I keep hearing from students that LinkedIn is “just another jobs site”. Certainly, over the past few years LinkedIn has become a powerful recruiting tool and jobs board, but to focus just on that is missing the point.
The site was originally conceived as a means of connecting people and, more importantly, skills. It was a way of finding people to collaborate and to recommend those you’ve worked with. It’s a network, a professional community. A community you can join and engage with!
If you’re new to LinkedIn or don’t feel you are using it effectively you can check out “LinkedIn for Students” on the LinkedIn Learning platform (you’ll need your Uni log-in details).
Benefits of building a network
In the short term, LinkedIn is not about you getting a job. It will, however, allow you to access insight and advice, share knowledge and ideas, pool resources and position yourself for opportunities. The power of LinkedIn is not about how many people you are connected to but how you manage relationships.
You can find much more information about building your network on the LinkedIn for Students course but here are our top three tips on who to connect to:
1. Build your Base
Professionals are less likely to connect to a profile that has no existing connections. Your base consists of those you already know – extended family, friends, classmates, This base will generally be of people who will be an advocate for you – willing to endorse and support you. LinkedIn will suggest uploading your email contacts – this is a great way to annoy people because it’ll keep sending email reminders to them. It’s better to use the search function and try to find individuals first.
2. Connect with those “in the know”
What do we mean by this? Those “in the know” are plugged into industry and will themselves have connections they’d be willing to share with you. For example academics engaged in the sector you want to work in, placements teams, careers consultants. You need to have some sort of relationship with them to make this effective. Also, consider reaching out to alumni (but be selective).
3. Find an expert or two!
We’re not talking about the Richard Branson’s here (he would be called an “influencer” on the platform now). Rather this is about finding somebody with experience in the profession or industry – perhaps mid to senior level – that you can connect to. Think about the industry experts and guest speakers who have delivered on-campus presentations. Again, alumni may be useful here.
LinkedIn usually gives you the chance to send a quick introductory message. That’s particularly important with the 2nd and 3rd groups because you need to explain why you want to connect. In those messages try to focus on them rather than you. For example “I see you’re an Environmental Consultant specialising in water management, I’d be interested in hearing about your role”.
Above all, be polite, respectful and manage your expectations. It’s unlikely anybody is going to immediately offer you a job or work experience. However, they will offer advocacy, insight and advice – three essential components for a successful career.
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