Are you already LinkedIn? You may already have an account with this online, professional networking system. Over 80 million people are currently members. LinkedIn has a Career Services site with information just for students. If you don't know a lot about LinkedIn, explore the Student Learning Center video tutorials and resources before you get started.
This is social networking, but with a specific job-related and professional purpose, that is different from other applications like Facebook, Twitter, or Ning. It's more than just keeping in touch and discussing shared interests. LinkedIn encourages exchanging information about careers and building professional networks. As an online student, participating in this kind of network has several potential benefits.
- Access to information about potential jobs and internships.
- Access to professionals already working in your field of study.
- Experience with social media and networking as you develop an online presence related to your career via your LinkedIn Profile.
- Practice documenting and marketing your experience and expertise for a future job search.
- Maintain connections with classmates, instructors, internship supervisors, and employers.
- Identify connections to become part of your Personal Learning Network.
Let's review some of the basics about setting up a profile and a few of the resources that are available especially for students.
Your personal profile will lay the groundwork for resume writing. The tools available in your profile are similar to resume headings. You can use this tool to begin to describe your previous experiences, education and career goals, as well as other interests and achievements. Some of the key elements you'll want to consider completing are listed below.
- Summary – This is an open space for you to use as an introduction to your profile. You can summarize your experience and education here or use the space to describe your current educational pursuits and goals for the future.
- Experience – Create a separate entry for each of the jobs you have held in the past and any current work you are doing. You can choose what to include in this section and may want to limit it to positions related to the kind of work you want to do in the future. You can also add "Student" to this section and describe the skills you are developing in your program.
- Education – Use this section to describe any previous education and training you have completed. Don't forget to include your current program!
- Recommendations – One the unique features of LinkedIn as a professional networking tool is the ability to add recommendations to your profile. If your current or previous instructors, supervisors, or internship directors are also members, you might consider asking them for recommendations.
Groups are a popular networking feature of the LinkedIn system. There are thousands of Groups that cover a wide range of professional and personal interests. Some groups are closed to general membership but many are open to anyone who is interested in joining. Search for groups in the following categories and send a request to join!
- Alumni groups – Many colleges and universities, including online, have established their own LinkedIn groups. Find your institution and also look for a separate Alumni group for your institution. Alumni groups are especially helpful – you can see what kinds of jobs graduates from your program are currently working in and it's a great way to "meet" them. As an online student, your opportunities to connect with alumni may be more limited than those of a traditional student in a campus setting.
- Career interest groups – Use the group search feature to find groups that have been established to discuss issues specific to your area of work or study. Chances are you'll find multiple to choose from. Take a look at the discussions and join the ones that are most relevant to you.
- Student groups – There are numerous groups established specifically for students. Students and Recent Grads and New Grad Life are just two to consider. Use the search feature to find more.
Group activities are primarily centered on online discussion boards. Review the ongoing discussions in each of your groups and add your input and questions to the conversations.
There are more tools for you to explore! As LinkedIn continues to evolve there will no doubt be changes and additions on the horizon. After you set up your profile, take a look at all of the current features and choose the ones that make sense for you right now as an online student. Which ones will help you learn more about your chosen field? Which ones will help you network with working professionals?
With your personal account you can create and save multiple career paths based on your degree level, current or planned, and academic discipline. The paths include a list of typical job titles with salary ranges from which you can select progressively advanced options as career goals. The results also provide a list of related jobs with matching profiles from current members, as well as related discussion boards and even a reading list. While the system may be still in the development phase, it is an interesting way to begin exploring the features of LinkedIn.
Individual companies can choose to set up profiles providing additional information about their businesses including, type of industry, organization size, and geographic location. You can search by any of these factors to read the profiles and learn more about a variety of potential employers. There are currently over 1 million company profiles in the LinkedIn system.
This open forum allows you to ask a question for other LinkedIn members to address. You can view questions that members of your network have posted and the answers they received. You can also browse the questions and answers by industry allowing you to further explore current issues and concerns in your field of interest.
This is new tool and one of the most recent to be added, launching in March 2011. This system is designed specifically for students and new graduates who are looking for work or internship opportunities.
Getting involved with a networking platform like LinkedIn can be overwhelming. Your profile and participation with the additional activities can be as much or as little as you choose. Your account is under your control. Start small, get comfortable with the environment, then explore and build your profile and network as you complete your coursework, internships, and work experience.
As you move forward, remember:
- LinkedIn is just one tool at your disposal for career exploration and networking. Use it in addition to O*Net and other resources to complete your research and add different perspectives.
- Consider what type of personal information you are sharing online. You can modify your profile settings and choose how much of your information is available inside and outside of your network.
- Anyone can create an individual or company profile. As with any website, assess the information provided for the source, purpose, currency, and content.
- Work with your online institution's career services professionals for more information and advice about LinkedIn and other professional networking resources.