In the tech-savvy world we live in, online platforms like LinkedIn are becoming an essential tool in optimising career development and networking opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t something that should start when you have a few years experience post-graduation under your belt. Students, the right time is now!
LinkedIn may seem a little overwhelming to the uninitiated but it need not be. If you have an up-to-date CV then you are ready to go. Your profile section should largely reflect the information you are giving in your CV, giving a clear breakdown of the skills and the area you wish your career to develop in. Don’t forget, recruiters will be using LinkedIn as a tool to find prospective job candidates so using the right key words can help you become more visible to them.
Future job seeking aside, now is the time to put in the initial ground work. Start small by connecting with the people you know – family, friends, academic and work-related contacts. Why not start by connecting with others on your course? As you connect with people, you will then have access to their own networks, and this is how your sphere of influence can start to grow. Perhaps, through browsing the connections of your own direct contacts, you can identify someone who works for an organisation that interests you? Why not ask them help out with an introduction? Alternatively, If you are connected with someone who knows you in a work capacity, perhaps through previous work experience or an internship opportunity, then why not ask them to write you a recommendation? This will appear on your profile almost like a mini-reference and can a real selling point to future employers.
If you are finding it hard to expand your networks into a particular industry area, LinkedIn also has a useful Groups function that can allow you to network with employees in that line of work, join in with professional discussions and potentially connect with them. Perhaps someone in that group can help you find the foot in the door that you need to a particular company or opportunity?
Some basic tips for getting started with LinkedIn:
- Take it at your own pace
You don’t have to do everything at once. Much of LinkedIn is ‘learning through doing’ so the important thing is to make the first step in setting up a profile. The rest can follow in your own time, as you become more comfortable with the website.
- Be proactive – get involved
Like most elements of career development, sitting back and waiting for things to happen is unlikely to reap any real benefits. Use LinkedIn proactively by searching for people, groups and companies you want to connect with.
- Be mindful of etiquette
LinkedIn etiquette can be confusing. You don’t have to connect with everyone that sends you a request but neither are people obliged to connect with you. Be sure to personalise any messages you send out so the recipient knows exactly why you are contacting them and who any shared connections may be.
Start connecting now! Linked In
By Hannah Morton-Hedges, Careers Consultant