So you’re a student who decided to join LinkedIn.
Whether you made a profile because your professor assigned it, or you finally feel prepared to pursue an internship, you now belong to a job-seeking network of over 756 million people.
That number will only grow as the years go by, as will the career growth opportunities exclusive to LinkedIn. Notably, 87% of recruiters use the site to scout and vet potential candidates for every type of job. If you’re looking to secure an internship this year or simply want to get ahead of the post-graduate job hunt, here are three ways to stand out from the crowd.
Let Yourself Be Found
Starting out, it will often feel like you are doing much of the reaching out to peers, professors, and prospective employers. That will quickly change as your connections grow and you post more frequently — that is, unless your profile is set to ‘private.’
To ensure you are being seen, set your profile to ‘public’ and create a custom URL that consists only of your name. This allows both LinkedIn’s search engine and traditional web search engines like Google to find you easily.
And if people can see you, let them see an accurate profile. Make sure your name, education, summary, and job description are typo-free and up-to-date.
When you connect with someone on LinkedIn or apply for an internship, the first thing they will see is your profile picture — after all, it sits comfortably at the top of your profile and next to anything you post or send through the site's messaging system.
Make a professional first impression by using a recent headshot or similarly formal photo of yourself, free from any of these common profile picture mistakes.
Whatever you do, do not opt for the default grey LinkedIn profile picture or — worse yet — a casual photo, like a party selfie. Appear and interact with others on the site the way you would at a job interview.
As a bonus, add a splash of color and personality to your profile by uploading a banner photo. Choose anything that expresses who you are, but isn’t another picture of you. Common examples include relevant, high-quality photos of your university’s campus, the city you live in, or the industry in which you seek to work.
The More You Know, The More You Grow
Connections are the most important digital currency that LinkedIn has to offer. Every connection extends your reach and makes you visible to an increasing number of prospective employers, talented industry professionals, and ambitious students around the country.
Any one of these people may have a job or internship position they are promoting on the site. In some rare cases, these people may even come to you directly with an opportunity if you frequently post and comment in ways that display your interests, skills, and education.
The magic of connections is that the more you have, the easier they are to accrue. Every time you interact with another person’s posts by giving it a like, comment, or share, LinkedIn shows that action on the homepage. This reminds your connections that you still exist.
When someone interacts with one of your posts or comments, every single connection they have can see you on their feed. This exposure is much broader for those with the very coveted ‘500+ connections.’
With enough time and carefully-placed effort, you can gain just as many connections.
Start small by connecting with those you know and interact with on at least a semi-regular basis — think classmates, professors, past coworkers, friends, and anyone in an academic club to which you belong.
If you have friends who aren’t on LinkedIn but should be, you can send them an invite to sign up and be their first connection. And if they find themselves stuck trying to set up their profile, you could do worse than sending them this blog.
Next, add alumni from your university who work in your intended field or hold a position you want to have after graduation. Send these people a brief (but personal) note that includes who you are, why you are connecting with them, and an offer to chat if you’d like to speak with them immediately.
This strategy works for other people with whom you share common connections, but keep in mind that even with a personalized note, there is a chance you will not receive an answer. Do not be discouraged — there are plenty of fish in the LinkedIn sea who are eager to meet you.
You Can Always Dig Deeper
With these tips implemented, it’s time to start chasing internships, entry-level jobs, and any other opportunity you so desire. Even as a student, you don’t have to settle for a basic profile. If you’d like to further optimize your LinkedIn, check out our LinkedIn optimization guide that inspired the one you’re currently reading.