Using LinkedIn

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Ingredients for Success

The job world is changing. It’s no longer just about you searching and applying for jobs. Now employers are also searching for you. Social media has changed the playing field, but actually the core ingredients you need to get your career started are the same as ever – an ability to sell yourself effectively (Who you are); an ability to find and connect with the right people (Who you know); and the ability to find and use information to help you land the job (What you know).

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredient 1: Who you are

What makes “you” you? And what, in the professional work environment, will make an employer sit up, take interest, and get you in for an interview? First impressions used to be when you met someone at that interview – now it’s when the hiring manager or recruiter check out your online profile. LinkedIn isn’t just for old people who’ve been in the job world for years – it’s a critical tool for you as you graduate, to help showcase your achievements, skills and potential. So in creating your profile on LinkedIn you need to consider a few things. Firstly, let’s be practical. If no-one can find your profile, if none of your desirable employers see it, then it doesn’t matter how good you look. So as you build out your LinkedIn profile think about keywords – what do you want to be found for? Weave these keywords into your profile intelligently, across several sections, and this will get you up the relevant online searches recruiters perform every day.

Having a profile photo is important – people make a connection with other people and it will up your chances for sure. But not just any photo – certainly not a shot from that late night out, nor on the beach (no matter how good you look). Think “professional” – how do you want to look and be perceived in a work environment. We’re talking a simple head-shoulders photo, smart shirt and hair etc. And smile! People are making instant decisions on whether they want to work with you – for right or wrong your photo has a big influence.

A couple of important sections of your LinkedIn profile are often neglected, but they can really help sell yourself and help you connect with an employer. Your Headline is the line just below your name – you can configure this to summarise what you are all about. It’s important as it shows up in search results, so together with your name and photo it forms part of that critical “first impression”. So don’t just write “Economics student” – that’s accurate but limited and boring and will not help you stand out. Instead think carefully about (a) those keywords (b) your skills to showcase (c) what you want to do. So for example we can transform the above Headline to read “Economics graduate 2015, fluent in Spanish, looking for opportunities in Finance in London”.

Similarly, the Summary section can help as an introduction, giving the reader (i.e. recruiter) a proper feel for what you are all about. You can highlight one or two of your major achievements here, but it’s also a chance to talk about what you are interested in and what you want to do. Chances are your experience is limited, and so employers are interested in your capabilities and your potential. They are looking for signs of these and a passion for the subject or career they are recruiting for. So for example, if you are interested in a career in pharmacy, then express this interest, why you have it, what you want to do with it. This is often called your “Elevator Pitch” – that’s still a good way to think about it. Imagine being in a lift with someone who can offer you your dream job, and you have 60 seconds to tell them about yourself – start with what you’ve done and are doing now, but really focus on what you are going to do next / in the future. Take some real time to consider this – it will help in interviews as well. You might go through several drafts, honing it so it precisely represents you, so that you can talk passionately, clearly, concisely about yourself in a career context.

On LinkedIn you can bring this to life a bit more through adding some rich media – maybe a link to a one minute video introduction (you expressing your elevator pitch) – if you are brave enough! Or attach a presentation, or a PDF summary of a project or research that you have done as part of your studies. How about a link to a blog you are writing (related to your career aspirations e.g. mobile app development or game design)? Remember, you are trying to stand out from the crowd. These kinds of illustrations bring your profile and you to life in more than just words.

Complete as many sections of your LinkedIn profile as you can, including any Work Experience, your Education details and achievements, Languages, and any Voluntary Work experience too. The more complete your profile the better.

Ingredient 2: Who you know

So that’s you looking great. But you’ve heard the old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well who you know – your network – is still important, and might well help you land that dream job. It’s often those people one or two degrees away from you – a friend of a friend – that you discover works in a company you want to apply to. This is your “extended network” and it’s bigger than you think!

First let’s consider your immediate (first degree) network – all the people you know (and would connect to on LinkedIn). These would include teachers, mentors, parents, family, family friends, managers or people you may have worked with (even if just a part-time summer job). But don’t just consider those people already in work – you’re networking for the future now. So connect to everyone in your class – they’re your immediate network as well. There are two big things here: firstly, your friend might have valuable connections for you (his uncle works at that great company); secondly, you have no idea where your friends will be in three or five years’ time – they might be at that great company and be able to help or even refer you! So networking is important, and you need to be open-minded about building your connections.

LinkedIn can help you build and keep tabs on your “professional” network. It’s not the same as “friends” network – you might not know all your connections intimately; indeed, you may not even have met some of them (e.g. someone from Australia with whom you shared an online discussion following a specialist blog entry you liked).  So be open-minded about building your connections as the bigger your network (e.g. 100 connections) then the bigger your extended network (you have 100, who all have 100, who all have 100 – 100 x 100 x100 = 1,000,000 people!).

And if a second degree connection (someone connected to one of your connections) shares an article or a job, and one of your connections likes or shares it, then suddenly you see it. The bigger your network the more likely that a relevant opportunity can come your way – you’re shifting the odds more in your favour.

Just a quick word on how to talk to people online. Remember this is “professional networking”, about the workplace. So how you engage and talk to people is an important part of how you are perceived (your brand). If you are inviting someone to connect, especially if you do not know them well, then make sure you introduce yourself properly and give some context to your contact. If you met someone in person (interview, conference etc) you wouldn’t walk up and say “I’d like you to join my network”. No, you’d introduce yourself properly. So do the same online – you can be professional, polite, concise and friendly at the same time. Let’s call this using the right “netiquette”. People will be much more likely to connect and help you.

Ingredient 3: What you know

Yes, it’s still important to do your homework and get clued up to give yourself the best chance of success.

You might not be sure about where you career should kick-off – what should you do with all this education you’ve worked so hard for? A great place to start is to look at what other people have done with a similar background and interests as you. Using the LinkedIn Alumni tool (www.linkedin.com/alumni) you can research the careers of people from your university and course, to see how their career path has developed and where they work now. You will probably find a whole range of career paths you never thought possible, and hopefully it will give you some ideas about where to focus your energy.

Remember, for many people that first job or career is not the one that will define their lives – many people are doing something different ten years after graduation. The best place to start is to focus on careers that interest and inspire you in some way.

Once you’ve established your chosen path, you can start to delve a bit deeper. Short-list some employers and research them thoroughly – check out their websites (and their careers pages), follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter to get the latest updates and insights, join LinkedIn Groups with specialists in your target field (e.g. Game Design), and sign-up to follow experts and blogs. On LinkedIn you can also look at the profiles of people who work at these companies, in the jobs / careers that you are aspiring to – and it’s these real employees who will give you a good feel about what it’s like to work in these companies, and what experience and skills you’ll need to develop. Maybe even (if you are feeling brave) get in touch with a couple of people in those jobs (remember “netiquette”!) and see if they might give you some advice based on their own experience.

Heading into the application / interview / assessment process, the more clued-up you are the better.  Knowing about a company’s business objectives, products and services, sector challenges, main competitors – all will help you be more confident and be ready to impress your interviewer.

So there you have it, three important ingredients for success – Who You Are, Who You Know, and What You Know. Add in a dash of passion, and a pinch of luck, and there will be no stopping you!

Check our site for more hints and tips: https://students.linkedin.com/uk

Charles Hardy, LinkedIn Education Lead

www.linkedin.com