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6 LinkedIn Do’s & Don’t’s for College Students

This is a guest post by Alex Farmer. Alex is a graduate of Tufts University currently working in the HR software industry. You can find more about Alex on his LinkedIn Profile.

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Despite a recent lull in the job market, the number of college students looking for jobs is bigger than ever.  So, anything you can do to differentiate yourself from the pack is important.  A complete and polished Linkedin profile can help you do just that.  Below is part one of the 6 LinkedIn Do’s & Don’t’s for a College Students – the DOs:

1. DO keep your LinkedIn profile clean and up-to-date

Your Linkedin profile is your resume – except, unlike the paper version, you don’t really have any control over who sees it or when it is seen.  So, pretend that someone is looking at it all the time.  That means that you shouldn’t post your most recent job on your profile without adding descriptive bullets with strong action words – don’t leave that part for later.  Similar to a cover letter, be sure to have a succinct profile summary that incorporates several previous positions and a clear message about you.  Add all special skills and accomplishments as long as they’re relevant.  Finally, don’t hit save without proofreading – twice!

2. DO use Linkedin to aggressively stalk your network

Whether you’re looking for an internship at your favorite company or applying to an entry-level job posting on your college’s career network, search for the company on Linkedin.  Not only will you be able to look at the content they’ve posted, which always is a good talking point during an interview, but you can also see who in your network is connected to them.  Let’s say I just heard that my dream company – Acme Corporation – is hiring.  So, the first thing I do is search for Acme in Linkedin.  It turns out that my best friend’s dad went to college with a VP of Sales at Acme.  Linkedin will tell you that as long as you’re connected with your best friend’s father (which is why it’s important to build your network).  I can then give my best friend a call and ask his dad to set up an informational interview with the VP of Sales.  Remember the part about differentiating yourself?  Assuming you’re informational interview goes well you’ll have a VP advocating for you from inside the company when you apply for the open job – talk about standing out.

3. DO post relevant content from your profile

Linkedin is not like Facebook or Twitter in that it isn’t driven by updating and adding content – it is much more of an ad hoc and passive resource that only comes in handy when you are looking for a job or trying to network.  That means there’s much less content for you to compete with when you post your own.  Posting interesting articles or thoughts about the industries you want to break into is a good way to solicit comments and interactions with connections that share similar interests.  And even if the people commenting can’t help you, maybe someone they know can.  Instead of going out and searching for connections in the right places, make it more likely that they come to you – you never know who in your network might help you land your first job.

The Don’t’s:

1. DON’T be a pushy LinkedIn inviter

Honestly, this topic could take up an entire post by itself. In this case, however, my answer is simple: send LinkedIn requests the same way you would flirt with someone at a party – the goal is to come off confident, but not too obvious. The “over-eager requestor” is a classic example of someone who comes off as too obvious and aggressive.

Over-aggression is counterproductive in two ways. First, college students and entry-level employees usually connect with LinkedIn users to get things from them and cannot reciprocate much back. In the professional world, networking is much more about mutual self-interest – I’ll connect with you because we can both help each other get ahead.  Not so with a college student..  Aggressively requesting an industry professional right after you meet them makes it obvious that you want them to get you a job and furthers this “gimme” perception.

Second and more importantly, meeting someone in person and then requesting to connect in the span of 10 minutes cheats you out of an opportunity to get noticed and prolong your interaction. Requesting someone right after they give you a presentation almost guarantees they forget about you. They are obviously away from their office, so your request to connect will be buried by other emails. If they do accept you on the Linkedin mobile app, the chance they actually view your profile is pretty slim because they are busy getting back to their office or finishing up the presentation. The end goal in sending your request should be twofold – get them to remember you and have them view your profile.

2. DON’T overly rely on LinkedIn job postings 

These postings are open to the entire LinkedIn user population, so the acceptance rate is rather low. With some exceptions, high-paying, highly sought-after jobs don’t get posted there because companies have no problem finding qualified applicants. Even if companies do post good jobs on Linkedin, the chance that a random Linkedin user can rise to the top of the applicant pool is limited. A better approach is using Linkedin to gain footing with higher-ups inside a company and having them be your agent during the hiring process, as I said above in the DO section. However, good luck beating these applicants out as a random Linkedin job posting applicant. I’m not saying you shouldn’t cast a wide net, especially in this economy, but don’t put many eggs in the Linkedin job posting basket. Diversify.

3. DON’T be shy!

Join groups you’re interested in and follow companies that intrigue you. When you join groups, you expand your searchable network to all group members, which is an obvious plus. Also, by posting in groups, you encourage others to interact with you and view your profile, inflating your Linkedin footprint. Following companies give you talking points with interviewers and keeps you up-to-date with company news. Linkedin passed 150 million users in February of this year so being a shy and inactive user makes you part of a crowd of 150,000,000. So, stand out, be active, and leverage this amazing social network.


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