:
- Choose a good photo. Your profile picture is a way for connections to identify you and remember what you look like, so don’t leave this blank. Make sure your photo is ONLY of you, and that you look clean and presentable. You want a photo where your expression is smiling – not forced! – or neutral, and where your face is clearly visible. We recommend just using a corporate headshot (formal or smart dress) with good lighting.
- Under your name and next to your profile picture, you have your headline. This will be autofilled by LinkedIn as your current job and employer (e.g Investment Banking Analyst at Macquarie Group, or Student at Monash University), and this is fine. It describes you! If you want to change it to something else that describes you better, then keep it in the same format. You can also write a summary about yourself, like an About Me. Keeping this very brief, or even empty is fine as the main point of your profile is to be your resume. In case you do decide to fill it out, make sure it’s not too wordy.
- Aside from using a good photo, you need to fill in the rest of your profile with your education and experiences. You can just list things such as the courses you’ve done, jobs you’ve had or volunteer work you’ve contributed to, but here it’s a good idea to flesh it out a little. You might want to explain why you feel the education or experiences benefitted you and are likely to make you a more employable candidate – possibly by listing what challenges the job/study entailed, and what you achieved facing those challenges. For example:
"Publications Officer at Commerce and Computing Association
As part of the CCA publications team, I was required to attend regular meetings and help to update a weekly newsletter. Balancing these duties with university helped to foster my organisational skills, as well as sharpening my ability to keep track of and meet deadlines."
- Lastly, you can get recommendations from LinkedIn connections you have. You can request a recommendation for your skills by going to the button next to your profile picture and clicking ‘ask to be recommended’. Getting a couple of these is quite good, and it’s better if you get them from industry higher-ups rather than your friends. You can also list your skills, and friends can endorse them. This bit isn’t too important and doesn't get looked at too closely; just feel free to list some skills you have in dot points.
In a corporate world that is becoming ever more competitive, LinkedIn is definitely something you will want to consider having. Use it responsibly and appropriately, and you should be able to broaden your network and grow your brand in no time!